You know for certain that you’re in for a treat when a band’s genre listing showboats the title “anti-djent.” And holy shit, Scientist is a treat to listen to. Spawning from Chicago, Illinois, the progressive sludge/black/doom five-piece has manufactured three records since their birth in early 2011. Their second release, 10100II00101, made a hefty dent in the metal landscape in 2015, managing to receive critical acclaim despite being self-released. Three years later, on April 13, 2018, Scientist had released their ambiguous third effort, BARBELITH. Not only was BARBELITH inclined to live up to the quality and praise of 10100II00101, but it also promised to expand upon the already dark and complex philosophical concept of 10100II00101. It also marks the debut of the first full-time vocalist within the band’s lineup, Barry Kotarba. In most circumstances, a multitude of overbearing obligations of this nature would set a band up for self-destruction. But Scientist is fucking Scientist, and BARBELITH lives up to the hype and then some, exhibiting the absolute pinnacle of musical quality seen thus far in 2018.
Conceptually, Barbelith is a journey transcribing “the search for life’s meaning through the use of psychedelics and the occult means, only to discover that you haven’t even been born yet.” See, Scientist is quite fond of the Grant Morrison comic book series The Invisibles. So much so that they’ve based the record’s concept essentially solely off of the Barbelith concept within the graphic novels. “In The Invisibles, Barbelith is the name of the ‘placenta’ for humanity; a satellite-like object located on the dark side of the moon. It recurs throughout the story as a supernatural moon seeming both intelligent and benign. Barbelith’s role is like that of a placenta in that it connects the hologram of our subjective reality to the realm outside of our space-time, the domain of the magic mirror, and helps humans to realize their true nature beyond the subjective concept of ‘self’.” A mere glance at the tracklisting of Barbelith will reveal the unbelievable amount of thought the concept was granted, as the amount of time each lyric was constructed with to garner the full greatness of such an opaque concept is very much apparent. The concept is a perfect aid to the musicality of the record, complementing its musical complexity and atmosphere. In fact, the only quality heavier than the conceptual influence is the record’s musicality itself.
Barbelith is a synchronized juggling act of sludge, black, and doom metal elements, all drenched with a progressive coating. Barry Kotarba makes an excellent vocal debut, managing to blend unadulterated rage and aggression with tinges of melody, an equation complementary to that of the instrumentals themselves. The guitars are at the instrumental forefront, provided via Eric Plonka and Patrick Auclair, playing a major role within the overall direction of the music due to its incorporation of a variety of musical influences and layers, harmonious and dissonant. Transitioning from fantastic sludge riffs to harmonious chording and everything in between, the musical prominence of the instrument didn’t go to waste. That’s not to say that the guitar elements overshadow the other instrumentals, for they play just as vital of a role within the songwriting of Barbelith. The bass, provided via Mathew Milligan, is synchronized with the guitars for the most part, yet its existence is quite curious as an entity. There isn’t too much texture in its tone, resulting in it seemingly replicating some unknown entity lurking in the dark. The drums, provided via Justin Cape, are a key point of navigation throughout the intricate riff arrangements and odd time signatures, serving the perfect accent to the various instrumental layers of anarchy.
The sonic chaos of Barbelith was captured via some pretty large names within the production industry, being recorded by Pete Grossman, mixed by Sanford Parker, and mastered by Alan Douches, all of whom were able to successfully portray the intended sound of Barbelith in an extravagant manner. The sound of the record is pretty rough, perfectly exemplifying the tone of the music itself, as well as its creative concept. Although the production isn’t clean per say, it still allows the various instrumental layers breathing room within the mix, a sound that’s crucial to the identity of Scientist.
The video below is of the second track from the record, “Magick Mirror,” and it is perhaps the greatest example of what Scientist accomplish as a band and what Barbelith represents musically. The song is brimming with the creative incorporation of melody, dirty riffs, somewhat bluesy leads, light black metal musicality, and the integration of a progressive twist within the songwriting. Essentially, some of the most creative elements of songwriting Scientist practice within their music are to be found on the track, making it the perfect track to be adopted into a video. The visuals themselves make for an excellent counterpart to the track, utilizing the same elements of the record’s musical and conceptual mystique in a visual format.
Barbelith is available NOW via the band’s Bandcamp. GO BUY IT!