Black Harvest - _Mute_
(Independent, 2005)
by: T. DePalma (3 out of 10)
Due to the advances in technology, and in an effort to seem as professional as possible, most demos today are no longer put out on cassette tapes but on compact discs; in turn, compact discs that ought to have been passed out, or let sink in, first as demos are now sold as albums. While I understand wanting to put so much into the look and production of a product, the illusion of stature that it signifies quickly scatters if the music is not on the same level. Black Harvest's _Mute_ is an example of this problem (to clarify, this is not a CD-R, but a studio CD professionally pressed and recorded, the band's second in three years).

"Lamentation" opens the disc with a single voice mouthing a kind of Indo chant that's soon harmonized in unison by an overlapping chorus of male vocals. This is some of the most unconditioned singing I've ever heard, and if it did not permeate the entire disc, I would kindly write it off as trying to fit some aesthetic for the purpose of the one song; absolutely green. After this questionable start, the music comes out in an interesting riff with a largely Chinese character that leads into a verse of staccato melodies and sleek guitar rhythms carrying now generic screams throughout the song. This is all sort of Dark Tranquillity sounding, except for the one Sino riff that reoccurs here and there. "Lamentation" is easily the best song here (the first of six) and shows promise despite the uneven production that thins out the push of guitars and leaves half of the drum kit barely audible. But while the next five continue to merge a modern metal sound with other elements, everything in them that deviates from the basic strength of this track becomes more difficult to listen to in a very unedifying way.

My advice would be to abandon the school of thought that seeks to resolve so many different styles into a single entity. Not only does Black Harvest sound their most impressive and unique when cutting out the avant-garde (the disc closes in a medley that features some Mr. Bungle-like jangles), but they're unable to come off as serious with such fleeting attention catchers -- one negates the other. Mixing in some death aspects as well as a pronounced gothic tint does not improve the enjoyment or weight of the material, which is generally bland or sets up ridiculously wild singing performances time and time again, culminating in the song "New Years Day" -- a grating seven minutes filled with light acoustic guitars and falsetto whining that creates a chiaroscuro portrait of falsely spiritual eunuch ambience and garbled screaming. It sounds like a second rate Robert Smith impersonation. Heartache and sincerity are no substitute for actual skill, presence or development. The level of emotional bawling showcased with the absence of the latter is what determines the force of discomfort, in this case, easily changing the bag of feathers that is _Mute_ into a cascade of stones.


(article published 31/5/2005)

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