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Harvist - "Wolfskin Clad" (CD)

Harvist - "Wolfskin Clad" CD cover image

"Wolfskin Clad" track listing:

1. Wolfskin Clad (8:30)
2. The Lycan Draws Nigh (Clad In Wolfskin) (3:40)
3. Farewell To The Old Forest (5:18)
4. Hidden In The Woods... (6:16)
5. The Mountain River Flows Up, Not Across (9:39)
6. Drudgery Of The Craft (3:45)
7. A Pox On The House In Which Thee Dwells (6:44)
8. The Foreboding Essence (5:20)

Reviewed by on June 3, 2009

"The saving grace of this album are the riffs, which are perpetually solid. They fall into the melodic tremolo field of greats like Ulver."

Masterminded by main-man Dusk, Harvist is a one man US black metal act with two full lengths behind it and a new zoanthropic effort full of pagan praise and woodland dirges. For those keeping count, Dusk was once previously the drummer for another and well known USBM band, Typhus, whose 2005 release "Profound Blasphemous Proclamation" was an excellent, if not hilariously blasphemous example of black metal.

Unfortunately when listening to "Wolfskin Clad," I can't help but feel Harvist seems to be a lurker in the shadows of the kick-assity of Typhus. Setting the stage, Harvist emits a potent but melodic black metal attack, straight forward in appearance but entwining guitar lines with a complex counterpoint minimalism. Strong synths also make an appearance along with Mucklebones on female vocals (winning the best black metal pseudonym contest by a several miles). Instead of being woven into the lycanthropic tapestry, they are used sparingly, popping out like a skeleton in a haunted house ride (in a serious, pagan werewolf manner of course). Not at all a negative addition to the show, it’s a shame that these elements couldn’t have been integrated further - with minimalism and symphony it's hard to have your cake and eat it too. A 10 minute ambient track also appears for you to test your skip button is still working.

Onto the ever important vocals - the emotional plane is one of strained desperation similar to the otherworldly pain of early Burzum. As the album moves forward there is less of a harsh black metal rasp and more of a haunting pagan terror, high shrieks and "Woooooh's" which are splintered throughout. Altogether these additions make me think these sorts of things should be left up to bands like Graveland, who have the vocal fortitude to pull it off.

Perhaps, no, undeniably the biggest let down here is the huge and fuzzy production. Maybe this was an attempt at a new kind of lo-fi production, but either way straying into muddy territory has proved a near fatal trip into quicksand. The difference between big fuzz and chainsaw buzz is a light-year step in emotion and it's hard to feel the "dank forests" and "frozen seas" when it sounds like you're listening to two distorted bass guitars running through a 20 watt amplifier. The crystal clear vocals also hover conspicuously on top of the chaos, further disenchanting the atmosphere.

The saving grace of this album are the riffs, which are perpetually solid. They fall into the melodic tremolo field of greats like Ulver. Although they tend to lose their appeal when everything slows to a plod, most of the time this album is foot to the floor USBM which should be the Harvist staple.

Let’s sum things up with a comparison; at the start of track two, "The Lycan Draws Nigh," there is a vocal piece which acts as a microcosm of the album - a traditional black metal vocal vomiting put forth with all the bite of a new born puppy. Contrast this with Emperor's "Wrath of the Tyrant" EP, where each vocal spew sounds like the maw of the beast has opened up and released a psychotic ton of venom into your face. "Wolfskin Clad" isn't a bad album, but it's lacking the emotional force and production induced atmosphere to make it anywhere near a great album.

Highs: Strong melodic tremolo riffs

Lows: Fuzzy production and mediocre vocal effort

Bottom line: Pros are swept aside by production so big and washy as to ruin the no doubt majestic man-to-wolf tale hidden beneath

Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls
2.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)