There are, around the world, a few labels which offer an absolute and authoritative stamp of quality. For grunge and alternative you’d be hard pressed to beat labels like Sub Pop, Touch and Go and SST; for punk there’s the still unassailable Dischord and for metal there’s Peaceville, Inferno records, Earache and, of course, there’s Doomentia, a label that proudly caters to the metal masses with an independent spirit and passion that commands respect. Making a mighty noise on the latter label, Barbarian emerged on the scene with a self-titled demo that essentially amounted to a love letter to Celtic Frost, only for a split with Bunker 66 (released two years later, in 2012) to demonstrate a rapidly developing style of their own. ‘Faith extinguisher’ is the band’s first full length release and with the band now waving the banner for AWOSHM (Ageless wave of stubborn heavy metal), they’ve become the sort of band that true, metal loving maniacs will flock to in droves.
Whilst still incorporating elements of their beloved Celtic Frost, Barbarian now more closely resemble a mind-altering cross between iron Maiden and High on fire. In favour of the former there are harmonised guitar solos galore and a rampaging sense of rhythm that comes pounding from the speakers like the devil’s own pack of horses whilst in favour of the latter is a guitar sound that sears like molten metal and a vocal approach that surely comes as the result of spending a lifetime chain smoking filterless cigarettes whilst washing the smoke down with cheap whiskey.. Exhibit A is the title track; a storming, full-tilt thrill ride to hell, with its malevolent riffs packing a seriously weighty punch over a cacophonous percussive backdrop that threatens to destroy foundations at even moderate volumes. The charmingly titled ‘inhale the dead’ is ‘ride the lightening’ era Metallica playing thrash covers of Sleep songs with Matt Pike on vocals, and is every bit as crushingly heavy as that sounds, whilst the brilliant ‘godless, amoral and proud’ has a taught opening groove that sounds like Rammstein stripped of their technology and inducted into the lean, mean ways of the stooges – the riff ragged and distorted and yet played with biting precision. Twisted tempo changes keep the song fresh and the vocals are ever more unholy as the song explodes in a frenzied burst of blackened thrash pyrotechnics. Even better still is the hymn to that immortal genre, ‘total metal’, which kicks off with shades of Celtic Frost before heading down an avenue lined with Darkthrone and Aura Noir posters. A crunching anthem guaranteed to appeal to the hearts and minds of head-bangers everywhere, it has a chorus destined to become a cult favourite in the underground an the only shame is it is unlikely to reach a more widespread audience.
Having paid tribute to metal, Barbarian strike a defiant, punk infused pose on ‘Fools of Golgotha’, a strident blast of Maiden-infused metal with lengthy lead parts driving the song forward. ‘Crux et Circenses’ is slow motion grind, in the vein of Celtic Frost laced through its nihilistic attitude and blackened atmosphere before suddenly lurching into a harrowing thrash attack that leaves the listener bloodied and shaken. Finally, closing track, ‘we are the profane’, leaves you battered and broken on the floor with one last pulverising blast of frozen riffs, unhinged percussion and sinister, fly-blown vocals summoning you ever closer to the abyss.
Barbarian is primitive, passionate heavy metal played with unerring conviction and a healthy disregard for modern trends and fads. Not for the faint of heart, it rarely lets its foot off the pedal, and whilst there is little in the way of variation, it hardly matters for the album is pitched as a short, sharp shock to the system rather than a multi-layered epic. If you dig loud, brutal riffs and vocals torn from a freshly dug grave, then Barbarian are for you.
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