Call me a cynic but I don’t buy into a band touring with an established act who have a great reputation, as a reason to check out this unknown opener. I’ve seen enough bad supports with great headliners to allow that rule. What I want to know is influences; what the band are aiming to do. Shaman’s Harvest have been tucked away in a corner as possibly Midwest America’s greatest secret.
Red Hands Black Deeds sees the band release their sixth album in a career spanning over twenty years. By the time opener and title track “Red Hands Black Deeds” closes with its sombre atmospheric tones to lead into “Broken Ones”, you know this band isn’t messing about. This is a band who knows exactly what it’s doing. With post-grunge grunt on a hard rock backdrop, the opening salvo of this and “The Come Up” is a great introduction to the five-piece. They’re telling you in no uncertain terms what they’re all about.
That’s why the following few tracks threw me off balance. It’s almost like hearing a completely different band with their folksy sound, reminding me of Hunter and the Bear’s recent debut. Sure, it’s got more weight behind it but it’s not quite what I was expecting. There’s some Southern rock built in for good measure. However, there’s a return to the gritty hard rock with “Blood Trophies” and “So Long”. It comes at a welcome time before the acoustic-driven “Tusk and Bone” which itself comes at the perfect moment.
Closing out the album is the ethereal “Scavengers” and picks up where the title track left off, bookending the album rather nicely. However, the album leaves me underwhelmed by the end and it’s probably because I was expecting one thing and whilst I got it, was given something else alongside it. Shaman’s Harvest are a good band and Red Hands Black Deeds is the product of a band creating music for more than twenty years. But with the two completely different sounds on the album, it feels as if they’re at odds with each other. However, I like both the snarling, dirty hard rock on offer and the tamer, folksy material but juxtaposed next to each other the way they are here and it seems disjointed.
The afore-mentioned “Broken Ones” is a prime example of why they’ve been on tour with bands like AC/DC, Theory of a Deadman and Alice and Chains; it’s hard rock with a dollop of melody and doesn’t fuck about. Uncompromising, the guitar riffs chug and draw from the same well Black Stone Cherry found theirs. Meanwhile “The Come Up” contains the chorus Theory of a Deadman never wrote, clearly touring with them rubbed off. It’s that lethal combination of a gargantuan sound and catchy to a fault.
Red Hands Black Deeds is a good album, even if it does throw you with its weird pacing. I definitely want to hear more from the band if their past work is like the heavier stuff found here. Whilst the band have admitted to challenging themselves sonically, it doesn’t challenge what hard rock can be, trying to put two distinctive sounds together side by side rather than blending them.
Red Hands Black Deeds is released 28th July