Review Summary: Shine is heavy enough for concert goers, groovy enough for blues fans, but not long or engaging enough for either.
Bands like Shaman’s Harvest come around once in a blue moon. Unlike many other cookie-cutter arena rockers or post-hardcore moshers, Shaman’s Harvest tries something that really does sound new. These Midwestern musicians focus more on southern blues and groove-laden crooning than their peers, while still keeping enough rock and metal in their heads for concert goers to rock out to. Shine, the band’s 2009 album, is a fine concoction of unique genres and influences, but its brevity and occasional unity issues keep it away from being the next radio rock must-have.
From the far off land of Jefferson City, Missouri, Shaman’s Harvest have actually been making records for more than a decade. Despite record contracts being turned down consistently, Shaman’s Harvest has been keeping on independently, getting their name out through word-of-mouth and touring behind bigger bands like Danzig and Alice in Chains. It wasn’t until 2009 that the blues-rock band got a radio-friendly gem in “Dragonfly,” which is a very fine single. It starts off with an atmospheric acoustic guitar line, with a thunderous drum hit moving into the strong verse and catchy chorus. The solo work from lead guitarist Ryan Tomlinson feels more Nirvana than Metallica, but captures a down-and-dirty edge that isn’t seen in other bands of their style.
Shaman’s Harvest is a band with a good sense of direction. They’ve constantly cited blues as a major influence, and it’s very easy to hear it in frontman Nathan “Drake” Hunt’s voice. He keeps the shouting intensity at bay (most of the time), instead focusing on crooning and smoother vocals. With just a hint of Danzig in his tone, Hunt’s voice is defining and gives the band’s more fluid moments a feeling of style and resilience. In modern rock’s field, it’s definitely unique.
That’s not to say that the album isn’t heavy. Shaman’s Harvest knows when to add the tight guitar rhythm, edgy solo work, and borderline mosh spirit. The title track in particular is easily the best on the album, standing out from a lot of the more subdued sounds. Hunt’s rougher vocals start to emerge, but you still are able to hear a croon more than a grunt. Another one of the heavier tracks, “Wait in the Light”, doesn’t have the best vocal rhythm of the rest of the album, but Hunt’s voice is still impressive to say the least. Though these guys play groove over metal, the combination is seamless and feels incredibly unique.
The more balladry-rich songs are hit-or-miss. “Devil’s Gift” has a catchy chorus and plenty of guitar twang, but has some pretty messy lyrical choice and underwhelming instrumental unity. It feels generic amongst a blues-rock slickness. The final two songs, “Strike the Slate” and “Say the Same”, are slower, but very good. “Strike the Slate” stands as a lyrical and melodic gem, poetically composed and emerging into a climactic peak with some harsher vocals from Hunt. “Say the Same” feels more abstract and jam-like than other songs on the album, but the acoustic strums and rhythmic lyrical delivery make it feel at home amongst the blues-influenced tracks.
Shine is a painfully brief album, with only eight songs and none of them cracking the four-minute mark. In a band with such a great lead singer and tight mix of blues and hard rock spirit, they could’ve shown off a ton more of their already great potential. Shaman’s Harvest is a band of dedicated musicians who stay true to who they are, major record deal or not. Shine feels more like a demonstration EP than a full-fledged album, but these Missouri groovers skill at merging genres while still feeling definitive has to be commended. If the tried-and-true arena heads of modern rock have you begging for something new, try out Shaman’s Harvest and give Shine a go.