Artist: Ark of the Covenant
Album: Self Harvest
Label: Facedown Records
Release Date: 4.30.13
Reviewer: Lee Brown
- Blind Man
- Self Harvest
As they say on the song “Transgressors,” Ark of the Covenant “are here to speak for the silent.” This theme is apt to describe the lyrical and spiritual content of the album. From “Parasite” to “Transgressors” and from “Blind Man” to “Fakes” AOC is polemical to a fault. For those confused on the term, a polemic is a reasoned defense of a faith from within to others within. As such, many of the lyrical beatings are directed at those who mar the name of Christ with half-hearted devotion and those who simply claim the name “Christian” without understanding the “die to yourself” nature of following Christ.
A great example of this (and of the musical styling of the album) can be seen in the lyric video for “Transgressors”:
The album begins with “Abandoned” and some skittered guitars playing back and forth across the speakers before aggressive drumming crashes in to pull the sounds together. Atmospheric elements begin to play in the background before powerful vocals charge in. Vocally, Ark of the Covenant are closer to the guttural side of things, though they sometimes lean towards Sleeping Giant crowd-friendly in nature and other times lean more toward Saving Grace level heavy vocals with just a hint of fry screaming on their edges.
Musically, the band brings everything you could ask for in chugging guitars and quick drumming. I listen to a lot of heavy music for reviews (and for fun), and have listened to a lot of Facedown-specific hard music lately. That said, this album was the first one I’ve listened to in a long time where my neck started bobbing instinctively without my noticing. There’s just something in it that draws you in and compels your body to action. That’s a great thing.
“Fire” follows after “Abandoned.” In effect, it blends with the final strains of “Abandoned” and continues into some heavy moments. However, at :50 seconds long, it doesn’t really serve to further the album in a noticeable way. I would rather have seen this little instru-metal left off the album. “Parasite” brings things back to form, however. With some great celestial sounds playing behind slow riffs and skittering guitars, the overall sound is fantastic. Truly, the band has found a sound that is fresh, and carries a well-defined balance between raw/heartfelt and slightly “produced.” Message-wise, “Parasite” confronts a hollow believer faking his way along for self gain.
“Transgressors” is certainly a highlight of the album. Due it’s inclusion above in video form, however, I will not wax eloquent on its merits. Click above to listen. “Blind Man” continues to bring the power and musical skill. Stylistically, the track feels inspired by some forerunners like No Innocent Victim, but certainly takes a life of its own by adding back in some celestial soundscapes to counterbalance the brutality of the vocals/chorus.
“Sentient” starts out with some rock guitar sounds that create a tone/ambiance before the brutality takes over. As before, there are plenty of great heavy moments and some great sounds mixed into the background (sand shakers/maracas periodically play in the background). Also, as before, the message bites into those who engage an empty faith. This track is a beautiful example of the dichotomous interplay between well used softer tones and heavy riffing. “Fury” continues this (it is another instru-metal) for :50 or so. Unlike, “Fire,” however, “Fury” seems to more naturally flow from the previous track and lead into the next.
“Withered” is another track that has some No Innocent Victim (style) influences behind it. It starts out hard and heavy and doesn’t really loose that pace throughout. At this point in the review, I’ll let you guess (based on the overall trend in themes and the title of the song) as to what “Withered” is about. “Fakes” also continues this same lyrical message, but is set to a more industrial sound. The intro of the song would not be out of place on a Becoming the Archetype album, especially the way some of the vocals are heavily distorted/stretched and played in the background as if they were an instrument. “Fakes” is another highlight on this album that I encourage everyone to check out in considering this album.
The title track, “Self Harvest,” fittingly serves to start winding the album towards its conclusion. The industrial effects from “Fakes” carry over into the new track with some electronic beeps and bloops mixed into the layers in the background. Again, Celestial Completion comes to mind in small ways in the comparison. Elements from the opening track are also brought back in to bring some nice cohesion to the experience.
The album closes with “Famine.” “Famine” does a great job of nodding to all the various and diverse elements that were incorporated throughout the album and send it out on a somber tone. The heavy-handed piano playing, tolling bells, and maniacal laughing found in the layering of this song leave the listener with a purposefully uneasy feeling. It’s almost as if the band wanted you to be considering the weight of the message they’ve brought to the table through a beautiful sonic picture (and by “almost,” of course, I mean that they mean just that).
Overall: Ark of the Covenant had some big shoes to fill in graduating to Facedown Records. Luckily, they come out swinging. Self Harvest is musically layered and vocally powerful. The message is direct and consistent. The band isn’t afraid to mix in varied and diverse elements, such as atmospheric and industrial soundscapes, and these pay off in spades throughout the experience. Fans of heavy music in general, and Impending Doom/ Becoming the Archetype in particular, will eat this up. Though there can never be a band that will replace In the Midst of Lions or A Plea for Purging, while listening to Ark of the Covenant, you’ll forget for a moment that that piece of your heart is missing.
RIYL: Impending Doom, The Acacia Strain, Those Who Fear