Review Summary: Beautiful, apocalyptic, ritualistic, and utterly, fascinatingly unique, "Har Nevo" is an early contender for the best album of 2013.
It might not be very often that a band completely breaks formula on an album and actually succeeds, but Har Nevo
is proof that, when it does happen, absolutely brilliant things can come out of it. The previous album from Belgian collective The Black Heart Rebellion
, was a very enjoyable, albeit fairly unoriginal, Envy
-esque blend of post-rock and screamo, and while traces of that style certainly shine through on their sophomore release, the bulk of that formula haze been utterly razed and replaced with something far, far more unique. On Har Nevo
, one can find traces of a massive variety of genres such as post-rock, tribal, psychedelic, ambient, screamo, and even faint hints of atmospheric sludge metal, but while other artists attempting to combine such a hodgepodge of styles in the past have fell flat on their faces, The Black Heart Rebellion
have done exactly the opposite, creating something that's unique, cohesive, and enthralling where similar efforts have been samey, jumbled, and dull.
Being part of the "Church of Ra", a Belgium-based musical collective of sorts headed by the incredibly talented Amenra
and that band's frontman, Colin H. Van Eeckhout (who contributes vocals on 'Ein Avdat'), one of the few things that one can expect with absolute certainty going into Har Nevo
is that this album will not be a whimsical journey. Rather, the aesthetic of The Black Heart Rebellion
closely resembles the suffocating darkness of Amenra
's Mass V
more than anything else, and while Har Nevo
is a far cry from the devastating sonic heaviness of that album, it is just as crushing, albeit in a far different manner. Plodding, earth-shattering sludge riffs have been replaced with eerie post-rock leads; dying-animal shrieks with breathy cleans, rough shouts, and the occasional screamo lines; desolate, apocalyptic climaxes with lengthy sections of foreboding ambiance. The most interesting part of it all might be how heavily tribal music and dark folk seemed to influence the band's work in Har Nevo
: for proof, one needs merely to listen to opener 'Avraham'. The absolutely stellar drum performance on this song - and on the majority of the album's other songs - channels Neurosis
' epic of tribal percussion, 'Cleanse', and the song as a whole, with heavy, rhythmic breathing forming a large part of its vocals, sounds like something akin to being chased through a dark wood by some primordial beast.
It's not until 'Crawling Low and Eating Dust', however, that The Black Heart Rebellion
fully reveal their brilliance. Divided into three sections, this album highlight begins with over a minute of the album's most overtly tribal percussion, after which it transitions into a long period of the most haunting ambiance since Jakob
, layered with faint wails and then lead singer Pieter Uyttenhove crooning and whispering, over and over, "Oh, sinner man. Oh, sinner man". Slowly, drums begin to enter the mix again, as the song moves into the album's most overtly screamo-esque section. What's most surprising than anything else, however, is how much emotion is channeled into this climax, and this is as good of a motif as any to summarize the genius of Har Nevo
. Not only does it succeed at mixing a huge variety of genres to an extent that has become increasingly rare with like-minded bands, and not only is it as desolate and apocalyptic as the most crushing, ritualistic sludge album. These alone would make it a brilliant work, but what pushes Har Nevo
over the top is the fact that, along with its inventiveness and darkness, the musicians behind it also manage to infuse it with legitimate emotion and soul. It's not foreboding for the sake of being foreboding, it's not tribal for the sake of being tribal, and it's not unique for the sake of uniqueness: every one of these characteristics serves to convey the real, tangible feelings of the men behind the music, and herein lies the basest excellence of Har Nevo