Reviewed By Simon Milburn
Published 03 December, 2014
A sorrowful and emotive black metal surprise
I’m not normally one to listen to anything black metal related. It’s just not my thing at all. Relentless raspy vocals, one dimensional tremolo picked guitars all wrapped up in trve kvlt subpar production, nah, that stuff just isn’t what I enjoy listening to. I need to feel something with the music I listen to. Something. Anything. The bleak wall of noise that permeates from black metal blasting at relentless speeds just doesn’t hit the spot. Full credit to those who can take it in of course, it’s just not something that leaves an impression on my ears.
So when something like Portland (Oregon, U.S.A.) black metallers Barrowlands comes along, I must admit my defences are somewhat already raised even though I went in wanting to be impressed as I do with any other review. After repeated listens to this five track forty-one minute effort, it’s clear that Barrowlands are onto something. There’s a lot of emotion in the music on Thane, even though the vocals sound exactly as I expect. Building upon most of the material that first appeared on their 2012 demo, Barrowlands’ take on atmospheric black metal is one that reveals itself to the listener as the album advances, and one that gets better with repeated listens.
There’s something about the droning guitars over blasting drums that hastily usher in “Alabaster” that instantly demands your attention. The pace may well be going at full speed, but there is emotion slowly seeping from the guitars that suggests that Barrowlands isn’t your typical atmospheric black metal act. As the track progresses, the band reveal their true character. Even throughout the trademark tremolo picked black metal riffs, there’s much, much more to Barrowlands. There are layered textures, slow, doom laden riffs, gentle acoustic interludes and more that when all rolled together, are a classic example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
For all of the black metal-isms within Barrowlands, at times they simply ooze early My Dying Bride and Agalloch on the albums standout cut, “1107”. In doing so though, they stay clear of becoming a cheap knock off of either of those acts, as they push on past the excellent yet melancholic intro with dense guitars that create a vast amount of atmosphere within the track. The album’s finale, “On Bent Boughs” continues in a similar vein and even though it clocks in at just past the eleven and a half minute mark, the track never feels like a chore to get through. If anything, it’s quite the aural journey to undertake as it peaks and troughs through many emotions.
The underlying driving force for Barrowlands may well be heavily rooted within black metal, and truth be told, plenty of that style still comes to the surface throughout Thane. But there is so much more to this band and this album than the first two or even three tracks reveal. They hit their stride towards the end of this release but if nothing else, it certainly points towards a very promising future. Thane can be dark and claustrophobic as well as deep, vast and unrestrained and it’s Barrowlands excellent blend of these extremes that makes this album well worth a listen.
Sick Man Getting Sick Records