Fell Harvest – Pale Light in a Dying World Review

There was once a time when doom metal was one of my preferred sub-genres of metal. My favorite bands entranced me with big riffs, meaty production and despondent power. But I’ve fallen out of love; vast swathes of the scene is content with mediocrity, with backwards-looking blandness. It’s not as ear-screechingly terrible as the worst of black metal, nor as laughably amateurish as power or folk metal can be. It’s just mostly boring and I found it hard to connect with new bands. It’s been a few years and I recognized within myself that it was high-time I dipped my toes back in. Why not do so with a debut, self-released album called Pale Light in a Dying World by Wyoming’s Fell Harvest, derived from the songwriter’s dream of a vineyard of rotting flesh1?

Pale Light has all the burly riffs, chunky guitar tones and chiming bells anyone could wish of the sub-genre. Closer “The Ghosts of Scapa Flow” brandishes doom in its most classic form, cycling through big grooves and ominous slowness, while “The Lark at Morning” stands out by leveraging a bombastic introduction which could have been lifted from Pallbearer or Khemmis (though these similarities accentuate that I don’t love the vocalist’s default shout). It’s a record which references various touchstones of the doom metal sound, which makes it all the more exciting when it strays from this core. Though Fell Harvest has all doom’s core aesthetics, it is in places written with a classic metal sensibility, featuring surprisingly nifty, theatrical leads, proper speed and extended guitar solos. “Thy Barren Fields” shifts from deep stomps to darting quickness for its second half and it catches my ear when these transitions occur.

The record has other strengths too. The title track first demonstrates the couple of gentle interludes. The introduction is a little leggy but the pause refreshes the track and hooked me with its poignant melodies and relative lightness. This is why dynamic song-writing is best song-writing; the heavy riffs following are all the more thunderous by comparison. Similarly, “The Wind that Shakes the Barley” is a classic slow-burner. It opens with a moody, acoustic piece, rain and thunder samples and plaintive clean singing which is approximately seventy times better than the typical shouts. His range is still limited but it’s very emotive and carries melody more strongly. The gradual drum crescendo gives way to the first heavy chord and the epic, ascendant riff following leads the track into yet another exciting transition, gilding the music with a blackened, blast beating edge. It’s a dynamic, progressive song and one of the strongest on show.

Unfortunately, Pale Light’s strongest streak, from “The Lark at Morning” until “Thy Barren Fields,” is let down by the other half of the record. It opens and closes weakly with “Titanicide” and “The Ghosts of Scapa Flow.” Both are linear so lack a chorus hook; this is not itself a killer but the lack of payoff at their finales is. They’re both spotty for pacing as some passages are too short and some are too long, where the latter is a particular offender as it’s the longest track but has the least to say, rumbling on for over 9 minutes. Bookending an album with its weakest writing is a recipe for discouraging repeat listens as it begs the question of why its listener shouldn’t just start a couple of tracks in and finish early. I also mentioned the interludes. While these satisfactorily break down the tracks, they’re produced badly. I’m unsure if the audible crackling is an artistic decision or unintentional brickwalling (it’s so obvious, especially on the title track) but in either case it robs them of their delicacy.

At the outset of this review I was concerned I would have little to say beyond “… it’s doom. I’m bored.” But I’m relieved this was not the case, as demonstrated by the 4 preceding paragraphs, and I swiftly settled back into a doomy groove. Fell Harvest are at the best when they’re writing dynamically, dipping into sounds outside of pure doom. There’s a strong EP’s worth of material here. Sadly the quality is patchy, and I would happily skip a not insubstantial chunk of the remainder, which limits my award. But it could have been a lot worse.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: Self-released
Website: facebook.com/fellharvest
Releases worldwide: July 16th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. Because of course it was.
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