The Round Up Tapes // Volume XVI

Barshasketh – Barshasketh

Originally a one-man band from New Zealand, founding member Krigeist’s relocation to Scotland brought new opportunities to enhance his music and after session members and live line-ups were solidified, Barshasketh began to take the form that we see today on their fourth full-length, Barshasketh. Stripping back their sound to that of their early days, Barshasketh are reclaiming the essence of black metal and while their music isn’t breaking down barriers or smashing genre lines, the expertise and musicianship on display here is more than solid and definitely worth multiple listens.

Barshasketh is a record to fall into; the abyssal depths of the band are revealed slowly – guitar riffs (Krigeist and GM) cycle back into distinct melodies, vocals search for meaning within the chaos and the tone is one that is laced with intent. Each word is given power and Krigeist’s voice is a commanding presence throughout – opening track “Vacillation” is deftly melodic in its riffing with sly harmonies seeping into the cracks left by a voice that is screaming for answers into the darkness. There is a modicum of introspection on display here but it is by no means a work of self-pity, rather a composition that seeks new paths and ways through doubt. The music is a vehicle of exploration and revelation and so Barshasketh find their own personal light within the turmoil.

“Consciousness I” plays with gorgeous melodies in its guitars and a bittersweet mood is cast over the song as the vocals climb towards their peak. The track is interspersed with slower, doomier moments that add dimension and a sense of sinister spite begins to peer through once the beauty has been cast aside by vicious drumming (MK) and harsh voices. Any semblance of wonder that has been found within the song is soon laid to rest – the record is not subtle in its movement from birth, life, death, rebirth and the songs follow a similar flow towards the inevitable end. “Recrudescence” ends Barshasketh on sickening grooves and cavernous bellows that are dredged from the depths, coursing through the veins of the song on noxious riffs and gut-wrenching dissonance. It speaks of recurrence, that we will repeat this existence over and over again as we are doomed to failure through our own mistakes. The undesirable is known to us all and it is only through personal enlightenment that we will find peace.

Listen and purchase here.

Mar – Pressed in the Earth

Mar’s echoing doom/sludge is a testament to pain and how music can help you work through tragic events and seek the light on the other side. For this duo, and their second full-length, the pain that is spoken of is felt keenly through dragged out notes, a voice that is ravaged with experience and an overdriven sound that oppresses from the outset. First track “Only Decay is Our Memory” is a crushing piece that pierces the soul with fuzzed out guitars and slow, purposeful strikes on the drum while vocalist Kay Belardinelli lays out their trauma for all to hear. The build-up is painful, monotonous and lays the foundation for all that is to come in dissonant waves of sound.

Pressed in the Earth follows on from last year’s EP, Fill Your Lungs, in that it is laced with pain and suffering yet there are moments of serenity to be found here. “Past and Future Erased” is an instrumental interlude that, while having quite a destructive title, is a brief respite from the despair that is otherwise present on the record.

Mar are not afraid to shy away from turmoil and so after this calming, centering pause, once again comes the storm. “Her Blood is Gold” is a slow, processional movement; lyrics are repeated in order to drive the message home and Balardinelli’s voice carries with it a tangible ache that seeps into the foundations of the song. Pressed in the Earth is a record of confrontation; there is no time for introspection and reminiscing here, instead Mar bring moments of sudden clarity to the fore – “The Man Shall Be Judged” allows for harsh realities to be explored – man is but a plague on this earth and one day it will be reclaimed.

Listen and purchase here.

Panopticon – The Crescendo of Dusk

While Panopticon is not a project that announces a release with huge fanfare or the spamming of pre-order links or even the sending of the record to the press, it’s definitely a surprise that an EP drops from out of nowhere  from this one man band based in Minnesota. The Crescendo of Dusk is comprised of two tracks taken from album sessions for The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness and Autumn Eternal and in these two songs we hear the opposing side of Panopticon come through. Where founder A.Lunn finds his inspiration is through nature, through the trials and tribulations of humanity and in the turmoil that living in a world ravaged by man. “The Crescendo of Dusk” follows a much more aggressive path than “The Labyrinth” yet both are soaked with emotion, albeit handled in different ways.

Both songs are, in their own way, odes to the northern lights – a natural phenomenon that inspires wonder in those who experience them and for Lunn a moment to reflect on the beauty of the world despite the horrors that reside within. “The Crescendo of Dusk” is a pounding affair that begins on fuzzy guitars that soon segue into deep bellowed vocals and a furious pace. Subtle synths lay the foundations of beauty beneath the otherwise raging sounds above and Lunn’s voice is laced with wrath throughout – his anger is not with the natural world but the destruction brought upon it. Cosmic synths give the song a pause for breath before echoing guitars and bittersweet melodies push forward for control and raise the song into the heavens.

“The Labyrinth,” on the other hand, is a much more introspective and folkier song that allows for more obvious emotion to shine through. It’s a song narrated in the spoken word style, soundtracked by a simple acoustic guitar, which speaks of longing and searching and hope. It’s beautiful at times with sweet clean vocal lines weaving around unassuming drum beats that add texture and resonance without detracting from Lunn’s message of wonder.

Listen and purchase here.

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