Earlier this year we sang the praises of Barshasketh’s split release with New Mexico-based black metallers Void Ritual, and after interviewing mastermind Krigeist for another publication last year following a further split release with Ireland’s KRAWWL, the impression from within the band suggested that Barshasketh were entering a new chapter of their existence. The band’s third full-length album Ophidian Henosis stands as evidence of this, with the bombastic and malevolent violence of the album taking influence from the Swedish melodic black metal tradition of the 90s yet maintaining the nihilistic despair that motivated the band’s solo project years. The convergence is outstanding, and ensures that ‘Ophidian Henosis’ doesn’t just sound like a step up for Barshasketh, but feels like a genuine evolution in their songwriting and development as a band – an observation that is confirmed in the album’s complexity and execution.
With its seven tracks being only denoted by their running order, and Krigeist’s viscerally evocative rasp spewing bile over each composition, ‘Ophidian Henosis’ becomes a singular sonic experience of depraved majesty, created through its interplay of stirring leads and passages of razor-sharp tremolo riffs. In this arena, the guitar playing of Krigeist and Guillaume Martin proves incredibly creative and captivating, with the presence of subtle melody within the raw coldness of the songs adding depth and emotion to the individual compositions. Underneath it all drummer Bryan Hamilton and bassist Ben Brown provide a powerful rhythmic backbone, with Hamilton’s presence especially adding an upbeat, Immortal-esque vitality to certain moments (the transition in track V could be a missing section from ‘Sons of Northern Darkness’), and delivering blastbeats with vicious precision and impact. The overall result is a sound that blends the extravagant ferocity of Dissection, Dawn and Watain with the frozen atmosphere of Darkthrone’s seminal albums, channeled with the melancholy and sadness of modern DSBM. It’s an affecting and convincing effort, and sees the band finally realizing the skill and savagery long displayed in their live shows into a recorded declaration of their prowess.
Combining the past and present of their existence into an imposing explosion of magnificent and malignant black metal, ‘Ophidian Henosis’ demonstrates the completion of Barshasketh’s metamorphosis from a one-man black metal project into a fully-fledged and devastating extreme metal act. If there’s any justice in the world ‘Ophidian Henosis’ will ensure 2015 is Barshasketh’s year, and bring this this well-deserving band recognition outside of the circle already familiar with this band’s vicious and misanthropic presence.