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Barús > Drowned > Reviews
Barús - Drowned

Asphyxiating appeal - 80%

Cosmic Mystery, August 7th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Memento Mori (Limited edition)

Barus is a French progressive death metal band that mixes influences of black metal and technical death metal with some semi-distorted guitar tones. Even more, their style of prog/death is rather perplexed and leans towards the avant garde tag to some extent. Drowned is the band’s debut full length which follows their first self titled effort put out in 2015. I have not had the chance to hear that record but after hearing Drowned I am looking forward to. Their sound could be deemed as an intense, intricate, rhythmic and ambient form of progressive death metal. Their performance on Drowned is outstanding for the most part, but is not free of faults. Nevertheless, what has been given here is a very crafty and passionate session of music that could be seen as one of 2018s shining stars. I can perceive the material here being followed up, given the opportunity to expand on their sound and even experiment is certainly present as a result of the stellar musicianship,.

What Barus do is create a contrast of harsh yet soothingly groovy landscapes that have the tantalizing tingle of class. Drowned is outstanding, technical, however, still approachable to the average listener. There's enough enjoyment to be had from songs ‘Descry’, ‘Graze’ and ‘Engorge to name some. The drumming, riffing and vocals all fall into place, there is build towards climax and nearly all songs appear eventful. There are a few Adam Nergal influences scattered throughout the record, growls are deep in keeping with the death metal tone but also the progressive elements are merged effectively. ‘Graze’ is geared towards the death/doom metal genre in the early moments but still has a predominantly progressive and technical character during the height of its intensity. Even when steering the different genres used, their ability don’t resemble a clumsy effort; rather, one that is intrinsic to the band members; hence the flow is rarely hindered by questionable instrumental decisions. Also the songs here have a flow as though they were recorded live; thus the material reeks of immersion. I found the the black metal instrumental aspect to be the ideal contrast from the moderately slow sections on Drowned; they added a bit more variety. urgency, climax and overall appeal to the music. Such as on ‘Vitiate’ that uses tremolo picking and black metal blast beats to boost the momentum and offset the listener. It’s the most linear song on the album but does a more than decent job at setting the stage for the ambient interlude on ‘Benumb’.

My only problem with this album is that its length dissipates the interest factor that was accomplished on the record. From tracks 1 through 7 had a good flow with all the diversity occurring; with the introduction of ‘Perpetrate’ followed by ‘Forsake’, the record began repeating itself, compositional ideas appeared to be depleted and whatever the later portion of the record was trying to accomplish had been achieved through tracks 1-7 with ‘Engorge’,’Graze’ and ‘Dissever’ being the primary highlights of those moments. The record could have ended with ‘Benumb’ which would have been ideal for a debut offering of this sort in keeping the music short and free of run-on filler The weight of having to bring something new, enjoyable and momentum-keeping was beginning to tell once 'Perpetrate' and ‘Forsake’ had entered. As a combination they spanned 16+ minutes but really did not do much to prove they were better than the prior installments; if anything they came across as unnecessary and poorly executed. Thus, Drowned became a bit difficult to listen to. Usually I'm not this critical on a debut, but I am here because I'm of the belief Drowned possessed the potential to be significantly more than what it currently is. Therefore, I see Barus becoming a leading figure in avant garde progressive death metal with the progression of time.

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Plunge into nothingness. - 85%

GrizzlyButts, October 31st, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Memento Mori (Limited edition)

So many easily shattered doorways beyond surface level heavy and/or extreme music exist that it would seem they all gnash for the crumbs of a smaller, but admittedly more lucrative, fleeting space in the minds of the uninitiated. A half-dead planet full of frustrated phone-gripping mutants represent a huge pile of potential recipients for the deeply shaded gradient that grows between accessible alt-metal innovation and popular modern heavy metal. As I grow older a darker blurred cynicism grows within me with every passing year as the bands that survive through mass influence continue to twinkle in the eyes of new waves of musicians. I didn’t contribute to the success of Gojira nor Meshuggah and even they show some marked embarrassment for the clones spawned from their detritus. To wear these influences outwardly typically riles up a spitting frenzy of limbs and curses from my side of the room yet the self-titled debut EP from Grenoble, France progressive death metal band Barús in 2015 appeared entirely inoffensive and solidly entertaining at the time. In many ways that EP was a way back through to the other side, an angle giving nods to a more accessible style but with a damned seriousness that appeared to avoid populist intentions.

