As we slam the door on the non-stop game of Russian Roulette that was 2016, we at Angry Metal Guy Enterprises, LLC collectively realize that the adage “the more things change, the more they stay the same” rings ever so true. New years always bring new promises. They also bring with them one-man black metal. Italy’s Derhead, helmed by one Giorgio Barroccu, enters the blackened arena with his debut EP, Via. However, there is a unique twist. Upon researching for this review, Via not only contains 3 new songs, but also his demos from 2003 and 2013, essentially his entire recording output to date. So, for the price of an EP, you get an entire catalog! Is this the (un)merriest gift of all, or will you be returning this at Blut Aus Nordstroms?
Listening solely to the three songs that make up the core of Via reveals Barroccu to have a bit of a flair for the French. Yes, the Blut Aus Nordisms are abundant, but Barroccu admirably keeps his influences in check, settling more for atmosphere than aiming for weirdness. His guitar lines do mimic Vindsval at times, especially the second half of “Via,” but there are worse heroes to emulate. Vocally, he keeps to a high rasp, sounding like a spirit awoken from its slumber after centuries of hibernation. For the most part, this is a respectable emulation of Blut Aus Nord‘s sound without the flashiness, but with a heap more atmosphere and ambiance. The barely 22 minutes of Via proper show a man on an interesting path towards darkness and notoriety.
So what of the other six songs on here? The 2013 demo songs fly at a remarkable clip, with Barroccu’s drum programming mostly eschewing variety for a frantic non-stop hyperblast. His vocals, while still raspy, possess better clarity than the new material. “Lamina” and “Circle” do hint at the atmospherics that Via wallow in, with the latter showcasing an incredible melodic crescendo near the end of the song to throw the listener off their game. The 2003 demos might as well have been an entirely different band altogether. Barroccu’s riffing sounds almost thrash-like, his voice mostly adheres to a low growl, and his drum programming possesses the least amount of variety on here. As such, I played the final three songs with less frequency than the rest of Via.
As expected with a discography, the production also varies. Obviously, the three new songs that comprise Via are the best produced, with the guitars retaining their bite when in full tremolo mode, and the bass cutting through when necessary. The three 2013 songs also sound incredible, with the guitar melodies shining throughout. The last three songs from 2003 comparatively (and predictably) muddle along, with the drums and guitars often blurring into one another. Oddly enough, the keyboards from the 2003 demos pierce through the fog, like a little kid screaming for ice cream at your grandmother’s funeral (on “I,” for example). Bleak, yet jarring.
That said, though, even without the extra tracks, I like where Barroccu is heading with his Derhead project. The three new songs exhibit some major promise, as he has already shown great command of atmospheric moments. And I gotta admit, those six tracks, while varying in degrees of quality and songwriting, make interesting snapshots of Barroccu’s development as a musician and songwriter. I can see Barroccu’s talent grow from here. Perhaps in a few years, people will be looking at Italy for new, blackened sounds.