Year Of The Harvester
I’m not sure if you’ve been keeping up with the latest news, but Greece recently experienced a series of wildfires that left several dead or injured, and many villages demolished in the area. Since Greece is the homeland for this spectacular black metal act, on behalf of The Grim Tower I express my condolences towards the region. We hope you’re doing alright, gentlemen!
Now let’s get to the album. Obviously, its rather long and one of the longest releases that I’ve covered in quite a while. Coming in at two discs of playtime, the album features nearly and hour and a half of music. “Somewhere Beyond North” begins the journey with light folk influence and a level of atmosphere that later becomes much heavier with guitar, snarling vocals and what I would consider to be some rather great guitar solos. After the heavy stuff stops, it rolls right back into atmosphere and features some water drips. Then it throws back into black metal, though in what I’d consider to be the more triumphant folk approach that almost seems royal in some instances. This anthemic nature seems right out of Immortal, until it litters with blast beats and transforms into something else right before one final guitar solo. Because why not? “Kokytos” sounds a bit different, opting for a much heavier and less traditional approach. You can definitely hear classic black metal in the vocal approach, but there are quite a bit of non-traditional elements here as the piece seems to mediate between what I would consider a more modernized thrash riff and melody lines that encroach on melodeath. It definitely hits hard though, which is what I feel the purpose here is – as well as another great guitar solo or two.
“Sisyphean Argos” comes next, with yet another change in tempo. Now this is what I’m talking about. An album where not every song sounds the same in 2018? Who would’ve thunk it? Just kidding. In any case, I love the classic heavy metal (note: not classic black metal) influence expressed here in the form of a solo opener. That goes back to The Scorpions, in all actuality. As we go through the chugs, we’ll eventually roll into another solo performance which certainly channels The Scorpions. That’s a rock solo if I’ve ever heard one, and it more than fits in this genre. I mean, sure – we can be grim, dark and evil all that we want, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t throw in a few nods to metal’s more colorful beginnings. Added together, they fit like a puzzle and only further build upon the Norwegian black metal formula which is now nearing its twenty year mark. More, if we count Venom and the rest of the UK’s proto-black scene. Yet, this is once again why I appreciate the fantastic fretwork of dual shredders Meliktiis and Typhonas, who at the end of this track perform one of the best solos I’ve ever heard on a black metal album. They nearly shred for three minutes and the song cuts off, but I’m not even upset about that cutoff because the performance is just so memorable. And to do this in a black metal song, that’s even more intriguing to me. This is the kind of shredding that you might expect on an AOR or power metal cut and I couldn’t be more impressed to see it performed on a black metal album. To me, that’s just wild.
Continuing on, we have “Nebula Divina” which again offers a completely different kind of performance. You’ll notice how strong the riffs are here, not to mention the thunder roaring from the kit – the real firepower bellowing forth from this track. Frontman Aristomenes actually tries some vocal theatrics on this one, which also features another killer solo effort. “Mother Sea” lumbers in as the last cut on this first disc and it brings a slower, more morose tone that fronts with an almost ritualistic level of vocal performance in addition to more great guitar solo work. The solos here aren’t quite as expected, but feel like a necessary portion that makes the piece even greater.
As we reach the second disc, we’re greeted with the familiar folk-influence featured on “Conquering East and West.” As a dead-ringer for Immortal, this one also features a touch of eighties heyday era riffing that only beefs the song further. It’s like these guys know just what to add into a rather worn approach these days for black metal, which ultimately results in something unique and far different from what we’re used to. I certainly didn’t expect the synths either which might not be everyone’s thing and are a bit hard to hear, but they’re used seldom and provide a worthy bit of atmosphere before yet another breathtaking solo effort.This one seems to take from Iron Maiden, which is definitely an influence that I can get behind. Think to yourself, “When else do you hear this kind of thing in black metal?” Following that, we have “Clash Of Denial” which contains some rather thunderous leads right in the middle of a blasting storm on the kit. Aristomenes decorates the situation wonderfully, much better than Demonaz did this year. He really seems to put power and passion in his vocals, so that they sound like they’re coming from the heart and soul, rather than just harsh rasps or snarls because they go with the music. There’s a lot to be said in a memorable vocal performance and this is yet another place where Archemoron shines. Oddly there’s almost a bit of early Amon Amarth that be gleamed from this piece as well, in addition to yet another fantastic guitar solo. As I mentioned, there are two shredders in this band and they certainly more than earn their keep due to what I’d consider to be some rather intricate and fascinating guitar solos.