In piecing together the ambitions of their experimental death metal sound within a full-length format Barús offer a structurally complex death metal album that bridges the adventurous spirit of earlier (pre-‘From Mars to Sirius’) Gojira with Gorguts‘ ‘Obscura’ using the atmospheric ripples of turn of the century Immolation to fill in the gaps. It is a curious piece to dive into because there is as much ‘The Link’ as there is influence from Arkhon Infaustus (or even DeathSpell Omega‘s least orthodox momentum) and I haven’t yet mentioned the nigh post-rock feeling atmospheric elements (see: “Engorge”, “Amass”) that actually works remarkably well in terms of providing variety and fluidity. How can this possibly be palatable? By virtue of a heavy attraction to discordant and unique progressive death metal, admittedly.

There is a remarkable middle ground struck on ‘Drowned’ that favors the darker side of things. It isn’t relentlessly slapped like an Ulcerate record nor is it outwardly complex and unhinged as anything by Diskord or Portal but if ‘Obscura’ was a high watermark for you, this provides a distant rhythmic cousin that just slightly extends the concept and trades the early 90’s death metal climate for a warmed over modernity. In fact the production sound and guitar tone are almost too illustriously captured on ‘Drowned’ without the noxious clangor of any of the bands that influenced Barús to fill a sort of ‘abrasion quota’ expected from this type of technicality. It is both refreshing in tone and only slightly disappointing in terms of ‘riffs versus compelling rhythms’.

To say that ‘Drowned’ was a grower only suggests that my expectations were set low at the mention of certain bands I’ve already mentioned. Once I had immersed myself within Barús‘ darkness-bearing tones the effect was not unlike my early experiences with ‘Unholy Cult’ where closer listening revealed complexity and worthwhile dynamic but never completely outdid those opening moments. It would appear that the band are cognizant of the need to lean towards death metal yet they repeatedly rely on dry (bland) riffing for transitions within several tracks (see: “Vitiate”) and this flattens a few very intense moments that would have otherwise been true peaks of interest for the full listen. “Perpetrate” was compelling in that it begins sounding like a stronger track from Sepultura‘s ‘Against’ were it performed by early 2000’s Ulcerate, this sort of moment fluctuated in value with successive listens and made it somewhat difficult to decide how I felt about the bigger picture of Barús‘ debut.

Ultimately I found my horizons slightly expanded by ‘Drowned’ as the rhythmic flow of the record had more to offer once I shut off the part of my brain that is programmed to be repulsed but the esoteric downtuned chug-tone that characterized the early 2000’s popular metal landscape. Between the soggy, crawling riffs and gasped vocals is a worthwhile listen but at no point does it offer more than its influences despite how incredibly polished the overall curation of elements and atmospherically sensitive arrangements is. As an impossibly heavy and twisted chugging beast Barús‘ debut is admirably focused and intense and I can recommend it with a reasonable amount of enthusiasm. I don’t believe it is varied or compelling enough to transcend influences but the ride from Point A to Point B is captivating and takes quite a few unexpected turns despite feeling linear as an experience. If you are fairly orthodox within your death metal tastes and approach this sort of thing with trepidation I would suggest previewing “Dissever” as it is (more or less) the most outside-the-box composition to test your boundaries with. Despite some personal vacillation with interest to the simpler guitar work, I can highly recommend this album.