“Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns” is Shaman’s Harvest fifth studio album which was released through Netherland’s based Mascot Records. There is something extremely special that I find here in comparison to past Shaman’s Harvest records, and I believe that could be pinpointed to the story behind it. For those of you who do not know, Shaman’s Harvest’s vocalist, Nathan Hunt, was diagnosed with a rare form of throat cancer during the production of “Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns.” A diagnosis such as that must be traumatic for anyone. Not only did it put Hunt’s life in jeopardy, but his entire existence as a singer along with everything that ever meant anything to him as well. Hunt stated in a previous interview that he was going through all the stages of grief while recording this album. That right there is what makes this album so incredible. Hunt was a trooper and was present and active for every session he could be there for, just so the release of the record was not delayed. To say the least, Hunt persevered, pushed through, and continued on to create something truly astonishing. You can hear the pain, the emotion, and especially the struggle in every single note he sings on this album. Not only does this make “Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns” southern rock at its finest, but Shaman’s Harvest managed to create an all-around rock album that can easily appeal to rock, grunge, and metal fans alike.
The production of this album is spot-on in my opinion. There is a nice low-end groove to the tracks that still manages to preserve those ever-important mids; giving this album a great over-all sound that is able to fill that proverbial sonic space. In a world where the norm is to ‘over-produce’ and digitize your tracks with layers upon layers of plug-ins and synth, Shaman’s Harvest, along with producer L Rich Creibaum and mixer Keith Armstrong were able to maintain an authentic feel to these recordings. That is no easy feat because they achieved a very modern sounding album that can easily compete with the best of the rock releases out today.
“Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns” has a great flow to it from track to track. At no point did I have the desire to change the song or interrupt it mid-way. I wanted to keep listening, and listen again once I was finished…and again once more after that. Ryan Tomlinson and Josh Hamler bring us driving, ‘in-your-face’ guitar licks, with some of those emotional Gilmour-esque (Pink Floyd) guitar solos that just ultimately seal the deal here. While the instrumentals shine, the star on this record is Nathan Hunt and his extreme vocal range and versatility. I can sit here, close my eyes, and feel the intensity; especially in such tracks as “Dangerous,” “Ten Million Voices,” and “In The End.” I find myself empathizing with the demons he was facing through his battle with cancer. I can feel that he needed to get this piece of his soul out there before it may have been too late. There is something so beautiful in what Hunt has accomplished here.
The final track, depending on what version of the record you own, “Silent Voice” is one of those songs that came right out of the speakers and simply touched me. It feels as if it is the culmination of everything the band was trying to execute for “Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns.” On one hand you have the longing in Hunt’s voice, and in the other, the melancholic, flowing arrangements of the music that come off so natural, as if this song just simply came straight from their hearts. For those of you with the limited edition version of the album, it ends with an unplugged rendition of their 2009 hit, “Dragonfly.” The added track definitely makes the limited edition the version to pick up. I’ve always been a sucker for acoustics, but I now see “Dragonfly” from a whole new perspective, and the view is surreal from there.
I cannot wait to hear what the future has in store for Shaman’s Harvest, as it seems to be very bright. “Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns” is a MUST BUY. Please check it out and support the music that you love by purchasing it via any of the links provided below: