Written by: AP on 01/10/2016 18:56:04

Since releasing the “Gates of Nimh” EP in 2014, Barricade has been reduced to a quartet, having shed one of its two drummers, D. Wald, and the removal of this unique aspect of the Copenhagen, Denmark based outfit has had their disciples on their toes, wondering what degree of influence it would have on this sophomore album, “Waker”. On it Barricade presses on with both the godawful artwork and the primitive take on sludge metal that have been established as the band’s trademarks, and do so within the optimised sound mix that substituted ‘the sound of a pair of speakers dying on you’ — the group’s mantra on their 2013 début ”Terrorlight” — on the mentioned EP, although that description still lingers in the band’s biography on Facebook.

Those familiar with Barricade should feel right at home with the unsubtle trounce of the opening track, “Axefinder” and indeed the majority of the ten tracks here; divested of any frills, the song puts little fresh onto the plate in its unflinching focus on sounding vitriolic. But even if the music remains quite rigid, formulaic even, “Waker” at least tries to bring a semblance of variety into the proceedings, the lack of which made “Gates of Nimh” such a forgettable effort. Those injections of psychedelic solo work by Patrick Fragtrup into the signature riff of “Tartarus: The Oath” coupled with Tejs Kyhl’s tribal fills have the piece flirting with an uncustomary majesty, whilst in its wake the coruscating riffs and marching rhythm of “Tartarus” recall “Blood Mountain”-era Mastodon. “Devoured” then completes an impactful trident by blasting out a nifty wah-wah solo arranged over a rhythm section which grows more urgent with each passing second.

Barricade has always faltered when it comes to elaborate songwriting, but the band houses an arsenal of secret weaponry to obscure the dearth. First and foremost, the vocal trades between bassist Jonathan Reinhardt and rhythm guitarist R. Heston have seldom sounded as striking as on “Waker”, the juxtaposition of venomous, Zach De La Rocha-esque punk rage on the one side with harrowing, blackened growls on the other nearly always forming the primary point of intrigue in the given track. Furthermore, the band has in Kyhl an atypical drummer in the sense that his presence is constantly felt; Barricade cannot attest to churning out engaging riffs en masse, so it is a huge advantage for them that Kyhl, like an understudy of Mastodon’s Brann Dailor, assumes so much responsibility and often positions his kit as the lead instrument — home in on “Juggernaut” to hear the perfect sample of his demiurgic style.

In order that “Waker” should come across as captivating however, it is absolutely paramount that one houses an existing affinity for sludge metal — and preferably of the dirtier, grittier and extreme orders. The record is not designed to capture the listener at once, but once its sheer intensity and the details discussed in the previous paragraphs latches on, it starts to feel much more infectious than it should. By making peace with the reality that the album will not be picking up any nominations and just consuming its fury and nastiness at face value, “Waker” should do a decent job at satisfying a sludge metaller’s needs for something brutal, heavy and relentlessly headbangable.


Download: Tartarus: The Oath, Devoured, Juggernaut
For the fans of: Black Cobra, Black Tusk, Herder
Listen: Facebook

Release date 30.09.2016
Black Grain Records

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