I am locked in a great battle with nature that, obviously, I cannot win. It’s been cold and snowy here in my section of the East Coast for the past week, and this weekend, we were supposed to be inundated with many, many inches of snow. Instead, nature kicked us in the nether region and dropped a whole ton of freezing rain, leaving my very steep driveway as thick with ice as a regulation hockey rink.
Yet, as infuriating as it is trying to get in your car in the morning while you battle staying upright, you can’t help but be moved by the beauty of it all. The glistening of the ice demanding to make contact with my skull, the flurries dotting the pre-dawn sky, and the naked tree branches encased with thin shields of clear are sights to behold. Fittingly, as I watched this weather pattern progress Sunday afternoon, I had “Fallow Fields,” the new album by Harrow in my ears. That was a great time to take this in for the umpteenth time. I was under a blanket with hot coffee, the dog was sound asleep, and I could just enjoy watching things accumulate outside in peace, not knowing of the lousy turn things were going to take overnight. At least for that hour or so, nothing could topple my world, and this record was a perfect soundtrack.
Hallow hail from British Columbia, where they surely enjoy their fair share of natural wonder, and for the past five years, they’ve done a fine job honing their craft by mixing together elements of black metal and rustic folk music. Followers of bands such as Agalloch, Fen, Falloch, and Fall of Rauros could find Harrow are kindred spirits, and the music they created on these four tracks are both explosive and breath-taking. The band—Ian Campbell (vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, bodhran, keys, percussion), Jacob Moyer (drums and percussion, vocals), Kat Mason (bass, vocals), and Alexia Horozian (violin)—create a woodsy, picturesque collection that really would be fitting during any season, though it’s doing wonders getting me through winter. Alongside them during the recordings are cellist Stephanie Knittle, who also plays in Alda, as well as former bassist Derrek Burton, who provides some backing vocals.
“Pathways” begins the journey with air gusting, acoustics setting the scene, and melodies building in a calculated pace, like a season beginning to ease you into its grasp. The power then arrives, with powerful growls that feel like the body of a storm, heavy and massive guitars, and cries erupting behind all of these sounds. A rustic folk section blends in, with the strings having their say, and atmosphere begins to reign supreme. Strong clean singing arrives, noise threatens, and a near peaceful passage takes the song to its end. “Through the Grey” follows, with guitars strummed gently, hazy, breezy noises floating in, and horns mixing into the scene. The first portion of this song is more folky in nature, but as it progresses, a black metal assault gallops in and harsh growls interact with the flowing melodies. Later, the tempo calms, but not the intensity, as bellowing singing colors in the band’s heathen spirit perfectly.
The title cut starts with acoustic guitars, strings swelling, the bodhran getting knocked rhythmically, and spirited singing emerging, giving the song an around-the campfire feel in the dead of winter. In fact, Campbell sings that “sparks fly from this fire” as the rest of the band backs him with stinging violin, rich cello, and a great forest feel that gives the song a ton of character. Closer “Awake Before the Dawn” is led in by Knittle’s cello moaning, with gentle chiming surrounding it and reflective melodies taking form. The singing is a little higher register and emotional, with the drums being pattered and a rush of sound bringing with it winds of seasonal change. Gazey guitars begin to boil over and add a dose of thunder to the track, the storming reaches a fevered pitch, and a serving of noise and drone let the record and the track boil off. What an adventure you just had!
Harrow still are something of a mysterious entity, as their name hasn’t blown up in underground circles yet or become heavy fodder for internet discussion. But as more people get their hands on “Fallow Fields,” that is bound to change, because the music here is far too good to fly under the radar forever. Now’s a great time to get familiar with this band before their star inevitably rises.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/harrowblackmetal
To buy the album, go here: http://brokenlimbsrecordings.com/shop/
For more on the label, go here: http://brokenlimbsrecordings.com/