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Barshasketh is one of those underrated black metal bands hailing from New Zealand. The music on their sophomore effort is enchantingly melodic. Imagine Amestigon meets Svartrit, remove the reverb, throw in some actively tremolo picked guitars with Pest on vocals, more or less. But Barshasketh is not a copycat band by any stretch of the imagination. Rather, their second album exhibits idiosyncrasy so uniquely theirs; a trait fused with proportionate melody that doesn’t bore you from the get go. It is very difficult to point out specific songs because each one of them strictly adheres to the same compositional style. I don’t know how Barshasketh did it, but if the same formula were to be reinterpreted by lesser acts, the end product would definitely sound horrible, if anything.
The title track and ‘Malaise’ can be quite melancholic but wicked at the same time. It is like a psychopath luring his female victim with promises of fame and fortune, unaware of the very intention he has for her. Once she falls for the trap, there is nowhere to go. She’ll be left to rot by the hillside, where unsuspecting passersby would eventually discover what’s left of her remains months after the horrific ordeal. Looks can be deceiving. Just as you thought the band would maintain a sorrowful tone, they blast you in the face with unhinged ferocity that is so impossible to tame. Yes. This album is a wild ride towards hell and a good one at that. ‘Sonnets to Orpheus’ is a good example of this.
With that being said, each song varies in speed and pacing with Andrew Campbell spitting forth-cancerous verses in between. His agonizing shrieks help to create an oppressive sensation that adds to the overall effectiveness of this album in terms of delivery. Check out the simplistic part of ‘L’Ange du Meridien’ around 04:16. It is quite impressive to think how simplicity can be augmented when chords are played at the right places. That’s the thing, it is not something new. Its impact however is no less prominent that any complex disjointed riff that Deathspell Omega has created since 'Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice'. ‘Bitter Sagacity’ shows the extent to which the band is willing to stick to their game. It starts slow but gains speed halfway through just like ‘Leaden Horizon’ that has some very thin bass chord at the beginning. This is also carried over to the final track ‘Schlußstück’, which follows roughly the same melodic flow over seven minutes long. The groovy break at 02:33 changes the speed once again with a streak of galloping double bass before taking it further with some blast beats to hammer your skull.
Sitra Achra is a tremolo-heavy record. It characterizes the band’s music during the early years of formation but already Barshasketh has patented its unique brand of black metal. There is nothing theatrical about the band’s visual appeal. But it is the distinctive music that speaks volume of what they are capable of. After all, the bitter, thin production works only serve to enhance its mystifying aura. You know an album means something to you if it has those qualities I mentioned here. Seriously though, I was expecting a boring second entry on the band’s discography. But no, it proves otherwise. Look no further than this record if you like your black metal straightforward but mournfully melodic at the same time.