In March of this year we had the pleasure of premiering one of the songs on a two-track single released by Baltimore’s Barbelith, which in turn followed the band’s 2012 debut EP. Today we get to bring you a full stream of the band’s debut album, Mirror Unveiled.
There may be a more explosive start to an album this year than “Beyond the Envelope of Sleep”, the first track on Mirror Unveiled, but if so it’s not coming to mind. The song displays one of Barbelith’s multi-faceted sides in no uncertain terms with a non-stop, jaw-dropping drum performance, a torrent of guitar noise and pulse-pumping tremolo waves, and scathing shrieks that sound like the agonies of a man being burned to the ground.
But this is only one side — albeit an important one — of Barbelith’s brand of atmospheric black metal. They also have a talent for creating gorgeous melodies of sweeping emotional intensity as well as moments of subdued, almost ethereal meditativeness. That side of the band’s personality comes vibrantly to life in the album’s 14-minute second track, “Astral Plane”. But the song also reveals again the band’s explosiveness as well as their ability to set melodic hooks in the listener’s head that hold fast.
“Astral Plane” isn’t the only mega-length track on the album — it’s followed immediately by another one, “Black Hole of Fractured Reflections”. Resonant, chiming guitar melodies ride an engine of destruction that alternately floods the senses with power and slows for re-fueling. The trilling melodic motifs and progressive instrumental interludes are never less than captivating, and the dynamism of the song is so strong that there’s never a dull moment despite the length of the track.
“Reverse Fall” brings the album to an end like the arrival of a stormfront. It sets the melodic hook early as the rhythm section drives a pounding beat and then transforms into a moving wall of flashing chords and blasting, tumbling drums, building the wrenching intensity right up to the close.
Especially for a debut album, Mirror Unveiled is remarkably mature and self-assured. The songwriting reflects a fine sense of how to structure the ebb and flow of moods and pacing as well as the integration of varying musical styles (predominantly black metal and post-metal) into organic wholes. And all of the performances are excellent — from the impassioned vocals to the riveting guitar work to the thrumming, grinding bass — but most especially the drumming, which is almost always eye-popping.
Mirror Unveiled will be released by Grimoire Records on November 1 as a digital download on Bandcamp, in a gatefold CD with painted artwork by A.B. Moore, and in a limited edition cassette. The album is available for pre-order in all formats here:
Grimoire Records will be collaborating with Fragile Branch Records on a vinyl release of the album in 2015. Barbelith’s Facebook is here:
I pre-ordered the CD, so I have my nose firmly pressed to my front window, waiting for the mail carrier to come with this. (Or the download code to arrive. Either one. I just wants the metals.)
okay, so this album is amazing. jeez.
I have a long and backlogged List of Shit I Should Own. I find that about 1/3 is taken up by Grimoire releases. I got Crawling Mountain Apogee the other day I’ve listened to it about 30 times now. I feel like a similar result will occur when I get to the release.
I have the same sense, that Grimoire may be small so far, but has a finger on the pulse of some very interesting music.
wow I really like it, another album I need to buy…
But what’s with those cassettes lately?
It’s just an inferior medium, why even bother with it (apart from being very, very trve und cvlt)
This is a subject that perhaps merits some extended discussion. I’m like you — a cassette to me has no value as a repository of sound. It’s more a linkage with the past, as an emblem of bowed heads to a bygone age, rather than a useful medium for the conveyance of sound in 2014. I’ve just committed blasphemy in certain circles by saying that, and I respect the effort to preserve tape as a physical medium, but it’s the truth as I see it.
I gotta say, I felt this way too.. until I started releasing tapes for bands, duplicated by National Audio Company (one of the only plants still dubbing tapes in the US).
The first time I popped one in my car stereo (or Walkman, through good headphones) I was shocked at how similar it sounded to the CD version. There was a slight reduction in high frequency treble/cymbals, but there was no warbling, no hiss.. Very subtle additional compression, but no distortion or ‘tape ugliness.’
If dubbed at high quality, I now see cassettes as a legitimate analog format when vinyl isn’t an option. Encouraging a more holistic album listening experience, in the same way vinyl does (can’t skip tracks, etc). In a time when anyone can burn a CD on their computer, I think high quality cassettes might even make more sense than CDs.
Thanks for this comment. It has been a long time since I gave tapes a chance. I recently bought a tape player since I’ve started receiving cassettes, though I haven’t used it much, because of my old man’s prejudice against the medium. But I’m going to try to clear my head of the past and dive in renewed.
But don’t cassettes (or the sound quality of it) degrade rather fast compared to vinyl or cd?
That cover looks like a 70s Italian prog band!
The cover also strikes me as a kind of misdirection. It’s an eye-pleasing piece, but if it connects at all, it’s at some level in the music that is way below the surface.
You’re right, it’s way bellow the surface
Awesome album, gonna have to grab it when it comes out