Moving on, we have “Crawling Plague” which turns the tempo down do an even further level than “Mother Sea.” The song is mostly soundscape, which allows for Aristomenes performance to be given a further spotlight, though it is admittedly not my favorite cut on the album. I think the fact that it has what I’d consider to be yet another wonderous solo moment is it’s saving grace, but this might be just one instance where the band bit off a bit more than they could chew. The song feels like an afterthought, which seems a problem. Then we have “Nothing” which almost frightens me into thinking that they’re going to try for an even less-threatening approach than the last, but that’s not the case. Instead, they alternate between crushing black metal bits and light acoustics before unexpectedly rolling into progressive territory. The band is definitely experimenting a bit more on this one, which certainly isn’t a bad thing, though I’m beginning to think that they’re running out of steam. I’m also wondering what happened to the solo moment here, as it is a bit oblong and doesn’t really catch me until a little further on before it is devoured in the drumming.
Now we have the very last song in this extremely lengthy performance, “Those Of The Suffering.” It begins much like “sisyphean Agos” with powerful lead melodies that open moments of strong vocal ritualism. A piece that feels extremely down tempo, it has an energetic frontline due to its collection of guitar solos in between Aristomenes vocal sections. Unfortunately, drummer G.T. Didn’t have much to work with on this one, but that’s alright because he’s done more than enough with the past few tracks let alone the flawless first CD of this set. The piece mostly switches between vocals and solo for quite a bit until it ends with a folkish acoustic node that completes the album. In the end, I’d say it is rather solid, though not as effective as what came before.
I have to end this observation with a few issues that I noticed later on in the performance. First of all, the first seven cuts are all very strong and go together quite well. But “Crawling Plague” and “Nothing” feel like they belong as B-Sides to the performance and don’t truly fit. They could have ended the performance with “Those of The Suffering” and it would have been their only sub-par moment, but instead of utilizing a “less is more” rhetoric, they decided to give us ten minutes scattered between two cuts that we don’t really need. In spite of all that, the performance is monumental and I think most people will agree that the band hits extremely hard and fast on the very first disc. It’s only about forty-one minutes and when coupled with “Conquering East and West”, “Clash Of Denial” and “Those Of The Suffering” we would then have a seventy-one minute performance. Yeah, I know what you’re saying – that would all fit on one disc. And yes, it would. I would have also given it a ten. Right there, we have what I’d consider to be one of the best black metal performances that I’ve heard in recent memory. As for “Crawling Plague” and “Nothing” well… They would have made fine bonus tracks for Bandcamp supporters. Harsh, but that’s part of my job. Honestly though, I can’t find too much at fault with this performance because there’s so much to offer within that seventy-one minutes I described, that it goes far over the expectations that I would have ever had for this kind of music. To say that Archemoron are a great band, is an understatement. They’re an incredible band that continues to exceed my expectations by a wide margin. So even if they did go a little bit overboard with this one, there’s more than enough here for me to recommend them. There was more than enough in just the first track, to be honest – but it just kept getting better and better, until we hit the peak where it simply gets no better. Without a doubt, even considering my nitpicks with the album, I still have to consider Year Of The Harvester as one of my top black metal albums of the year, if not the very best black metal album of the year. It is very difficult to give this album a perfect score because of the unnecessary later excursions, but I will be certainly giving it pretty damn close. Please check out this masterpiece in the genre today at the link below, you will be glad you did.
(10 Tracks, 82:00)
Purchase HERE (Bandcamp)