I know I mentioned this last week when I first came across the news item that Norwegian industrial metallers Red Harvest had called it quits, but I’m still bumming pretty hard about it, so I thought it warranted a slightly lengthier response.
The posting on the band’s MySpace page reads simply: “Red Harvest has split up as per May 2010. We want to thank all the people that have supported us through the years. 1989-2010 R.I.P.”
Generally speaking, I’m a sucker for industrial-tinged metal (especially on the blacker end of the spectrum – Axis Of Perdition, Aborym, Control Human Delete, Anaal Nathrakh, Blacklodge, Void, Reverence, The Amenta, Herrschaft, (late) Dodheimsgard, and so forth). The thing is, it’s not all that difficult to slap a superficially industrial sheen on whatever bog-standard metal one might by plying, by either tossing in some mechanically-processed vocals, or chucking in a few samples of hammers clanking.
Red Harvest, though, were (ach, it still stings) the real deal. The industrial elements of their sound never came across as an afterthought to these ears. Instead, they seemed like the true, eerie, pulsating heart of their sound, a genuine reflection of rust and filth and urban decay. Theirs was not the slickness (however satisfying) of the Moonfog aesthetic, nor the aural overload of early Axis Of Perdition. Their music exuded a bleak patience, taking the time to survey and catalog the ruin before them, rather than shying away in a hurry, or over-stylizing the reaction to modernity’s underside into a coolly calculated but unconvincing disregard.
(Note: Red Harvest’s departure from the scene is a doubly-hurtful blow since V:28, who I had long considered the closest spiritual kin to Red Harvest, also split up a while back.)
To be fair, I only really followed their output from 1996′s HyBreed and beyond (mostly out of necessity, though, given that their first two records are insanely tough to track down), but damn, was that one hell of a run. The band really seemed to get their shit together right around 2000′s Cold Dark Matter (tightening the album down to 39 minutes from the nearly 80 minutes of HyBreed was a crucial step), featuring Fenriz on the monster of a track “Absolute Dunkel:heit.”
For my money, though, 2002′s Sick Transit Gloria Mundi saw the band’s purest distillation of the rhythmic, maniacal undulation of equal parts industrial, noise, ambient, and furious metal. The fact that the metallic components of the band’s sound are not easily reducible to death metal, black metal, thrash metal, or anything else, really, is a testament to the band’s unique vision and clarity of purpose.
Even on the band’s last full-length album, A Greater Darkness (which some saw as a step down), they were mining new depths of more focused, clenched-jaw grimness:
Their final release was a 2008 compilation called The Red Line Archives, which collected remixes, archived tracks, and selections from several of their albums. The intention of the compilation seems to have been to highlight the more purely industrial elements of their sound; the fact that the album plays like an album, even though it seems to miss a crucial something (it is taking most of my energy to not be an asshole and type je ne sais quoi), I think illustrates just how much the industrial elements were not a gimmick. That is, if the industrial elements were merely layered over the top of already finished songs, pulling them together on a compilation should have only highlighted how anemic they sound without a solid metallic support. They are not, and therefore they did not.
All of this is to say, if you haven’t yet discovered the wide-eyed joys of Red Harvest, now’s as good a time as ever to explore, and if, like me, you’re mourning their departure, now’s a perfect time to reengage with their harrowing dystopian metal.
Here are videos of Red Harvest playing three songs live in 2009, at a 20th Anniversary party for themselves in Oslo:
“Beyond the End” (From Sick Transit Gloria Mundi):
“Omnipotent” (From Cold Dark Matter):
“The Cure” (From Nomindsland):
The live sound isn’t the greatest, but you can still feel their hypnotic wrath. Sit back and get pulled in to this black hole metal.