Ruthless in approach and left spiraling atop boiling, rotten oceans of ammonia and sulphur great tempests produced beyond our impending man-made endtyme dissolve all history and perception unto pure entropy. Great bones snap together dryly as the leathered canvases of ancient black wings flap amidst the impure aggregate of Earth’s decimation. Alchemical greyness flattens this stew of worthless composite garbage unto the cemented tomb of perceived life, a monument to the futility of all being as the anticausal system of existence is forced empty of its fuel. To know this truth of the end, that the primate notion of continuity will cease buried unto various layers of meaningless molecular soup, is prime inspiration for auld and destructive anti-spirituality. Defiance of all life and praise for the coming storms, their blades of wind a great severing blender for humanity, is seeming inspiration for the cosmically charged blackness of New Zealand by way of Scotland black metal musician Krigeist (Andrew Campbell) who would record his first torrential rain of fire as Barshasketh back in 2007.
Self-honed and powerfully amplified by the whirling chaos brought by groups like Deathspell Omega, Sargeist and Mgła in the first decade of the millennium Krigeist‘s earliest demos were realized in a new age of orthodoxy drenched occult semi-melodic black metal. The ‘As Flesh Becomes Earth’ (2009) demo was first released, but second recorded, as his ‘Barshasketh’ demo recorded in 2007 was perhaps less distinct as a more puritanical modern melodic black metal style. The listener was greeted by two different Barshasketh forms on those initial demos but, the style of ‘As Flesh Becomes Earth’ would be the major stylistic indicator for the projects independent debut, ‘Defying the Bonds of Cosmic Thralldom’ (2010). Downtrodden and listless as this album was, it appeared as exploration rather than certain mastery. By the time ‘Sitra Achra’ (2013) was realized Krigeist had relocated from Wellington, New Zealand to Edinburgh, Scotland and this provided access to far greater breeds of extreme metal musicians. Barshasketh would increase to a trio at this point with guitarist Guillaume Martin and drummer Bryan Hamilton conflating ‘Sitra Achra’ with growing pains and then adding glorious volume to the bands first masterpiece ‘Ophidian Henosis’ (2015). With each release the depth of Barshasketh‘s expression increases due to increasingly talented staff and an alliance with the gifted folks at Necromorbus Studio. The latest addition ex-Kalmankantaja vocalist Nagh (aka MK) arrives with greater fury in his movements, accelerating Krigeist‘s songwriting unto brimstone and fire on ‘Barshasketh’.
This is a definitive point of ascension for Barshasketh as this self-titled release represents more than plain refinement of ‘Ophidian Henosis’, which was admittedly a ‘genre’ entry on several points; ‘Barshasketh’ is broadening of dynamic, greater layered and nuanced composition and a final draft of their conjoining of orthodoxy, occultism, and dread informed melodicism. It is a second birth for the earliest concepts that drove the project extrapolated by technical mastery and meaningful arrangement. Atmospheric black metal guitar techniques are given muscular finishes creating a fluid style of darkness akin to Icelandic projects like Svartidauði but with a songwriting sense that is more focused in its greater melodic statement. In this sense Barshasketh offers the best of three worlds in properly representing melodic highs, downtrodden atmospherics, and the heady psychedelia of modern occultists such as Ascension. It sticks in the mind first as a performative, evocative guitar album and second as a clever balancing of the best aspects modern black metal has on hand.
What differentiates ‘Barshasketh’ from recent Mgła or Uada releases is both a sense of nigh Scandinavian grandiosity and a firming grasp on effective atmospheric rants. This might seem like a minor point on paper but it allows for far, far more inspirational tonality and roaring transitions that provide great moments of bombast and intensity. The entrance of “Ruin I” is opulent and seething, as if early The Ruins of Beverast had been polished unto a Funeral Mist-esque sheen, and the ‘second wind’ created by its grand crumbling avalanche creates the perfect momentum for Side B’s vitality as a full listen. The extravagance of the two part “Consciousness” and “Ruin” movements in the middle of the album anchor its value without question but at some point it does become ‘enough’ to skip over “Rebirth” afterwards and cut the experience down closer to forty minutes rather than fifty. This would be a mistake and an oversight as “Rebirth” has this fantastic build towards a set of riffs that intensify unto guitar work worthy of peak Emperor era Ihsahn. “Recrudescence” is likewise essential to the full experience and ended up being one of the higher points of interest on the record.
To say that Barshasketh are doing many things at once and doing them all well might seem like bland hyperbole in a nest of nihilist spawn but, it is truth from the serpents tongue. Modernist entrancement, ancient attack, and an unholy sense of the melodic black masterpiece looms in every rafter that Barshasketh is built upon and as such it is easily the first and foremost recommendation I’ll make for the start of 2019. For preview “Vacillation” and “Recrudescence” are a duo impossible to deny as they conjoin the uroborus of the full listen but I would just as easily recommend the duo of “Consciousness II” into “Ruin I” as a great galvanizing moment.
Imbued by its fury. 4.25/5.0
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