Most of us have our share of personal struggles that storm within us and can end up defining who we are. Those forces can twist and contort us, drive us to the brink of madness, and cause our blood pressure to rise. How we fight back against that, or find some measure of solace, could determine whether our darkness ends up making us stronger.
Those ideas pour into “Remembrance,” the debut record from New York-based black metal band Harrower. Even their name hints at strife and chaos. The band explains that while the word harrower means those who cultivate the land, they clash that with the term harrowing that has much darker meaning as something distressing and disruptive. So, it’s easy to figure out how the gears have been moving the last few years while the band worked on this record, both musically and conceptually, and “Remembrance” is an entire exercise in delving into dark, miserable times, working your way through that to coping and understanding what has been hanging overhead. Harrower use the natural world as a backdrop, and that element is an essential part of finding one’s way through to the other side. That’s a lot to absorb on the surface, but as you take on this record, that idea should open itself up to you.
Harrow is a four-headed beast with Tyler Wickham on guitar and vocals, Jun Cheong on guitar, Ernst Wickham on bass, and Jon Nobile on drums. The band has poured three years of work into “Remembrance,” dressing it with raw black metal, atmospheric passages, and rustic elements, not terribly different from what a band such as Alda have put into the world. They recorded this record in the mountainous regions of upper state New York, pulling them face to face with the nature that inspired them to explore these dark times and find a resolution. The record sounds tastefully lo-fi through most of it, giving it a pure, unpolished essence that makes the record sound even more like it comes from human hands made calloused during its creation.
“Embracing” opens the record with noise and electronic interference before the song combusts and harsh vocals crush. The song later halts and goes cold, heading toward “November,” a 10:34-long epic that’s the second longest on the record. The song trickles before blooming with life, with the playing pummeling, vicious growls lacerating, and the music utterly blistering. The pace tempers again before another explosion, with savagery spilling out of the cracks, and lava-like melodies raging through the light and dark. The shrieks echo away, like a lost soul in the wilderness, and the track smothers all the way to its end. “A Pale Sun” opens with ominous guitar work that ignites and sends the track into a thrashy corner. The music boils while the pace churns, as gazey melodies stretch over top and wild howls hammer your senses. The cut ramps up again toward the end, with the guitars blazing heavily and the track bleeding away.
“The Tower” is the longest selection at 11:11, with a cold, chilling haze covering the area at the start, with melodies unfurling, and a thick fog overhead. The eruption arrives, with fierce cries mixing in with clean and elegant playing, and all of the elements gather and rain down in sheets. The song really swells up threatening chaos, but then it all blends into the calm and sneaks away. “Mountain Cradle” unloads aggressive drums at the front, rumbling the earth, and the turmoil hits cool waters, with thick melody and vicious growls making their way in. Guitars roll in and lather, with massive riffs slicing, and a harsh, doom-encrusted conclusion landing hard. Closer “Harrower” runs 9:28 and pulls in shimmering guitar work and scraping growls. Guitars chug before hitting cold waters, with the pace slithering along before it hits the furnaces. From there, the tempo gallops, a cosmic madness floats, and the track hits a final crushing assault, as if signaling the crashing through what haunts you and grinding it into dust.
Harrower have made quite the mark on their debut record, as “Remembrance” is rich musically as well as thematically. They join a pretty crowded group of bands elbowing their way into the atmospheric black metal field, but they gain momentum over these six cuts and prove they belong near the front of the pack. This is a rewarding experience for any listener, whether you’re here for the music or you plan to immerse yourself in their journey of facing hell and coming through on the other side.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/harrower.music/
To buy the album, go here: https://harrower.bandcamp.com/album/remembrance