Album Review: BARROWLANDSTyndir
A hell of a lot of excellent black metal has come out this year, all across the board, from experimental shit to more straightforward stuff. With Venom Inc. trotting the globe, it feels like the 80's are back, but even as that happens forward thinkers like Arstidir are giving new meaning to the genre. Even still, digging into the latest offering from Barrowlands, the emotionally powerful Tyndir is a rare treat. There is a tendency in modern black metal to either go full on "trees 'n' shit" or push too far into the conventional and not a lot of bands really try to balance those things out. Barrowlands meanwhile do an excellent job of giving strong nods to both Agalloch and Immortal. Sure there are powerful and meditative moments that define this record and get us swept in, but there are also moments that consistently remind us of how important having a sense of bombast can be in black metal. It's a difficult balance to strike but one which Barrowlands handle with aplomb.
Tied into this I think is the quality of the production which seems to really encapsulate the balance which Barrowlands focus on. Surprisingly they did not opt for the lush soundscapes of their Cascadian black metal peers. Instead what we get on Tyndir is much more stripped down, calling back to the older days of black metal and giving a monochromatic sense of breadth to the record that it might not have otherwise had. Not enough forward thinking black metal bands bother to couch their music in the greater context of the genre and Barrowlands seem to be very conscious of this, crafting something which ebbs and flows much more naturally, hinting at bold and exotic futures whilst simultaneously dragging us back to the roots of what the second wave of black metal was all about. It makes for a listening experience you really have to commit to but also one which reminds us again and again why we as fans dug in in the first place. You find yourself delving deeper and deeper, unable to pull out simply because Tyndir has an understated elegance that you don't normally find anymore. Rather than trying to turn this into their 'high art project' Barrowlands have just created something bad fucking ass.
Tapping into the original power of black metal is a difficult thing, especially when also showing us that the band understands the current state of the scene. That's a huge part of what makes the execution of this record so impressive. Sure it has its flaws, some of the songs drag on too long, sometimes the understated production works against the band and certain melodies don't quite come off, but this only their second full length and they seem to keep pushing towards greater things. Miles ahead of their 2014 debut Thane, it feels like Tyndir hints at the future for a black metal band who could become one of the greats of the scene. Twisting and turning this way and that, refining greater and more epic songs with each blow, it's impossible to predict what's up next for these Portland madmen.