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Barbarian - Cult of the Empty Grave

Barbarian
Cult of the Empty Grave
by Kyle Harding at 22 August 2016, 7:47 PM

Florence, Tuscany is largely regarded to be the classical art capitol of the world, filled with museums, culture, and even the old Palazzo Medici Riccardi, which is a masterpiece itself. Renowned renaissance innovators like Michelangelo Buonarroti and Leonardo Da Vinci spent time studying and perfecting their craft here as well, learning of the essence of human expression and understanding. And like in many far corners of the world, Metal began to creep from its darkest corners. But the question is: what would emerge? In a place like this, it would be only fitting for a Neo-Classical Power or Virtuosic Speed band to arise, right? Not necessarily, for from its heart came BARBARIAN, who leapt forth wielding battleaxes and gnashing sharp teeth with a bloodthirsty cry.

This Tuscan trio performs with a kind of hybrid to Thrash and Death Metal, not the most expected musical form to come from such a sophisticated locale, which begs the question: what prompts such a brutal group from beautiful Florence? Maybe we’ll find the answer from listening in-depth to their newest album, “Cult of the Empty Grave”.

Cult of the Empty Grave” is a collection of 7 songs that hit hard with alternating Speed-Thrash riffs and Death Metal chord grinds, gritty bass rumbles, and heavy double-bass blasts. This playing style is apparent from the get-go, and follows in suit all the way through the album. However, the question remains as to whether or not these artists can keep such a raw feeling for the record’s duration before it decomposes into something stale.

The album opens with “Bridgeburner”, kick-starting with a gory riff by Borys Crossburn, who also lets out a growl befitting the beginning of a battle and the vocals for the rest of “Cult of the Empty Grave”. The drummer, simply known as “Lore”, slams some serious double bass, enough to topple any ancient empire. Shortly after, the song cuts into a kind of Power Metal form pierced by continuous gutturals and, to top it off, a well-fitting choir. Soon enough, the track jumps into something fast and heavy. The bass, by D.D. Prowler, rumbles in syncopation with the guitar and can be easily heard from any method of listening, from noise-cancelling headphones to even a car stereo, which is a plus in my book.

The title track, “Cult of the Empty Grave”, opens with a kind of 80’s Heavy Metal guitar sound, something that would go hand-in-hand with a basement filled with a bunch of headbangers playing Dungeons and Dragons as orc warriors. The song grows and grows into that familiar Death Metal sound with some vicious vocals. But then, a few minutes in, the band hits the brakes and slows into something doomy and slow like a sacrificial melody. So far, so good, and these guys are keeping it fresh.

The album then explodes into an ode to all things heavy and metal- “Absolute Metal”. Borys’ guitar is a constant punch to the face while Lore’s drums are a continuous kick to the ass. D.D.’s bass adds the intense ambience, constructing a tune that paints a clear picture of a mosh pit. This song is a piece to the answer of why such brutality festers in such fine places like Florence… but I’m not thinking about it too hard at this point, as all I want to do is slam into a crowd of random strangers.

The final track, “Remorseless Fury”, is also one of the album’s more up-tempo tunes and is, stylistically, like the past few songs we experienced. However, I particularly enjoyed the lyrics and, near the end, got my answer to the question I posed before with this:

Swamps like meadows, nightmare visions
Endless wading while the truths are fading
Leeches feasting, blood is yearning
Larvae of lies will breed

I understand things best when they’re conveyed through imagery and figurative language, and this line helped me to understand the finer point to the blunt end of an ogre’s club- we love metal for its dirtiness, its ugly, and its brutality because it’s true to itself. Much of what we find in the fine art world is veiled behind mystery and many ulterior messages. Though I can also find value in seeking a message, there’s also value in this in-your-face kind of music, and exposes what’s true on the surface rather than hiding something from those who may not be able to handle the thought. We’d rather not wade through endlessly while truths fade, nor allow the larvae of lies to fester. This is pure exposure of wonderful primitiveness.

Overall, this was a fun album. Parts may have been a bit repetitive and production just a little rough around the edges, but a very nice effort from BARBARIAN. There were little surprises to be found throughout the hacking and slashing, like the use of the choir or switching certain elements of other subgenres. Give them a go and see what you might find!

Songwriting: 6
Originality: 7
Memorability: 6
Production: 7

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Bridgeburner
2. Whores of Redemption
3. Cult of the Empty Grave
4. Absolute Metal
5. Supreme Gift of the False Prophecy
6. The Bone Knife
7. Remorseless Fury
Lineup:
Borys Crossburn - Guitars, Vocals
D.D. Prowler - Bass
Lore - Drums
Record Label: Hells Headbangers Records
     


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Edited 29 September 2020
 

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