Though I'm Alone

Written by: DR on 08/04/2013 20:20:44

The album cover for Barrow's highly impressive second LP, "Though I'm Alone", tells you a lot about what you need to know of the record itself: it's painted deliberately bleak, and a tight, claustrophobic cage has been torn apart by a desire to explore the dense yet desolate landscape that surrounds it. It's a dark world, and not one that offers much hope upon first glance. But, like Barrow's music, to pay attention to its subtleties - the green, natural growth, and the trees towering at the back of the canvas - is to find beauty within it.

With dense soundscapes, agonizing lyrics and a piercing dual-vocal dynamic, Barrow, like many of their contemporaries, draw influence from heavyweights of screamo, hardcore and post-rock, such as Converge, The Saddest Landscape and Envy. However, these influences are used merely as a foundation on which to build a sound so haunting that it should truly be called their own, and one that should not be experienced by the feint-hearted. The blend of cascading full-bodied cathartic outbursts and tortuously poised periods of introspection are always precisely judged, and offer the perfect backdrop for the absolute isolation conveyed in the lyrics and devastating vocal performances.

The nakedness of "Though I'm Alone" is unrelenting, especially in the beginning of the record. For instance, after a brief quietly rumbling opening, one of the first lines you hear is the piercing shriek of "Nothing has ever been sacred, holy, set apart" in ferociously-paced opener "Fox Ears and Silence". Following is "A Dead Hum, Echoed", one of the more sprawling efforts, offers considerably more space in its build/release structure, but with cries of "There is no rest in routine; no sleep, no silence, no blessing or scourge" it is no less raw, and loses none of its intimacy. Album highlight "Wither" is softer still, and flows through an exhibition of gorgeous post-rock song structuring, poetic lyrics and wondrously affecting singing-cum-screaming as it reaches its emotional climax. "Clawhold", however, stands as an example of how Barrow can be incredibly quiet and lose none of their poignancy. It's the quietest offering, and is comprised of nothing more than a gentle guitar and quivering, confessional vocals.

Seven minute closer "God's in His Heaven - All is Well" not only summarizes everything Barrow do well - the epic soundscapes, intimate and agitated vocals and powerful crescendos - but it ends the album on a positive note: "Though I'm alone, I find rest and it is well." It's fitting, too, because "Though I'm Alone" can be an exhausting listen. This is not in the sense that it's difficult to listen to, but in that - once you've given yourself over to it - the emotional turmoil you subscribe to, at the album's best, is so brutal and affecting that you need time afterwards to regain your composure and collect your thoughts. Ultimately, "Though I'm Alone" is an immaculate and cohesive listen, and one that settles comfortably echelons of excellence. While it's not quite a masterpiece, it does prove Barrow have the potential to write one.


Download: Fox Ears and Silence, Wither, God's in His Heaven - All is Well
For The Fans of: Converge, Code Orange Kids, The Saddest Landscape
Listen: Facebook

Release Date 19.03.2012
Mayfly Records

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