Pagan Harvest – Sacred River


Dark Progressive Folk Offering…

Reviewed by Andrew Manning

There have been a really healthy number of new progressive bands formed in the UK during the last few years and Pagan Harvest can be added to this list. As with many artists in this genre they pull together a myriad of musical styles taking the listener off in different directions from folk to dark progressive moments all the way through to the underlying classical influences. The origins of the band stretches back over 40 years when the three members met at school in Watford. Since that time they have each followed a range of diverse musical journeys and it is only in recent years that their paths crossed again and they formed Pagan Harvest.

Simply put the band fall into crossover progressive territory and in essence they produce what is quintessentially traditional English heritage music with the new album Sacred River being their second release. Delve beneath the surface of the lyrical content and you get a portrait of the myths and legends of the River Thames. ‘Calling All The Angels’ will appeal to fans of Big Big Train and kicks things off in style. It is very English and very prog, with the opening keyboard arrangements portraying refreshing soundscapes (please note the video available on You Tube is the shorter single version). The main vocals come courtesy of folksinger, songwriter and poet Jon Bickley with his gritty deep toned voice being complemented on the track with backing vocals from guest vocalist Debbie Hill. This is a low tempo piece creating a highly atmospheric song. ‘Over The Horizon’ has a medieval folk inspired underbelly with its pastoral sound generated by some delicate acoustic guitars and orchestral arrangements. The track is melded together with the pulsing bass playing of Steve Daymond who delivers an even and constant beat. Flowing water in keeping with the album theme introduces ‘Isis And Osiris’ with keyboards throughout mimicking the sounds of the river. Spoken word vocals are delivered by Bickley with a gloomy tone.

‘The Beast Sits Down’ allows the talents of multi instrumentalist Lawrence Reed to stretch out in various directions. His classical training enables the track to meander from renaissance style segments to rhythmic melodies offering a range of styles that adapts well to the spirit of the song. The doomy ‘Schoolaroo’ has an almost haunting feel to it with the chilling sounds creating an eerie image of the River Thames back in the dark ages. Bickley is using his poetry skills here to paint a picture of the river rolling on and on. The instrumental ‘Gigue’ would sit well in medieval times with its Blackmore’s Night type renaissance dancing overtones. You can just picture the gentry being serenaded by this in days gone by.

The standout track on the album tells the story of ‘Thorney Island’. A 12-minute opus which engages the mind and is a complex offering which requires repeated listens to fully comprehend the array of instruments contained within and it ends with the shimmering sound of church bells. ‘Chant’ brings things to a conclusion with its choral style vocals.

The songs throughout this release are varied and certainly unique. So if you fancy a hybrid of dark folk, classical and progressive rock then it will be well worth entering the world of Pagan Harvest.

Pagan Harvest – Sacred RiverTrack list:

  1. Calling All The Angels
  2. Over The Horizon
  3. Isis And Osiris
  4. The Beast Sits Down
  5. Schoolaroo
  6. Gigue
  7. Thorney Island
  8. Chant