|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By: Tony Correlli, Patrick Cornette & Anji Cornette|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2010||Artist Website: HarvestBloom|
|Tracks: 6||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 22:35|
The concept of female fronted Christian hard rock is not a new one. Dating back to the late seventies and early eighties, foundational groups Resurrection Band, Barnabas and Servant showcased the vocal abilities of Wendi Kaiser, Nancy Jo Mann and Sandie Brock respectively. As the popularity of the scene grew following the commercial success of Stryper, the likes of Ransom (Lisa Faxon), Arsenal (Christine Steel), Scarlet Red (Danis) and Rosanna’s Raiders (Rosanna Palmer) became well regarded players in the burgeoning “white metal movement” of the time. Fast forward to recent years and a revival of sorts is taking place in regards to female fronted Christian hard music in that Testify (Lynn Louise Lowrey), HB (Johanna Aaltonen), Venia (Veronica Fagerlund) and Static Fuse (Sonia Sauruk) have all released albums to critical acclaim.
The latest act to report on is HarvestBloom. Hailing from Silver Springs, Maryland and featuring the vocal talents of Anji Cornette, HarvestBloom is relatively new to the scene, having formed in 2007 and debuting with a six song self-titled EP two years later. The group returns with its second EP in 2010, entitled Devil’s Poison and also encompassing six songs.
What we have in HarvestBloom is eighties influenced hard rock with a blues based edge. If you are a fan of many of the previously referenced bands, Testify, Static Fuse and Ransom in particular, then I can see HarvestBloom appealing to you. I find the group to be at its best when flexing its muscles, such as on up-tempo hard rockers “Natural Compulsion” (non-stop riff on this one) and “My Sweet Jesus” (as gutsy a piece as you will find). “Devil’s Poison” and “Angels Crying” might take a more melodic heading (almost radio friendly if you will) but still reflect the HarvestBloom penchant for the guitar driven. “Unmistakable Grace” and “Blood (The Creed)”, two tracks heading in ballad based territory but with some traditional blues and Gospel influences, reflect a more tempered side to the group’s songwriting abilities.
Anji Cornette, to put it bluntly, is a first rate talent with a serious set of pipes. I might describe her style as mixing the grit and soul of Lisa Faxon and Sonia Sauruk with some of the emotion and passion of Nancy Jo Mann and Christine Steel thrown in. It all adds up to a versatile talent that translates well with both the up-tempo pieces and those heading in a calmer direction.
The remaining HarvestBloom members are accomplished musicians. There is enough polish and skill here, in terms of both songwriting and musical aptitude, I can tell that each of the group’s members brings literally years of prior musician experience. In other words, the overall feeling put forth is of a veteran unit that has grown its licks and chops from its past musical experiences.
Standing out is keyboardist Molly McGettrick, whose accenting touch - whether it be in the form of a well timed solo or traces of organ - blends well with the musical happenings at hand. Guitarist Patrick Cornette delivers the goods as well with his weighty guitar flavorings on the albums heavier pieces but proves adept in lending an acoustic edge when called upon. The only complaint is that he does not cut loose lead guitar wise as much as he could, which is disappointing because when he does contribute a guitar solo (such as on “Angel’s Crying”) he exhibits a bluesy style reminiscent to that of Troy Thompson (Bride) or Stu Heiss (Resurrection Band).
Production values are top notch for an independent release, as is packaging. The album artwork reminds me somewhat of the Japan version of Rob Rock’s Garden Of Chaos (at least based around the same theme).
Track By Track
The album opens to one of its more melodic pieces, “Devil’s Poison”. With a big dose of the commercial leading the way, the song evenly maneuvers its low-key verses along the way to a hook laden chorus heading in the more stalwart direction. An anthem-like feel is put forth in the process. Of note, a pristine keyboard solo closes out the final minute (kind of sounds like something John Lawry would come up with). Lyric snippet:
Help me Lord
To Project my existence
With no home or protection
I did what I did
And now I have to live with it
But save me now, save me now
“Natural Compulsion” is the group’s most easily identifiable track, in that they both released it as a single and recorded a music video. Musically, it is a staunch hard rocker characterized by its punchy bass lines and slicing Rez Band style guitar riffs. Smoothing things out are some well timed vocal melodies. Anji Cornette, in particular, sings her guts out and proves in no uncertain terms that a hard rocking environs is her natural element. Lyric snippet:
Won’t you save me from myself
I’m headed for destruction
Running far away
Then I hear Your voice
It shakes me to the core
I’m on higher ground
More melody is delivered on “Angels Crying”. By far the albums most accessible, the song showcases another infectious chorus - there is almost a pop feel here (something I say in a positive sense) – with a ton of emotional energy coming through as a result. Patrick Cornette serves up the albums best stretch of lead guitar- if this is any indicator of his abilities then he should be cutting loose more often. Lyric snippet:
Walking home, with his books
A boy is taken
All he wanted was a good education
Violent gang took his life
Now mama’s broken
Shot in the head
Stop killing the children…
“My Sweet Jesus”, rating with HarvestBloom’s heaviest, delivers an in your face guitar mix (snarling, aggressive and driving- the way it should be) while adding corresponding touches of blues and groove. If Glenn Kaiser (Resurrection Band) and Dale Thompson (Bride) joined forces to write and record and album this is what it might sound like. A literal ton of heart and bottom heavy momentum anchors this reviewer’s choice track. Lyric snippet:
I need Your wisdom
Oh King Jesus
It keeps me focused
On love and mercy
You are my maker
I need forgiving
My sweet Jesus
The ballad “Unmistakable Grace” falls a bit flat. No, far from bad but does not quite bring the same energy and inspiration of the albums better material. It does not help that it is the shortest track here at just over three minutes. Nice use of acoustic elements and occasional hints of organ in the back drop. Anji sings with her trademark grit and soul as well. Lyric snippet:
And we see Your face
Through the thunder and the rain
And we boldly sing Your name
HarvestBloom gets it right on the albums second ballad based piece, “Blood (Creed).” This one succeeds with its emphasis on guts and emotion while reflecting some traditional Gospel blues flavorings. Complementing things are fitting touches of acoustic guitar and underpinning edges of rhythm guitar. As the song moves over its final minute, it breaks out with some big Gospel choir backing vocals. Lyric snippet:
Truly truly I say to you
He offers life as a gift to you
And you can have it
All you need is to believe
He gave His life on a crass at Calvary
The best way to sum up would be to state that I want to hear more- and with good reason in that a great deal of musical aptitude is exhibited by this five piece unit. In terms of specifics, I would like to encourage HarvestBloom to give us a full length effort next time around while exploring its instrumental sound a bit more (at least in terms of guitar soloing). Let’s hope they get signed to a quality label such as Retroactive, Soundmass or Roxx Produtions.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Devil’s Poison” (4:36), “Natural Compulsion” (3:20), “Angels Crying” (3:27), “My Sweet Jesus” (3:24), “Unmistakable Grace” (3:04), “Blood (The Creed)” (4:42)
Anji Cornette - Lead Vocals
Patrick Cornette - Guitars
Molly McGettrick - Keyboards & Piano
Craig Sibal - Bass
Greg Burkhammer - Drums
Tony Correlli - Keyboards