REVIEW: BARISHI – “Old Smoke”
When Black Sabbath started out, it was clear that they were revolutionary, but I don’t think that anyone could have foreseen just how many branches of metal would follow in the decades to come. Heavy metal split into sub-genres, and the most influenced by Sabbath was – and still is – stoner metal. Now, fifty years later, a second and third generation of metal fans have taken the work of their fathers, and with the help of bands like Neurosis, fused progressive elements into the picture made it twice as heavy and created something truly satisfying. One such band carving their way out of the woodwork is Barishi.
The first time I checked out the Vermont-based trio, I was immediately reminded of Anciients, which I took as a promising sign. And I was very much correct. Barishi is simultaneously intense and soporific, combining groove with crushing ostinatos and well-executed harsh vocals. “The Silent Circle”, the opening track of their upcoming release, ‘Old Smoke’, instantly captures one’s attention with weighty riffs and a mix of death and black metal vocals. The album continues in the same fashion, drummer Dylan Blake and bassist Jonathan Kelley providing a simplistic backbone that is in no way empty, but rather ensures a nice balance when layered beneath the spiraling chaos of the demon in frontman Graham Brooks.
The most intriguing track on ‘Old Smoke’ is “The Longhunter”, which begins with a quote about the Donner Party. I assume that the title is a play on words referring to hunting “long pig”, which is a tribal term for cannibalism, making Barishi one of the few bands to spark my curiosity lyrically. This is also one of the shorter songs, clocking in at just over six minutes. Breaking from the intensity of the first three tracks, “Curses Ablaze” atmospherically eases into a calming acoustic 7+9/8 lick, before launching into the hypnotic and pulverizing “Entombed in Gold Forever”. Adding another element of variety, the final and title track includes low clean vocals, soothing and deep in an almost Leonard Cohen way.
Despite the fact that half of the songs are over ten minutes long, ‘Old Smoke’ is surprisingly less than an hour’s worth of material. That, combined with an ebb and flow of enticing heavy grooves, prevents Barishi from sounding monotonous and overstaying their welcome. Much like their 2016 full-length debut, ‘Blood From the Lion’s Mouth’, this album has a sludgy quality without sounding muddled, or reflexively, overproduced. And while the band has certainly matured since then, both writing and execution remain similar.
Barishi is young in experience yet bold in sound, and ‘Old Smoke’ delivers a riveting compound of alluring riffs and gritty, rooted cadence. This is a band that can take familiar patterns and forms them into something new and enticing. These are six tracks (none of which are filler) that can and will be enjoyed on repeat. ‘Old Smoke’ releases April 24th via Season Of Mist.