Meet Shaman’s Harvest, the Jefferson County rockers who’s career arguably reached a peak with their fifth album, ‘Smokin’ hearts & broken guns’, which also happened to be the band’s debut for the esteemed Mascot Records. Three years have passed since that album, and in that time Shaman’s Harvest have seen a minor line up shift with Adam Zemanek (replacing Joe Harrington) coming in on drums and Derek Shipp (replacing Ryan Tomlinson) arriving to take over lead guitar duties. Whilst it might be an exaggeration to say that the change has lit a fuse under the band (‘Smikin’ hearts…’ was pretty darn good), there is, nonetheless, a charged atmosphere surrounding ‘red hands black deeds’ that will have hard rock fans rubbing their hands with glee.
‘Red hands Black Deeds’ is a slow burning beast. Rather than simply smash the listener over the head with an explosive display of fretboard fireworks, Shaman’s Harvest emerge with the eerie, almost funereal title track, a piece of music that speaks of mist-strewn mountains and wide open American landscapes. Short and sweet, it leads headlong into the spectacular ‘broken ones’, a fire-breathing single that leaves no foot untapped. Kicking off with a gruelling bass line and the lyrical hook “running like a pack of rabid dogs…”, the message is clear, Shaman’s Harvest have landed and you better be ready. A hard-hitting track with a huge rhythmic pulse, ‘the come up’ has a hard-blues edge that gets the pulse racing only for ‘a longer view’ to calm the pace considerably with its rich melody and richly embroidered arrangement. Not the ferocious rock white out its title might imply, ‘Soul crusher’ is a beautifully distorted blues number with a sweet groove and a blistering solo destined to have air-guitarists the world over shredding into their bedroom mirrors. Sticking with the blues, ‘off the tracks’ is a deceptively simple stomper with an insistent beat and plenty of deep South attitude.
It’s the half way point and time for a change of pace with the soulful ‘long way home’ shuffling across the fret board. A smooth, sweet track, it stands in stark contrast to the howling fuzz of stand-out track ‘the devil in our wake’. A heavy-riffing, low-slung, full-blooded guitar workout, it captures the band in full flow before the creeping bass line and modulated vocals of ‘blood trophies’ takes the listener down a darker path, one in which the music sounds for all the world like the dark theme to a James Bond movie yet to be made. Custom built to send the audience into a frenzy, ‘so long’ is a cracking tune and yet it’s also the album’s most straight forward track, designed to draw listeners in but no means a true measure of the heights of which the band are capable. The band head into more emotive territory with the poignant beauty of ‘tusk and bone’, a four-minute track with a dusky melody and heart-rending solo that feels like it should cap the album off. As it is, the band have one last trick up their collective sleeve in the form of ‘scavengers’, a dusty, neo-western soundtrack that allows the album to drift from your consciousness, only for you to very much want to play it over again (if the bizarre bonus track doesn’t have you chuckling too much to hit play that is).
A hard-hitting, gloriously varied and beautifully recorded album, ‘Red Hands Black Deeds’ is everything you could ask from Shaman’s Harvest and then some. The band know how to rock and, more importantly, they know when to dial it back and take the listener on a journey deep into the wide-open spaces of their home county. A stunning album, ‘Red hands and black deeds’ is an unexpected highlight of the year thus far and a strong contender for end of year lists everywhere. 9