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: