Baton Rouge’s Barghest have been spreading their swampy, miasmic brand of black metal since 2006, but I didn’t come across them until their 2012 split LP with False. It was definitely a case of better late than never, because the band managed to impress the heck out of me with a pair of songs that were as bulldozing as they were atmospheric, taking the doomy heft of classic death metal bands such as Autopsy and Incantation and applying it to a raw black metal framework. We haven’t heard much from the band since that crushing release, but as it turns out they’ve had their hands full with secretly building a monster in the form of The Virtuous Purge, their second album for the mighty Gilead Media.
Barghest haven’t changed much on The Virtuous Purge (a good thing), but they have managed to both thicken up and add clarity to their sound. Murky production has become something of a mini-trend in metal of late, but it seems to mostly be used to mask a lack of riffs and/or distinctive songs; not so with Barghest. The band keeps things nice and filthy in the sound department, but they’ve more than got the riffage to back it up, and the production is just clear enough that you can make them out. The album is so dense that one can almost see the gobs of thick black sludge oozing out of the speakers while you listen to it; the balance between overwhelming heaviness and grotesque atmosphere is darn near perfect. Even when the band picks up the pace it sounds like they’re mired in a tar pit, and yet one can still discern the sonic details of The Virtuous Purge with relative ease.
What really makes Barghest stand out though is the attention to songwriting they exhibit throughout The Virtuous Purge. In lesser hands, an album such as this could easily degenerate into a pile of samey-sounding mush, but the quintet goes out of their way to make each track compelling, and with only seven songs spread across less than forty minutes, there isn’t an ounce of filler to be found. There are tons of cool riffs and melodies clawing their way out of the grit and grime at every turn, and this combined with an overall emphasis on quality over quantity is highly refreshing in a time when most bands seem more than happy to let loose with horrendously bloated albums, or falsely believe that every single thing they write is gold and worthy of release.
Barghest have really hit their stride here; they showed a ton of potential on that aforementioned split with False, but with this album they’ve really come into their own and stepped up their game in all respects. If you like your black metal burly and with a pronounced death metal edge, this beast will absolutely floor you. The Virtuous Purge is officially out on vinyl June 17th via our good friends at Gilead Media or get it now as a pay-what-you-want download via the label’s Bandcamp page.