The black and white shots of the band, coupled with the disturbing album artwork, say it all really. Expect no sympathy from Barricade, who, on this sophomore outing, have taken the direct approach, drawing upon a punk-infused sludge metal sound that speaks of vast, decaying urban landscapes and apocalyptic visions of mankind’s self-immolation as political systems crumble and social values are stripped away.
Opening with ‘axefinder’, Barricade show they mean business from the off. A turbulent, gritty riff is compounded with pummelling drums and down-tuned bass lines that rumble away somewhere near the earth’s core. Over this furious wall of noise Lars Pontoppidan and Jonathan Mulvad-Reinhardt trade vocals which range from horrific blackened screams on one side, to a punk rage on the other. It’s a harrowing combination filled with a nihilistic rage that seems to crystallise into a frightening point when paired with such devastating music. No less brutal, ‘Tartarus : The Oath’ is delivered like a death threat, the quivering rage so potent you can’t help but feel that its directed personally at you. This then segues into ‘Tartarus’ which is allowed to devolve into a devilish groove reminiscent of ‘Blood Mountain’ era Mastadon with Tejs Kyhl delivering an astonishing performance (as he does throughout the album) on drums that easily rivals Brann Dailor’s inventive rhythms. Following on from the coruscating sludge of ‘Tartarus’, ‘devoured’ pauses for a second, like an animal poised the moment before its kill, before leaping at the listener, responding to some deep-seated visceral instinct to separate flesh from bone. It’s a dark, bloody nightmare of a track that, over the course of four endless minutes, savages the listener with a brutal blackened-hardcore hybrid that sounds like Neurosis jamming with Fugazi and Black Flag in the lowest pit of hell.
Aptly titled, the track ‘Imperial Eagle’ opens upon a disturbed yet stately riff. The interplay between Lars and Patrick Fragtrup’s guitars show greater nuance than found elsewhere, but it is not long before we’re plunged into a whirling maelstrom of post-hardcore riffing.Similarly imperious in tone, ‘Forged by thieves’ has a savage, crystalline groove to it that is shattered by the savage, post-metal roars that dominate the verse. Another perfectly titled song, ‘Juggernaut’ represents the titular vehicle with seething riffs delivered as a series of shockwaves that knock the listener clean over before the whirling noise of ‘slave the fire’ drags the listener into a toxic pit where nothing organic can survive as howling feedback gives way to a riff so mired in distortion, the speaker cone practically disintegrates on contact. A full-frontal punk assault can be found on the gruelling ‘Low on ice’ which is delivered with all the thuggish bravado of a Black Flag track before the album draws to a nerve-shredding close with ‘the pale’, a track that offers all the comfort of a boot smashing into an upturned face. Expect no quarter here, for Barricade offer none, and it is very much every person for themselves in the desolate, unfeeling world the band inhabit.
What Barricade lack in subtlety, they more than make up for in sheer visceral thrills. The compelling hybrid of ferocious blackened post-metal and the fist-in-the-face fury of streetwise hardcore make for an engaging, if uncomfortable, listen and few would dare argue with the bristling rage that threads its way through the tracks like a steel core. Riding high on a surfeit of post-millennial angst and disenfranchised urban misanthropy, ‘Waker’ is a devastating forty minute blast that will leave you enervated and yet strangely empowered. A frightening call to arms, ‘Waker’ is the very embodiment of the establishment’s worst nightmares – embrace its savagery. 8