It doesn’t seem too out of the question to presume that there should be more newer sludge-metal bands coming out, but at the same time, that doesn’t seem like the best idea either. Sure, it’s easy enough to take the methodical, hammering approach to sheer sonic brutalism and focus on fat grooves above anything else, but when so many struggle to augment that with any particular flair, it can just be something of an ordeal to get through. That’s why Boss Keloid’s Melted On The Inch earlier this year was such a joy, taking that sludge-metal template and giving it the sense of life and fun that had been so often stripped from it. As far as the sub-genre goes, it’s yet to be bested this year, but the lead-off singles from Barbarian Hermit have at least hinted at giving them a run for their money. Once again, it’s more of the same with a focus on pairing heaviness and a more sprawling tone, and if Solitude And Savagery can suitably keep it up, the Manchester quintet could easily have enough to stake their claim among metal’s already healthy crop of upstarts.
And that definitely feels like the case here, perhaps not an incredible debut album but one that’s incredibly easy to become engrossed in thanks its enormous scope and near-watertight mix of sludge-, doom- and groove-metal for some real meat on its bones. That alone goes some way to differentiating Barbarian Hermit from plenty of similar acts; bands like Pantera are clearly in this band’s eyeline, and with the more primal, guttural cries that make up Ed Campbell’s vocals, there’s a level of aggression that’s enormously appreciated, all while keeping the slow, monolithic stomp intact.
There’s not a supreme amount of diversity (arguably where Barbarian Hermit stumble hardest when put next to Boss Keloid), but they do enough in terms of heft and voracity to make up for it. Right from the opener Enter The Hermitage, combining rampaging, southern-flavoured grooves with a snarling, tar-thick creep, there’s an animalistic nature that the band are so good at fostering, not necessarily in terms of wildness or speed (because there isn’t really too much of that), but just in the sheer rawness and volume of it all. The buildup of Black Mass or the swampy slither of Beyond The Wall hit with a slow-burning intensity that’s executed with a lot of panache, and the hypnotic guitar lines that dominate Laniakea keep it moving and surging forward through its entire eleven minutes. And again, the larger-scale appeal can feel a bit stymied by a rather regimented set of skills on display, but the talent and intrigue can carry a fair amount, and with the recurring lyrical motifs of the juxtaposition between light and darkness (culminating in a track named after a galaxy supercluster to take it to its most exorbitant proportions), there’s a lot that goes right here all the way through.
And that’s not to say that Barbarian Hermit have totally hit their stride yet, but they’re getting there at a greater rate than most, and if anything, Solitude And Savagery feels like the work of a band who are just on the cusp of developing something completely of their own. The pieces are familiar, but the execution really is moving consistently in the right direction, and with a bit more time to gestate and hone in on something even greater, this could be a seriously formidable prospect going forward. Even now though, this is definitely worth some attention.
For fans of: Boss Keloid, Pantera, Corrosion Of Conformity
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Solitude And Savagery’ by Barbarian Hermit is released on 16th November on APF Records.