Friday, January 17, 2014

Barishi - Barishi (2013)

Vermont isn't all maple syrup and forests that span miles; yes, those things exist in varying amounts, but there is more to one of the bedrock states of the north eats United States. One thing that might not have ever been equated with New Hampshire's neighbor is eclectic and rich styles of metal. They, too, exist in some form or another, but it has taken far too long for us to find the band that could become the face of Vermont metal for years to come. Barishi, a four piece outfit from Brattleboro, could easily be mistaken for a Black Crowes cover band when you view some of the band photos. There is something about their look that could fool you into thinking you've stumbled into a hippie commune. But when you press play, those thoughts are smashed to bits in a sea of ebbing and flowing psychedelic metal, melodically based, by heavily rooted in distortion and blissful accuracy. How a band can embody a look and sound that stand at odds with one another is something that this many years around the music business has yet to explain. But their self titled album fairly spits in the face of convention, and gives rise to mountain metal.

Poking through a sea of feedback, a wandering saxophone sets the mood for what will become an album full of surprises. "Sky Burial" is an introductory track of a different kind; not a direct two minutes, but a squealing, crying dawn over the mountain. It pulls the sun over the peaks, and shines a light directly onto "Holy Mountain," which is the beginning of things, in earnest. It's would be far too simple to take the easy way out and lump this into the generic progressive metal arena, but it would be difficult to eliminate that thought all together. As the saxophone, provided by Ron Kelley, screams over the top of a surgically precise brigade of drums and bass, it brings to mind the work of Ihsahn, not only in sound, but in vision. But the melodies here are stronger, lean more heavily on flowing vocal harmonies to set up screamed verses. But even when the vocals become aggressive and standoffish, the instrumental is crystal clear and brilliantly clean. An infusion of deft finger work complements what can only be described as an ear worm of a groove. The talent for creating lasting riffs seems to be what guitarist Graham Brooks has in spades, with each segment of "The Rider" burrowing deep into your ear canal. For his part, vocalist Sascha Simms matches the intensity of his counterpart, but also captures a sense of intellectualism in his lyrics, however gritty their delivery may be. The entire five minute duration of the track is an up and down, side to side, obstacle course.

But if versatility is important to you, musically, you won't be disappointed with where the album goes from here. It is on "Exibiche" that you find a strong grasp on the melodic and bright, clean strums of the guitar joined so flawlessly by a flowing bass line. It is almost mechanical the way everything remains in lock step with all of the other elements, but it is anything but rigid. There is a sway to it all, a soul to the music that shines through not only in the solo work, but the way the rhythm section and guitar leads elevate each other. It is musical symbiosis at work, something rarely heard in such a pure form. But arguably the most mesmerizing piece of art on the album, aside from the front cover that bends the mind, is the eight minute titan titled "Through Mountains, Through Plains." It is not the length that makes this track work, but rather the dedication to its construction. The vocals bend and soar over what would, at first glance, seem to be a rather simple mix beneath. Drummer Dylan Blake works in ways that are not mysterious, but purposeful. Every snap of the snare drum, every kick, snare, cymbal combination, pops through your speakers. It reels in the chaotic latter stages of the track, keeping the entire thing from going off the rails.

For every action, though, there is an equal and opposite one, something that "The Waves" will not soon let you forget. It crushes down on you with every bit of force the name would indicate, Simms screaming in the most deafening tone over a battery of drums and guitar. There is simply nothing held back, to such a degree that it's a wonder there is anything left for the final two tracks. It's insistent without being overbearing, and heavy without exhausting the listener. Conversely, "A Place that Swallows All Rivers" gives you ample time to sit back and let your head sway to some brilliantly conceived and executed guitar work. It comes back to those same melodic sensibilities you heard earlier, an organic growth from passage to passage, bolstered only by the constant of the bass work. Jonathan Kelley, much like his rhythm section mate, is blissfully accurate, and even more detailed than this music could reveal. His work, especially in the fluttery melody that comes before the three minute mark, is as steadfast and steadying as any in the business. That leaves only "Jaguar Scarification Ritual," a track as diverse and eclectic as the name itself. The beauty is the honesty with which it is written, recorded and played; this isn't weird for weirds sake, or winding just to say it can be. No, it plays out on digital media the way the band would hear it in their own heads. And that is a magical moment to behold.

I'm not exactly sure what it is inside the band dynamic that separates a half hearted garage band from a band with everything in their corner. It would seem that the smallest difference in talent and mentality can make the entire life of a band change for the better. Barishi have something going between the four of them that just seems to work on all levels; their is a comfort in each others abilities that allows them to relax and let the music flow from their collective minds. It would be an interesting day spent watching them write. The resulting music, whatever genre tag you choose to slap onto it, is harder to capture with mere words than you would have probably guessed. Where else have you heard this combination of sound and fury, with grace and dexterity, without once feeling ironic or contrived? In modern melodic metal, you might think for hours and not come up with another name. This four piece has something, personal, professional, mental, physical, that is hypnotic. And this self titled album is one that won't soon leave your iPod, or your mind.


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