Barishi’s self titled debut has moments of unmitigated beauty that make it a bit difficult to notice the album’s overall shortfalls. Yes, countless progressive metal bands have given the sub-genre a bad name by strewing a stupid amount of self indulgent guitar solos over poorly written songs, but not Barishi. This album’s song structures are more like later day Enslaved than the usual sub-par Dream Theater or Symphony X clones one might expect. Think Rush-styled prog rather than guitar solo prog. Along with prog and metal, Barishi also has a bit of a mathcore feel due to the emphasis on harsh rhythmic staccatoed riffing, yet these influences are aptly distilled together for the most part. Aside from lingering on chugging riffs, Barishi’s self titled is a smooth and rich experience that manages to maintain a strong edge despite its fanciful mood.
The bittersweet source of much of Barishi’s smooth beauty is an archipelago of remarkable clean vocals. This blissful chain is tragically broken up with fairly high pitched raspy vocals that sound like they are coming from the hybrid/son of Grutle Kjellson and an unusually intelligible hardcore vocalist. While this isn’t something that would be particularly bothersome on its own, it is a disappointing step down from the relatively sparse clean vocals. The harsh vocals aren’t bad, they just leave you wanting more cleans instead. The band also has two instrumental songs, without counting the spacey swirling intro track, but they should really be considering having a cappella songs instead. Well, perhaps that would that be a swing too far in the other direction. The band’s strength is a tableau with the vocals as the central, but not sole figure. However, Barishi still needs to figure this out and include more of the clean vocals. Hearing Sascha Simms belting out lyrics about mountains will enrich your life.
Even the harsher vocals here take on a central structural role. Specifically, you can hear how important they are in “The Rider” where they drive the song forward even with the silken galloping bass lines and interesting riff transitions underneath. Consequently, the two instrumental tracks are boring energy drains for the album’s pacing. “Exhibiche’s” saccharine mood becomes nauseating due to the unwavering bass line’s ability to freeze melodic development in place. It’s like having a giant jawbreaker in your mouth (or even worse - amaretto) sitting there for five minutes. This song is a fairly common prog sin, everyone else lay on the ground and be boring so the guitar player can really let loose and do, well, prog stuff. The other instrumental track “A Place that Swallows all Rivers” is better, but still incomplete without any vocals to focus the song.
The other major issue that the band needs to grasp is why so many people hate mathcore, and it has nothing to do with latent fears of arithmetic or metal philistines. Rhythmic chugging is simply grueling to listen to and time signature changes don’t make for interesting music by themselves. Barishi really over indulges in this kind of stuff, the chugging mostly, so anyone with an embargo on mathematic chugging riffs will struggle through many parts of this release. The end of “The Rider” and major sections of the closing track are particularly exaggerated and bald versions of this problem. While the drummer certainly is talented and works towards keeping the chugs interesting and intense, you can’t fix the absence of melody with percussion. Contrast these weak parts of the album with the punchy/rhythmic yet melodically interesting “Holy Mountain” and it makes you want to take scissors to the tracks and cut out the chugs. In fact, if the bare chugs and instrumental songs were both edited out this would be a substantially more forceful release.
However, the album is not terribly bloated. Most of the songs are manageable length and while the longest, “Through Mountains, Through Plains” is just over eight minutes, it’s also one of the strongest tracks. The band has a couple problems to work on, but from the mountain songs we know that Barishi is capable of really good stuff. The issue though is that the rest of the songs are not up to that quality because they loose focus on having a strong satisfying melody. If the band can resolve these issue more consistently then they’d be nothing short of great, the ending “Holy Mountain” makes that abundantly clear.