Blast Rites #3: Barren – Cursed To Walk This Earth Review

Borrowing the HM2 buzzsaw fuzz predominantly associated with Swedish death metal, these Belgians describe their style as “chainsaw grind.” Given the death/grind carving contained on Cursed To Walk This Earth, I suppose that’s as good a term as any, although crediting the band’s entire sound to the sawblade does a bit of disservice to the jackhammer drums and cement-churning bass. Think of it more as a whole variety of power tools than merely a lone buzzsaw.

Release date: February 2, 2022. Label: Esagoya Records.
Formed in 2017, Barren is a quintet featuring ex-Aborted / ex-Agathocles axeman Mathias Dupont, and they hadn’t released any recorded music prior to last year. But it seems they made good use of lock-down, pushing out a demo and two EPs in 2021. Compliments of Japan’s Esagoya Records, Cursed To Walk This Earth compiles those three into something not unlike a full-length: thirteen songs in 21 minutes, presented in chronological order of initial release.

Considering how little time separates those demos and EPs, it’s not a big surprise that Cursed To Walk is a cohesive listen, with no production or stylistic shifts in the gaps between its component parts. Barren brings relatively short bursts of fuzzy and crusty riffing atop Llano Bergman’s d-beats and blasting and Tom Swinnen’s wiry bass runs, all capped with an Extreme Noise Terror-like dueling vocalist attack, one higher and barking and one lower, almost pig-grunt in its guttural throatiness. That high-low vocal split is by no means a novel one (although having two actual vocalists to do it is admittedly less common), and the lower death-gurgle vocals have an unfortunate tendency to get buried in the mix, but taken on the whole, it’s an attack powerful enough to match the band, even with a slight hurdle.

On first blush, I’ll concede that Cursed To Walk This Earth’s cohesion could’ve been a stumbling block – with just a cursory glance, it feels a little samey throughout, a twenty-minute wall of HM2 guitar fuzz and pounding drums, broken up only by the occasional downshift to slam-groove tempo (see: “Catharsis” or “Pareidolia”) or the moody arpeggios that start the track “Wake.” But with each return, greater depth starts to show through, and more subtle differences begin to poke out from the relentless grinding around them: the melodic coda of “Rain” or the raucous swagger of “Oversoul.” Still, grindcore isn’t about subtlety – it’s about aggression – and Cursed To Walk This Earth has enough of that to get the blood pumping, no question.

I’ve long had a soft spot for that HM2 bite, and here as with the Finnish fiends of Rotten Sound, when it’s paired well with blastbeats and d-beat fury, then you’ve got my attention. This faux full-length sums up one year’s worth of growth for a relatively young outfit, and it’s a one-stop shop to get all caught up. Definitely a band worth keeping an ear on.

Posted by Andrew Edmunds

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; born in the cemetery, under the sign of the MOOOOOOON...

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