Most genres I tend to revel in all year round no matter the weather or temperament. Yet there is one that speaks to me mainly in the cold and frostbitten months, Black Metal. Befitting its sound and overall aura nothing says ‘music nerd’ like listening to Black Metal on a dank, gloomy day, I also find the genre to have a strangely musically superior quality over a lot of other genres of Metal too which leads to some intrigue and piques my geek infused brain. Even the more raw variations of the genre tend to have a special air about them, so I ask you what better way to start your year than with some freezing darkness.

I guess you could say that Barshasketh are somewhat of an international band with footings in both New Zealand and Scotland, poles apart. The band formed in 2009 and shortly after unveiled their debut Defying The Bonds Of Cosmic Thraldom. This was later to be followed by their sophomore effort Sitra Achra which happened to be my first introduction to these Black Metallers. Fast forward to 2015 and we find the release of Ophidian Henosis, and go even further to be greeted by the release of the bands latest 2019 full length Barshasketh. But can this self-titular pounding stand out from its predecessors or is it better forgotten?

One thing that could almost certainly be looked upon as both a positive and a negative about Barshasketh is that they are one thing, Black Metal. By which I mean the band display no bells, whistles or other vagaries. Vacillation, the opening track for example is a purist Black Metal bombardment that wastes no time in petty instrumentals and instead lunges us into the belly of the beast with dissonant, gravel-some, and overall traditional Blackened vocals which are extenuated by a plethora of thrashing drums, chaotic riffs and a dash of melody. This mixture of underlying destruction is a constant through the release and makes for a delightful, dare I say easy listen.

Despite the consistent, back to basics edge that Barshasketh bring forth they do have their own flirtation. This time with Prog overtones, in the likes of Consciousness II, Ruin II and Recrudescence we are exposed to limited yet present building structures that take the savage burden away. Alas these portions are short lived which quite frankly is a bit disappointing. Barshasketh clearly have a lot more talent to give us but seem a touch imprisoned by the confines of contemporary true Black Metal, with a more open mind this release could have seen greater things.

So is this self-titled fourth tome a flop? By no means, in fact it is a pleasure, not so much so that we lock ourselves in a darkened room with headphones on hanging upon each and every note. Quite the opposite, this is more like everyday Black Metal, forget the seasonal listening and embrace this album as an evil pleasantry throughout the year, pop it on with your morning coffee (black, obviously) or perhaps when you’re doing a bit of housework (kvlt housework, obviously). I guess what I’m trying to say in a bit of a roundabout way is that this album is background Metal, which I always attest isn’t a bad thing it just means that its as palatable as a reasonable plate of food.

(6/10 George Caley)