REVIEW: SHAMAN’S HARVEST – RED HANDS, BLACK DEEDS (2017)

Arena rockers in waiting 

Arena rock.

Almost a dirty phrase to some, but then, what is the point of making music if it isn’t to be heard by as many people as absolutely possible?

Shaman’s Harvest, have in the last 18 years toured or shared the stage with major artists like AC/DC, Alice In Chains, Godsmack, Breaking Benjamin, Seether, Nickelback, Three Doors Down, In This Moment, Daughtry, Cheap Trick, Theory of a Deadman, Hinder and others. It is not surprising that they fancy a bit of it themselves.

Album number six in what has already been a pretty stellar career saw them seek out Keith Armstrong to twiddle the knobs. Famed for his organic approach to recording, he was charged with giving the band a less clinical sound. He has done that too., but it is an odd juxtaposition that band’s sales figures are measured in the most modern ways you can imagine.

The Missouri based quintets last album “Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns” in 2014, garnered more than 31 million streams. It also spent over four months in the Top 10 of iTunes Metal Songs Chart. The song’s video has more than 3 million views on YouTube, while the band has a cumulative eight million YouTube views – if that matters. Such is the way of the world they are stepping into.

“Red Hand Black Deeds” begins with a rather ominous sounding prelude, but is soon cracking on with huge statement of intent. “Broken Ones” seems to borrow the bass line from Kiss’ “Destroyer” but once it is in its massive groove, it is a pretty unstoppable rock song that merrily occupies the same hinterland as Chad Kroeger’s boys (on this site that is a compliment).

Such a thing is no fluke either, “The Come Up” is a glammed up stomper with unashamed intentions to be huge, while the brooding ballad “A Longer View” can perhaps be seen as their state of the union address – the album was written in the midst of the US election – and it shows an understated side that you might not have seen coming.

Bombast, though, is this record’s natural habitat. “Soul Crusher” might have a soulful heart, but it’s wrapped around the biggest of big hooks. And even the bluesy “Off The Tracks” can only restrain itself for about 45 seconds before becoming primal and dripping with lust. Indeed, it is impossible not to think that this is the type of song that Rival Sons should make if only they could stop being mystical for five minutes.

There is a real craft in these songs, “Long Way Home” is another blues infused mid paced rocker and “The Devil In Our Wake” builds up slowly. “Blood Trophies” has a degree of the unsettling about it, but “So Long” is has a chunky, funky insistence,  as if to prove that you can never second guess what Shaman’s Harvest are going to do. To that end, “Tusk And Bone” eschews electrification altogether to strip down and be almost lilting country rock.

The surprises keep coming. “Scavengers” closes things with the feel of the eeriness of the swamp  – and the scratching sound you can hear is someone playing sandpaper (honestly).

But here’s the thing. Where some bands of this type can’t half feel over-earnest (Shinedown we are talking about you!) the same can’t be said for Shaman’s Harvest. They finish “Red Hands Black Deeds” with a hidden song discussing the fact they would like hookers and blow if they are going to play a live gig for you. This sense of humour (we think!) is yet more reason to like them.

Not that you need one. “Red Hands Black Deeds” speaks for them, and is pretty much everything you’d want a modern hard rock record to be.

Rating 8/10