Metal is undeniably a multifaceted wonder. It has many moods and it incorporates many styles from a wide range of genres and mediums. But how much is too much? Is it too late in the evolution of this dark and dangerous genre for us to return to the simple days of booze, drugs, and rock ’n roll? Have we dropped too far down the rabbit hole to salvage anything? Barishi’s debut album, was a record of uncontrollable wildness, spilling forth from its overloaded loins all sorts of wild and wonderful concoctions that would send fans of ‘traditional’ metal running for cover. It was certainly a progressive beast, and unfortunately it was too wild and full of passion to tame, control and direct into anything tangible and complete. The Vermont band’s second album, Blood From the Lion’s Mouth, and the focus of this review, is something else entirely. It’s still multifaceted; it still has many moods; it still incorporates many styles, however it’s a smooth and majestic Goliath of an album. The band have addressed issues from their previous release, changing things for the greater good. Blood From the Lion’s Mouth expands the glimpses of excellence from Barishi to fascinating levels.
Key to the success of this album is its cohesiveness. There’s not a transition or movement from one section to another that feels jarring, forced or shoehorned in. The myriad of riffs, and there are a juicy selection on offer throughout, build patiently and organically, and each song (stuffed to brimming point with them but never quite over spilling) is focused and condensed enough for tedium to never pop up its plain and undefined face. Each song manages to glide effortlessly from one moment to the next. “The Great Ennead,” for example, conveys the eccentricities of their debut release but this time forged at the hands of meticulous craftsmen rather than marauding wild men. It’s a spider’s web of tightly woven interconnections that interact and communicate as one, each link or strand can only stand as part of the whole. Each segue, from Intronaut inspired jazzy-sludge and early-Baroness styled melodic guitar-work into more Inter Arma-esque grandeur, is as smooth as a unicorn’s horn and twice as spirally.
Offsetting the expansive sludge sound at the spine of this record are veins of blackened-death and post-rock mixed with bursts of math-core chaos. In the title track, a melodic tremolo opening bursts though like the most glorious of sunsets. Following this, blackened growls and chain links of riff patterns subtly morph into sections laced with Converge and Botch inspired poison. Lead guitar melodies pirouette above brief chugs (these ‘-core’ elements are short-lived and not overused) and constantly expressive drumming as the song gallops towards its end. The fifth track, “Master Crossroads, Baron Ceremony,” is a cacophony of blackened (think Withered) and unorthodox death-metal. Circular and jarring riff patterns akin to Immolation and drumming that travels through the mix like a metronome of iron-spiked jackhammer punches to the gut bring welcome grit to the album.
Much of Blood From the Lion’s Mouth is standout, although the nine-minute “The Deep” is probably its crowning glory. Opening with riff patterns dripping with melody and submerged in rich groove, mixed with the faintest aroma of dissonance, the song moves through various forms and guises (sludge, post-rock, death) before a solo as sweet as the nectar of the gods (psychedelic, bluesy and full of spunk) drifts through to take center stage alongside a thick and heady bass-line. The riff is master here. The vocals throughout are uniform; although they don’t detract from the music they don’t really add much barring the odd moment of exasperated aggression. The decision to omit clean vocals this time around, a tool used on their previous album, is interesting. Their absence doesn’t reduce the eccentricity or diversity though. Instead, their omission shifts the focus to song structure and composition. Perhaps clean vocals would have added an extra dimension, an extra layer of detail and magic, or their inclusion could have served as a distracting buffer.
Blood From the Lion’s Mouth is a more condensed and claustrophobic album than its predecessor. It’s much more seething, with more of a bite and visceral edge. It retains, however, the peculiar progressive magic that shone briefly through Barishi‘s debut release. There are less spacious passages and more direct and unrelenting moments of riff-based violence here, but it’s the less in-your-face subtleties teeming beneath the surface, building and rising layer on layer, that are this album’s most exciting feature.