ALBUM REVIEW : MAGENTA HARVEST — ...And Then Came The Dust
As the summer comes to an end, what I'm listening to tends to shift; the sunny power and folk metal tends to make room for darker, heavier music to suit the mood of the ever-shortening days and general gloominess that accompanies the cold seasons. Bands who release albums in the twilight of summer have my attention right now. As if summoned for the task, the new Magenta Harvest came crawling over the light to wrap me in its dark ominous blanket.
The Finnish quintet from Pietarsaari/Jakobstad is releasing ...And Then Came The Dust right on time to make it an essential for the autumn and winter to come. The foreboding first track, "Flock of Reckoning" is the perfect introduction to this behemoth of a record, where death and black metal mingle with a few melodic tinges. Crushing riffs and actually audible basslines(!) round up the band's signature sound; this is a recipe I find to be rather unique to Magenta Harvest and may very well be the reason why I like the band so much. I was never a fan of black metal because of the general screeching abrasiveness of it all, but Magenta Harvest has fine-tuned their craft to be the blackest death metal around, with this new album being their most imposing so far. It also doesn't sound like it was recorded through a toaster in a damp basement - a page best left in the book of classic DSBM where it belongs - as their entrusted producer Juho Räiha has put in top-notch work.
The album flows effortlessly as front-to-back listen, each song leading perfectly into the next. The band's last album Volatile Waters was based around an apocalypse brought on by water, this new opus has the same sinister feel about it, like some dreadful plague slowly creeping over the world and choking out all life - but nobody is going quietly. Songs like "The Murderous Breed" and "Signs of Death" are propelled forward by freight train drumming and a raw energy that I really hope I get to see live one day. There is a pure death metal vibe that even the most melodic of bridges can't shake off, and while I'm not a die-hard old school death metal fan, I can definitely appreciate when this heaviness is the heartbeat of a band.
There is a cold maybe even sorrowful aura around some of the songs on this album, especially the title track "...And Then Came The Dust" and the finale "The Pane of Eden". I feel this is mostly brought on by the black-inspired riffs and some higher pitched vocals as well as some strategically-placed keyboard parts. Still, those songs exude power and ferocity, instead of abject misery.
Magenta Harvest - "...And Then Came The Dust"
My favourite song on this album, "The Search For The Higher Water", is a perfect testament to the band's high quality blackened death sound, where it combines the best elements of both worlds to create a song that's part war machine, part wind-ravaged icy wasteland, and all face-melting death (metal). It also has a sexy sax solo, in case you weren't completely sold yet.
This record is very well-balanced and isn't redundant, so you might find yourself listening to it from beginning to end a few times in a row. But the songs and melodies are also memorable, so you will actually notice that you're on your 3rd full listen. Woops. I also found the cover art ( done by Brazilian graphic artist Marcelo Vasco, who has also done artwork for Borknagar, Kreator and Slayer amongst others) to be quite beautiful, albeit unsettling, and somewhat hypnotizing as I found myself staring at it looking at all the details woven in the image for longer than usual. I think it suits the tone of the album perfectly.
I don't want to oversell this album, but I must give credit where credit is due; Magenta Harvest is a band that creates an awfully good product but unfortunately it hasn't been exported out of their native Finland too much. Having Mathias Lillmåns (of Finntroll) as their lead singer has afforded them some extra publicity on the international front - but they are an entity of their own and while they seem to be gathering some loyal fans everywhere, they have yet to play outside of Europe.
I fully believe that ...And Then Came The Dust could be the album that propels them to the international scene, and I do hope it does. Death metal fans who are in the market for an elusive heavier-than-heavy sound that isn't just rehashed Bolt Thrower riffs would and should go berserk over Magenta Harvest and this new record!
As for myself, I think this will be a hard one to dethrone when it comes to death albums this year, and I'm convinced will find its place in my Best Albums of 2017 list.
MAGENTA HARVEST ...And Then Came The Dust
Release date: September 1, 2017