Reviewed: Barshasketh – Ophidian Henosis

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It took me all of one play through of Barshasketh’s album Ophidian Henosis to realise its immensity and imminent rise for contention as one of the best black metal albums I’ve heard in 2015. Yes, I am excited about this album, and no, I do not say this about every release I come across like some. This year has seen a number of excellent black metal releases including; Hæthen, Pale Chalice, Nocternity, Misϸyrming, Acherontas etc. with some more notable albums still to come; Mgła, Tsjuder, etc. on the way, and now I urge you to consider Barshasketh‘s superb new offering in the same light.

Originally hailing from Wellington (New Zealand) but relocating to Edinburgh (Scotland), Barshasketh clearly have an affinity for the cold. The swap between the chilling Antarctic-borne winds of the land of the long white cloud to the bleak climes of Scotland with its unpredictable North Sea influence, could be considered analogous to Ophidian Henosis’ beautifully shifting but frost-tinged hostility.

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Each song on Ophidian Henosis is simply differentiated by roman numerals IVII, which I sense is symbolic of the unity of each track within the whole. Barshasketh have created an entity. This entity has a dynamic and writhing presence which will encircle and eventually envelope your being. Stab play below and let the engulfment begin.

Imagine a combination of the poignant complexity found on Pale Chalice’s Negate The Infinte And Miraculous coupled with the ardent and searing melodies of Hæthen’s Shaped By Aeolian Winds and you start to get an idea of what this 4-piece have achieved on their third full-length album. No small praise either, as both of the aforementioned albums have been met with a largely positive reception and are held in high regard as two of 2015’s finest, not only amongst our collective, but in the larger and often unforgiving realm that is the internet metal community.

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From the overlaying textures created by the guitars, melding stunning harmony and sinisterly shaded rhythms, to the ominous and dulcet yet ever-present bass pulse, there is something majestic and stirring about this album. Persistent swirling melodies further emphasise the oneness of the entire composition. The drumming matches the shifts in tone perfectly, from the restrained slower passages to periods of outright blasting interspersed with free-flowing fills on both snare and tom-alike, there is nothing for me to fault here. Even from an outsider’s view I found the drums interesting throughout. I know when I’m spending entire playthroughs focused exclusively on the percussion that they’re doing something right. Without going overboard by fighting for the limelight, the drummer BB remains tasteful but still manages to add little things like placing subtle fills and changes every so often in the middle of the bar and really succeeds in keeping your attention.

Production is on the crisp side of things, which is fine by me because it is truly rewarding to hear the full extent of the interplay between the instruments here. While sparse, there are some elements of lead guitar to be found within, mostly through the use of slow drawn out bends that add yet another layer of refinement to the mix. One of my favourite and somewhat unexpected features of the guitar work is the slow emotive tapping section at the end of track II. The section brings a solemn and funereal tone to the set, as if the misery-laden grey clouds that have loomed overhead all day have finally broke and released their mournful liquid grief. While the vocals remain of a consistently gravelly nature, they do something that I think is lacking in some of their contemporaries’ output, they bear overt emotion at times. There are parts on this album where the vocals pierce through the foggy veil like elapid fangs, wretchedly injecting their sorrow into the target.

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For me, this winter down here in the Southern Hemisphere has been a journey into a sub-genre I’d overlooked for too long and bands like Barshasketh have made it feel like a pretty special time to delve in. Ophidian Henosis gets…

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You can get your copy of Ophidian Henosis from the World Terror Committee bandcamp page from July 30th (today!).

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