Keyboardist Jordi Amela and guitarist Jordi Prats once played in a band called Dracma before they formed Harvest in 2008 in Barcelona, Spain. Dracma released three albums: Limits (1995), A Fine Stormy Weather (1996) and Ubud (2008), all inspired by the progressive rock of the seventies. However, when I listened to Underground Community (2009, see review), the debut album from Harvest, I couldn't hear these influences any longer. Our reviewer compared their music to bands like The Wishing Tree, La Tulipe Noir, The Gathering and especially Marillion and I think his observations were right. Maybe he could have mentioned bands like Mostly Autumn, Breathing Space and Panic Room as well.
During the final edition of the Dutch annual Progfarm Festival in 2011 (see review) I also witnessed Harvest live on stage. It was their first performance abroad and I once again concluded that the sound and musical style of Harvest sometimes tends towards the sound of Marillion. I would describe most songs from their debut as melodic prog rock. Songs that aren't that complex and hardly contain the breaks and solos that lovers of prog rock enjoy so much. However, I also noticed during that Progfarm concert that new tracks, like the instrumental Moonquake, Stars and The Machine contained a number of elements which I enjoyed a lot. Then I wrote that these tracks are more adventurous and will probably be recorded for their second album that will see the light of day early 2012.
Indeed, the album was released in 2012 and I was very curious to find out whether these new pieces were present on Chasing Time or not. Well, this appears to be the case for Stars and The Machine. Furthermore I would like to know if their sound had made some progress towards the style of music the two Jordi's made in the past with Dracma. After a couple of listen sessions I concluded that the band had grown music wise and had made a step forward, although the sound of their debut still remains. Only this time they dare to rock a bit more. A good example is the opening tune Roundabout. It starts off in a slow pace with solid riffs interspersed with melodic interludes.
The sweet voice of Dutch singer Monique van der Kolk is still one of the trademarks in their music. It's a pity that she doesn't try to sound like a real rock singer more often. Of course, she's a good singer who sings the English lyrics perfectly. However, singing a bit more aggressively from time to time wouldn't harm anybody. Sure, not all songs require such a treatment, because a number of songs are just too mellow to sing aggressively. The highlights on this album certainly are the aforementioned new songs. Stars and The Machine show the true prog rock side of Harvest. In these songs strong instrumental parts have been included and occasionally a fine guitar solo can be enjoyed.
Tracks like Intuition and Silent Run will be cherished by people who enjoy more complex prog rock tunes. The first one contains a great melodic guitar solo while the latter builds up to a rather strong climax with again a brilliant guitar solo. The album contains two tracks with guest appearances that lifted these songs to a higher level. On the beautiful ballad Time Lapse, Alan Reed (ex-Pallas) shared vocals with Monique van der Kolk. This is a melancholic piece full of heartaches with some great acoustic guitar work by Jordi Prats. On In Debris they managed to have Steve Rothery (Marillion) play some slide and solo guitar, which he does brilliantly. Perhaps this is the most recognizable song in terms of current Marillion influences, but who cares as long as the music is beautiful.
It's easy to say that Harvest recorded a mature album with rather strong compositions, on which all band members reach a high level of musicianship. I think Chasing Time has more to offer than their debut Underground Community. Therefore this album is recommended to people who love the above-mentioned bands. However, if you're into more complex music with many different time signatures and long instrumental passages you better check out other albums, like the aforementioned albums by Dracma, for instance.
*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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