Barbarian
Viperface

At the risk of coming off a little too right-wing, conservative lunatic – I’m getting goddamn sick of the world we live in today. I’ve had it!

Of course, there’s a delicate balance of “the way things used to be” and progression that needs to be struck, right? Civil rights, LGBTQ+ rights, Women’s rights – hell yeah, let’s bring that shit into the 21st century. Actually, so far it’s not really going so well, so maybe let’s get that shit into the 22nd century just to be safe. But social media? Let’s blow it all directly into the sun (yes, I see the irony,  here).

Enter Italy’s purveyors of self-proclaimed “Regressive Metal,” Barbarian – who are turning back the clocks once again to give us a break from the perils of the modern age. Don the leather and spikes and lets get vintage weird!

Now, I have reviewed plenty of these sort of throwback, slightly blackened heavy/thrash/speed metal affairs over the past few years, and to a certain degree, it can be difficult at times to really differentiate one band from another. Barbarian succeeds in avoiding that big ol’ generic pit by leaning fully into their most anthemic qualities. Soaring, earworm melodies, backing chants and vocals that just beg for crowd participation, and the kind of classic, tried-and-true heavy metal pacing that creates a perfect base to let guitarist/vocalist Borys Crossburn’s fantastic riffs truly thrive (BTW don’t read too much into the moniker, there’s no evidence that it has anything to do with the KKK or anything like that). And there are some doozies on here! The back half of the title first track alone has enough top-tier-quality riffs that they could hand one out to 5 or 6 lesser bands as charity, and still have enough left over to make for an impressive album opener. The band also pulls off the impressive trick of keeping things tight as a drum while still maintaining a sense of real grit and grime. It’s like the orc army in Lord of the Rings – they may look janky as hell, but make no mistake, that’s a massive, well-oiled machine of death and destruction ready to come and fuck up your day. It’s a difficult balancing act that results in a lot of bands sounding unnecessarily sloppy for the sake of, I dunno, sounding more evil? Instead, songs like “A Feast for the Beast” and “Fourteen Daggers” sound legitimately sinister and hit with a much greater impact than you get with a lot of similar acts.

You also just can’t fuck with the simple, down-to-the-basics execution of a power trio. Everyone’s performance shines through with purpose, leaving no room for fluff or over-indulgence. With the amount of riff and tempo changes taking place over the album’s seven tracks, nearly all of which clock in over 5 minutes, it’d be easy for it to feel longer and more drawn out than it actually is, but Barbarian manage to pull off the opposite. This album zips right along with sadistic intent, taking you on it’s joyride of mighty, triumphant highs and evil, churning lows with nary a note wasted. Even Crossburner’s solos, impressive as they are, stay restrained and fit perfectly within the context of the song – the best examples in my book coming from track “Chant of the Inflicter,” which carries the kind of fist-pumping, air-shredding leads and melodies that give and self-respecting metalhead an impressive man, lady or otherwise boner. But the band does show they can strip things back even further, and with equal success. The album’s two shortest tracks, “Charity Defiler” and “Regressive Metal,” ditch the solos and just bury the pedal to the floor, hitting you with a barrage of no-punches-pulled riffs and pummeling drums that will undoubtedly open up the pits and work any crowd into a fevered frenzy.

Finding the perfect marriage between a band and it’s record label can often, quite literally, make or break an artists’ career. Obviously, there’s plenty of factors to consider and contend with, but in order for the relationship to work, it really needs to be the right fit for the band and the label alike. To that end, I don’t think I can possibly think of a band to better represent Hell’s Headbangers than Italy’s blackened heavy metal heathens, Barbarian, and Viperface only further solidifies the band as one of the genre’s finest. This one is going to stay firmly in my rotation for the foreseeable future, and I implore you to make it a regular part of yours ASAP.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
August 17th, 2022

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