From the very instant we are born, our true self becomes slowly—but surely obfuscated by a haze of society’s passive programming. Our consciousness becomes dulled—what should be a sharp blade honed by creative liberty and cognitive superiority is left to rust and degrade until, by the time we can form full, fluid thoughts and express them with words, they are hardly our own. Our consciousness becomes enveloped, barricaded in a shell that locks away our humanity, spirit and free-flowing mind in a cage separate from our physical form. Enter Barrier—Illinois’ infamous intimidatingly heavy hardcore act. Veering away from their pent-up, pissed-off sound and diving head-first into the realm of the psychologically rich and immersive, this crushing quartet are back with their debut full-length effort, Eventide. Filled with technically immaculate riffs, punchy percussion and superb vocals that coalesce into a heavy—yet thought-provoking—release that cuts through the layers of ego, super-ego and projected personality to expose the deepest parts of the listener’s consciousness. In short, Eventide is an immaculate hardcore effort that begs not only to be heard, rather, experienced—as it is nothing short of eye-opening.
Every aspect of Barrier’s brutalizing instrumental dynamic is carefully and creatively engineered to cut through the listener’s modern conceptualization of self like a hot knife through butter. Each shredding riff, brutish slam or bone-splintering breakdown is the product of each instrumentalist in Barrier combining peerless talent with boundless creative ingenuity and liberal amounts of honest, straightforward aggression. However, it isn’t just one artist’s individual talent that gives Eventide the force it needs to pierce into the deepest parts of the listener’s mind: instead, it is each artist contributing to Barrier’s dynamic to create a familiar, but infinitely more refined and precise take on the band’s trademark style of rambunctious, unpredictable deathcore-turned-hardcore musicianship. Alex Marcelletti lays the foundation for Eventide’s tumultuous, fluctuating soundscape. Marcelletti’s monstrous drumming uses deep, resonant toms and razor sharp cymbals to smash cleanly through the listener’s skull, exposing their throbbing, bare brain. Drumming like the bouncy, catchy refrain to “Mind at Large,” or the quick, jarring blast beats that dot the fills in “Preincarnate” are as quick as lightning and hotter than hellfire, keeping the listener actively engaged throughout every track of Eventide, adding a sense of urgency and frenzy to even the most serene moments of the album. Atop Marcelletti’s magnificent percussive ensemble rest the riffs and grooves provided by guitarist Sam Bottner and bassist Jett Lucas—even though rest may be a poor choice of words. In a word, Bottner’s fretwork is vivid, packed with life and color where previous Barrier releases resided firmly in the sullen and grey. Every track Bottner touches on Eventide is home to either a lacerating riff or contagiously catchy groove that effortlessly worms its way into the listener’s mind and takes control of their senses, opening their eyes to a whole new side of Barrier that the listener was previously unaware of. “The Web” does this incredibly well—opening with a subtle, eerie display of fretwork that straddles the line between atmosphere and intensity that makes the listener feel as if they are truly tangled in a web of Barrier’s intense instrumentation. Where Bottner is bold and aggressive, Lucas follows, constantly adding a bouncy low end to Bottner’s efforts—ethereal or otherwise—that gives fans of Barrier’s older material to find solace in.
While Barrier’s body is a refreshed and refined version of the same aspects the band have touched on with their past releases, their head (and more importantly, mouth) is new. While I’m the first to admit that I fear change—especially when it’s a change to a band I previously conceived as perfect—this change is a welcome one. Vocalist David Libert had enormous shoes to fill with the departure of Colin Sharkey and he did so brilliantly. Libert is every bit the diverse, emotive and intense frontman Barrier needed to fill out the colorful, creative concept that drives Eventide. His performance on the album’s lead single, “Lost in Illusion” was indicative of this—combining a shrill, high scream with smooth, flowing patterns and immersive lyrical content, he showed potential. However, catchy choruses like those in “Dead Words” or “Reunion,” let alone his stimulating, sly lyrical content throughout “Omega” cash in on his promises of potential, displaying him as a marvelous vocalist through and through. Where his high, shrieking screams win the listener over on “Preincarnate,” his low, grisly bellows on “New Evolution” stir the listener’s loins with their visceral, gory grittiness. Libert is the perfect speaker to spread Barrier’s intensely psychoactive message, perfectly matching the colorful renovation their instrumentation has undergone.
As a quartet, Barrier function flawlessly to convincingly crush the listener beneath the weight of their immense full-length album. In a word, Eventide is provocative—not controversial, nor scandalous, but provocative. It manages to compel the listener to open their eyes and truly look at the world surrounding them, all the while, prying open their ears in an effort to liberate their deepest, most oppressed corners of their psyche. Likewise, it succeeds in evoking pure, unbridled emotion—as the climactic breakdown to “Dead Words,” the eerie riff opening “Reunion” or the simply cool groove kicking off “Omega” all manage to send the listener reeling into fits of mosh-inducing spasms or skin-tingling fear. Even the album’s otherwise mundane interludes manage to play a key role in the flow and feel Eventide brings to the table: playing them sequentially, one after another, gives the listener a chilling, calming effect akin to placing an ice cube over their eyes. However, listening to Eventide without the interludes makes it ten times more intense, cashing in on the carnal, atrociously heavy moments that might otherwise get lost in the album’s mix. In short, Eventide is as complex as a spider’s web yet as eye-opening as rainbow; a purely natural experience that will change the way the listener experiences not just heavy music, but music of all kinds.
For Fans Of: Kingmaker, Victims, Deftones, Silence
By: Connor Welsh