BARSHASKETH, Defying the Bonds of Cosmic Thraldom (2010, Wolfsvuur Records)
Standard issue occult-skull stuff, something we’ve seen a few times already: a plain and lonely skull encricled in a ring of occult writing and symbols. White on black. But look closer and the scrawl is actually the wordy title written in an Arabic kind of script. Their logo? The usual black metal band name font. As black metal-looking as it gets without the use of pentagrams and upside-down crosses.
I don’t defy the bonds of cosmic thralldom often, but when I do, I listen to Barshasketh. This is some pretty okay stuff, nothing amazing, but it presses enough of the right buttons if you like older, rawer, cavernous, crazy-ass sounding black metal. The playing is generally good and the arrangements fairly ambitious. The guitarist struggles with fluidity in the acoustic guitar section of “Illuminated by Shadow,” but they get flying pretty good when they stick to electric guitar, bass and drums. The final section of “Whisper of Abyssal Winds” is a highlight of this 44-minute presentation. Once I got into Deathspell Omega via Kenose and Si Monumentum…, I worked my way back in hopes that their more straight-forward black metal material was interesting, but it wasn’t. This recording by New Zealand’s Barshasketh is more what I was hoping for in that quest. It’s generally pretty insane, otherworldly-sounding stuff. Of the thousands of bands in this mold, Barshasketh are one of the rare ones putting forth something in the traditional mold that’s actually worth some time. It succeeds because it doesn’t draw from just the classic Norwegian style, or the cult Greek style, or American black metal, it instead fuses a bunch of shades and elements of the genre into its own semi-unique take. Bleakness and darkness intended, bleakness and darkness achieved. These guys are okay by me, although Split Enz remains my favorite New Zealand band by a long shot.
— Friar Wagner