REVIEW: Barrier – Dark Days [EP/2012]

Artist: Barrier

Album: Dark Days [EP]

Rating: 5/5


Maybe you got laid off instead of promoted. Maybe someone keyed your car or dented your door and didn’t leave a note. Hell, maybe you even just got cut off in traffic one too many times or one person too many didn’t say thanks when you held the door. The punch line is, you’ve never been more aware of society’s slow and steady decline, and it makes you sick. Chicago-based quarter Barrier capture that deep burn in your gut on their latest EP, Dark Days, which expertly blends aggressive hardcore, thrashing metalcore and brutal deathcore to create a misanthropic firebomb of an album.

With guitar and bass that weave in and out, around and between each other, played overtop of pummeling drums and topped off with desperate, grating vocals, Dark Days is a dynamic EP to say the least. While it has a shorter-than-desirable run time, the dense nature of Barrier’s songwriting enables complete cathedrals of sound and musicianship to be built quickly, only to be devastated by a slow burn of vocalized anger and hate. Frequently, the guitar lines nosedive into deep, dark depths from nearly out-of-sight, high-strung shredding sections. While the listener is distracted by the guitar, soaring high overhead, they are ambushed by low, subterranean bass. All the while, ducking and weaving guitar-and-bass riffs are underlined by a constant smattering of aggressive drumming. Because of these extreme instrumental dynamics, it becomes easy to see how each song can contain elements of melodic hardcore and deathcore, one after the other, or sometimes, at the same time.

Tracks like “Black Sheep” see Dark Days expertly displaying Barrier’s proclivity to diverse musicianship. Beginning with a heavily thrash-influenced riff before nosediving into a series of groovy, metalcore-styled pseudo-breakdowns, the listener’s jaw is so slacked that it might be getting rug burn. Several times during the middle portion of “Black Sheep,” and indeed the entire EP, Barrier has the listener wondering; is that a really groovy breakdown, or just a really heavy groove? As if the preexisting dynamism wasn’t enough to bewilder the listener into adoration, “Black Sheep” continues head-first into a blast-beat backboned deathcore section before returning once more to a harmonic-infused, skull-smashing groove. While this exact order isn’t copy and pasted throughout the EP (thank God), similar progressions take place, crowning Barrier kings of their genre-infusing, heavy-heavier style.

Intstrumentally, Barrier are top-notch. How do they stack up vocally, however? If you’re familiar with my other reviews, you’ll probably notice I tend to save the last paragraph for errors and down-sides. That would be the case here, but Dark Days truly has no downsides; the same holds true for the vocals. The harsh, grating scream-shriek (reminiscent of Sworn In) employed by Colin Sharkey works perfectly with the misanthropic, nearly-sociopathic lyrics. While the dissonant, heavy music chugs along in the background of “Black Sheep,” Sharkey lets loose with poetic, bitter perfection as he shouts, “The worst part is, my hearts on my sleeve, and your’s I’ve yet to see.” Such moments can be found throughout the release, like bitter, salty diamonds hidden in the grimy, muddy perfection that is Dark Days.

So whether you’ve had the day from Hell, or you’re just looking to unwind with some angry, agressive music, Barrier have the answer. Providing a perfect soundtrack to all of the love, loss, anger and confusion that society’s impending doom is bound to provide, Dark Days is evidence that the end of Humanity as we know it doesn’t have to be all bad news.

By: Connor Welsh/Eccentricism

For Fans Of: Sworn In, Subtract, Advocates, Kingmaker