I think most ardent music consumers go through phases. Maybe you’ll be really into folk for a bit, move on to hip hop, something like that. I have that but at a micro level. I’ll be really into specific subgenres. I’ll listen to a bunch of stoner doom for a while, move on to atmo-black, then just Primus for a week straight. Sometimes, it’ll get even more specific than that. I will desperately need to listen to aggressive and mind-bending riffs in a particular sound. I was in one of those moods when Barishi landed in my inbox.
The trio from Brattleboro, VT, is returning with their second full-length, Old Smoke. The phrase “more of the same” comes to mind when listening to a new Barishi record, but that phrase shouldn’t be taken as a slight against them. More of the same from Barishi is still astounding to listen to and is far, FAR better than saying the same of a lot of other bands. Blackened stoner sludge in a progressive format is quite the mouthful. Or is it aggressive death-doom. It’s honestly a little fuzzy how to describe the sound which means you have something pretty unique on your hands. I won’t get on my personal soapbox about why this is a really good thing, but I’ll definitely say this is such an interesting sound that more of the same is what you want.
While that’s an amazing thing on its own, Old Smoke blows that out of the water. Previous releases had the band bouncing between mathcore-influenced death metal and introspective atmo-doom. That evolved into a more sludge and post-metal sound on Blood from the Lion’s Mouth. Old Smoke expands the band into an amalgamation of many influences in a progressive metal setting. Technical riffs combine with slow grooves on tracks like “Blood Aurora,” a song that will both confuse and delight you if you’re into longform songwriting. Despite the length, the tracks just speed by you. Song length really shouldn’t block you from listening to a song as much as the boredom brought on by an unnecessary song length. Lucky for you, no such problem exists here. Good thing, too, because every moment on every track is interesting.
Just listen to “Blood Aurora” for a few minutes. An aggressive sludge metal riff and breakdown leads into a very heady technical riff over a relaxed drumbeat. That beat changes into a more driving groove and then switches between these different sections for several minutes including several different breakdowns. Not only is the music direction intriguing, but it’s also keeping you on your toes for the next change. That’s not to say it’s happening just for the sake of the change. It all feels very natural together. Good prog comes from letting songs grow on their own and end when they have to. In that sense, Old Smoke is a great accomplishment of modern songwriting.
Whenever you think you’ve heard it all, another new thing comes along that blows your mind. For me, that’s Old Smoke. It’s a brilliant blend of a lot of different influences coming together in a way we haven’t heard before. There is some strong songwriting talent here, and this novel approach to progressive metal is something to keep your eye on. I think Barishi is on to something with Old Smoke. Only time will tell for that one, but at least we have this for now.
Old Smoke is available now via Season of Mist.