Heavy rolling thunder emanates from the Green Mountains with Barishi’s third full-length release, Old Smoke.
Barishi’s first album (self-titled) came out in 2013. At this beginning, the lead singer was Sascha Simms, Graham Brooks played guitar, Jonathan Kelley was on bass, and Dylan Blake handled the drums and percussion. Two years later, the band self-released an EP titled Endless Howl. I could not track down the first album, but I did listen to the EP. There were four fairly short songs (compared to the new one, anyway) on it, beginning with the discordant aggression of “In The Hour Of The Wolf.” Then there is “Smoke From The Earth,” which starts out with choppy syncopation before turning melodic and then adding in vocal screams, harsh and terrifying. “Endless Howl” is the third track, and it opens with a machine gun guitar riff and ends only after complex musical showmanship. These three songs were so different from each other I was expecting maybe a ballad from the last song, “Snakeboat.” Heh-heh. No, it starts with a somber death metal sentiment and then folds in noise and anger and chaos. The result is dizzying and entirely original.
Barishi signed with the Season of Mist label and released Blood From The Lion’s Mouth in 2016. The songs were mostly in the 4-5 minute range and they varied in tone and structure throughout. The gruffness and ferocity of Simms’ voice is evident throughout and yet the music itself is overall less urgently aggressive than Endless Howl. More approachable, perhaps. The themes are gloomy and ancient, and the songs are heavy and dark. The title track stands out, as does “Death Moves In Silence,” for the musical solemnity they exhibit. Even so, it is the 9-minute epic “The Deep” that stays with me the most from this release. Something about the guitars remind me a little of Baroness and the percussion sits in my ears more with this piece than the others. The song is patient and does what it sets out to do in its own time. Excellent.
Old Smoke is the newest one, and it is very different from the earlier work. Sascha Simms left the band after Blood From The Lion’s Mouth, and of course when a band gets a new vocalist that is a fundamental change, but the differences are more than that. The band started out as an instrumental trio before Simms joined and with his the departure the band was an instrumental trio again, at least until the vocals got sorted out. Maybe that gave them a different perspective on song writing. There are six songs on Old Smoke and three of them run over ten minutes, two pass the six minute mark. The first thing you notice, then, is that there is more instrumentation here and less vocalization. Guitarist Graham Brooks took over on voice in addition to all the guitar work, and naturally he sounds different than Simms. Brooks creates deep dark vocals that are coarse in just the right way to complement the other instruments. The feeling is more eldritch on Old Smoke than on the earlier music, and the sound has a thicker feeling to it, a compositional heaviness that supports and enhances the parallel sharp and nimble lines and moments throughout. The title track (clocking in at 13:25) is the one I have played most often. The variety across the songs combined with continuity of the overall arc of the set means that, even with stand-out songs or favorites, listening to the entire album gives you the best experience. There are no songs you feel like skipping. Barishi is often categorized as sludge metal – on Bandcamp they also get the death, stoner, and prog tags. What they are is heavy; what they are is metal. They are also now in my permanent music rotation. Highly recommended.
You can get Barishi merch at Season of Mist (link below) as well as the CD and vinyl versions of Old Smoke. Bandcamp has it too, plus streaming and download options.
The band photo is from their Bandcamp page.