Since their inception in 2013, Manchester quintet Barbarian Hermit has focused the vast majority of its Sludge grooves on live audiences around its home city and the rest of the UK. After two years of upheaval which has seen one original member return and two leave, debut album Solitude and Savagery (self-released) sees the band set out toward a brave new horizon.
Taking inspiration from the likes of Raging Speedhorn and the lamented Bastard Of The Skies, opener ‘Enter the Hermitage’ sees some rough and tumble rhythms undercut returning vocalist Ed Campbell’s fearsome, diseased growl. There’s a variety in the sound, with Americana harmonies gracing the middle bridge and Rob ‘Spadge’ Sutcliffe’s fluid bass leading into a Prog-influenced, crushing final phase. The ensuing ‘Black Mass’ begins in slow, bluesy fashion before exploding into life, rhythm guitars and and Gareth Manning’s mammoth drums underpinning a wickedly heavy groove, with Campbell’s roar reaching unfathomable depths.
‘No Sleep’ is a somewhat prosaic but fair rampant romp, again with the emphasis firmly on rhythm and riffs but with a bounce that lifts the monotony a touch. ‘Beyond The Wall’ meanwhile, carries a lumbering pace and more ominous feel, with a return to gruff yet tuneful vocals and the introduction of nifty leadwork giving the track meaning and no little gravitas. More of those melodies grace the introduction to ‘Life Breather’ before a burst of noise brings back those brutal rhythms, the track switching between sinister build-up and rollicking Groove reminiscent of a pissed-off, muscular Stiltskin.
The penultimate ‘Reawaken’ is another exercise in unbridled ferocity, a real NOLA feel gripping a brooding monster by the neck, Manning’s pummelling stickwork causing tremors whilst more dazzling leads are given a Blackened touch. Epic closer ‘Lainakea’ is an eleven-minute rut on the gig floor, a real knee-buckler leading to a King Goat-esque, pensive drama full of electrifying dual lead play. It reaffirms Solitude and Savagery’s recovery from a stodgy middle ground into a more-than-capable first outing which shows Barbarian Hermit’s evolution Hermitage’ and more promise than many thought possible.
6.5 / 10