For their second full-length, The Virtuous Purge, Louisiana deathened black metal titans Barghest have ratcheted up the production quality several notches. They still sound raw and born from the places hidden from the sun’s piercing glare, but now all the hellish screams, ice cold, bowel-shaking guitars and manic percussion can be heard with a new level of clarity and more importantly, power.
Opener “Our Last Night on Earth” starts the album low and slow, immediately rendering unto the listener a chill from which a fierce ache sets in. The tone Barghest introduce here, both in the guitars and the overall feel, roars like an ugly blast furnace fuelled by churning magma boiling up from the Earth’s core. Meanwhile, scorched tremolos of the higher register stop the blood cold and drain the viscera from your eyes and frightened brain.
Barghest continue to punish with those furious guitars that just don’t let up and deep growls filled with menace and hate. Their relentless drive bores deep, releasing a darkness that surrounds and oppresses the listener. Their tempestuous rhythms have a way of imparting such gravity as to make it near impossible to move let alone all the other things your body will be telling you to do.
The windswept “Thought Disease” works in an almost thrashy sinister gallop before descending beneath the peaks into the valley of eternal shadow. The title track and “Spent Brass” are brutalizing, travelling at breakneck speed through highs and lows. It would be one thing if that tone wasn’t so disturbing but their take on rhythms and riffs is seriously affecting. The pace rarely slackens as their attack continues to tear off the flesh in a torrent of burning embers.
Leaving the listener beaten and scarred after the first six tracks, the closing track “My Own Grave” throttles back to an extreme degree. The majority is slow, plodding doom. Funereal in its pace, it’s quite unnerving and heart-wrenching. A slowed down Pilgrim or even Loss come to mind. A brief flurry of action appears but by and large the listener is let down easy. It’s still intense but in an entirely different and welcome way.
On The Virtuous Purge Barghest continues to do what they do best; scorching black metal scraping the gutters with all the downtuned might of death metal and deep, beastly vocals. The increased production value may deter the “purists” but not being able to hear all that there is to hear really does Barghest a disservice. The searing blasts burn hotter, the infernal buzz penetrates deeper and whereas the diabolical vocals were previously lower in the mix acting in a more atmospheric role, now they sit higher and provide a distinct measure of pure evil.
The Virtuous Purge is outstandingly painful, sonically eviscerating and captivating in the way only brutally visceral black metal can be.
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