FINALLY, another modern rock band has caught my attention! In most cases, when I hear rock bands of today, it is like they are spit out of the same cookie-cutter factory where some greedy Simon Cowell-wannabe scientist has devised a formula to make himself rich. The formula is simple, make all the songs sound the same, write about the same themes or issues with the lyrics changed a little bit so it isn’t so obvious to the casual listener. Then build four or five decent looking guys to dress alike and call themselves a band! It is the same thing that plagues today’s country & pop music scenes. Oh, and do not forget to overuse AutoTune!
Over the past decade, I can count on one hand the number of modern rock bands that have remotely impressed me. FOUR…Rival Sons, Seether, Black Stone Cherry and Volbeat! Good thing I have a thumb because Shaman’s Harvest is getting added to that hand based on the songs on their fifth studio album ‘Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns.’ The album is due out September 16th via Mascot Label Group.
Shaman’s Harvest is a quartet based out of Jefferson City, Missouri. Their sound is a potent blend of their rock influences, the region for which they come from, Midwestern humor & work ethic and a dash of real country and blues! The thing that helps set them apart is their lyrics and diversity of material! I listened to this album three times before I went online to check out their bio & past interviews or articles on the band. That is my “policy” with new bands so I don’t go into listening to their music with any pre-conceived notions of what to expect!
Kicking off this twelve song offering is ‘Dangerous’, a song featuring a riff heavy groove as thick as the muddy Mississippi. Lyrically, it’s a song about being down & fighting back. Fans of killer solos will digg the wicked wah-wah solo contained within. ‘Here It Comes’ opens with a ‘Detroit Rock City’ influenced riff over some toe-tappin’ drumming in the verses before kicking in slightly during the choruses. Really digg the group harmonies. Can’t go wrong with a song about hookers! Be prepared for a vocal journey showcasing Nathan’s range on ‘Ten Million Voices’ accented in places by a subtle tribal drum pattern and a walking bass groove.
As I type this my favorite cut on this album is ‘Blood In The Water’ with its Southern gospel choir vibe atop of some fuzzy guitars. A little over a minute into it we get some beautiful slide guitar taking over alongside finger snapping which adds to the ambience of the song. Not long after the band takes this tune up a notch sonically without losing the Southern flavor & stellar slide work. The final minute sees us going back to the vibe of the first few minutes along with some Southern church stomp-clap that should result in a joyful noise of crowd participation live. The Southern vibe continues on ‘The End Of Me.’ I really digg the swampy Dobro accented by haunting almost orchestral guitar parts between Ryan & Josh! Nathan really pours his heart out vocally.
Shaman’s Harvest showcases their sense of humor & Midwestern roots on ‘Country As Fuck’, a country blues romp that’s available as a free download on their website! The dueling guitar solos are a nice touch as is the lyrical tip of the hat to Bo Diddley in first line of the song. ‘Hero’ is the most “radio friendly” song on the album without selling their souls for spins.
Up next is a ballsy choice of a cover tune. The band tackles the Michael Jackson classic ‘Dirty Diana’….wait, what? Michael Jackson? You read it right! Cover tunes can be a tricky proposition, especially of an artist as iconic as Michael Jackson. You don’t dare try to replicate the original because the artists fan base will flame you & you sure as hell don’t go completely left-of-center. Shaman’s Harvest keeps the spirit of the original while adding their flavor to it. I can’t rave enough about Nathan’s vocal approach, the guitar tone & blistering solo that ends the song.
‘In The End’ is an interesting take lyrically on a relationships trials and tribulations. It is another song that I could see doing well at radio as it would strike a chord with the listener. ‘In Chains’ is just more evidence of Nathan’s ability to craft some mighty fine lyrics while the band leads you on a sonic journey of tempos & moods. Accented by some unique percussive elements, possibly some electric sitar in the verses, choir-esque background vocals take this track to an epic level. Nice use of effects on vocals to add to the atmosphere of the song alongside some killer harmonies. This track should be a guide to other “artists” that you can use effects on a vocal track to add something to it not use it as a way to cover-up your shortcomings as a vocalist!
‘Silent Voice’ is a piano based ballad that kicks into another dimension with a Slash-esque solo over a haunting chant vocal before mellowing back out with a beautiful piano coda. The track gave me chills! The album ends with ‘Dragonfly [Extended Unplugged Version]’, I found it interesting they’d end the album with an acoustic track but I like when bands take risks and think outside the box! It was only after three spins of this album when I researched the band did I discover this tune originally appeared on their 2009 album ‘Shine’ & their most successful song at radio. I went and listened to the original. It is a fantastic track but I’d have to say I prefer it here in this acoustic form.
I wanted this review to be about the songs that make up this album but give you an idea of what I think were the inspirations behind some of the songs as well as a little bit about the “flavor” of each one. It was only when I went and read the bands bio & researched the making of this album did I truly understand where the band & Nathan specifically, was coming from! Hats off to the band & my utmost respect to Nathan for sharing your journey with me as a listener! I will not divulge what I mean as not to overshadow the songs but the information is online. I highly recommend listening to the album first then finding out where these songs came from!
Shaman’s Harvest have got me hooked. I love albums that are cohesive yet have different vibes and textures. No two songs sound the same but they fit together well as a whole. I miss the days where albums were king whereas nowadays if you don’t have a hit single right off the bat, your career is over! Thankfully, Shaman’s Harvest have grown and are still here making music! They have the musicianship and songwriting chops to go far in this industry. Let’s just hope the industry allows them to remain themselves, continue to grow as artists and does not screw them over! I am looking forward to purchasing their back catalog so I can find out what I’ve been missing.
Shaman’s Harvest – Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Mascot Label Group
2. Here It Comes
3. Ten Million Voices
4. Blood In The Water
5. The End Of Me
6. Country As Fuck
8. Dirty Diana
9. In The End
10. In Chains
11. Silent Voice
12. Dragonfly (Extended Unplugged Version)
13. Here It Comes (Unplugged)*
14. Country As Fuck (Unplugged)*
*= Exclusive Best Buy Bonus Tracks
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