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Barzakh: Shallow Ocean

Last heard of back in 2015 with their one and only release to date, Barzakh are (or were?) a one man project that are based in Morocco and France, and who specialise in atmospheric black metal. The man behind the project is Abdelilah Krim, who is credited with all instruments and vocals across this eight track effort loosely based round the idea (not concept) of the human race being an ocean of despair, and our efforts and failures to climb out of this shallow water we find ourselves in.

Opening cut “Forgotten Psalm” is a mix of chanting voices and church like symphonies that reek of hopelessness and lost causes, before the album begins proper with the synth heavy, melodically informed “September Morning”, making for a smoother black metal experience than might have been expected. In fact much of this first song proper floats on strummed guitars and Krim’s deep, reasonably rich voice. Rising to nearly eight minutes, it’s an involved affair and one that runs the gamut from restrained and plaintive right through to riff led and drum driven. Ultra heavy it is not and that’s a path that “Catilina” also follows for its majority, although finally mid-song it does suddenly burst into machine gun drumming and a much more rasped vocal attack. In many ways it’s exactly what the album has been waiting for but that this aspect wasn’t introduced earlier actually makes the switch up in pace all the more dramatic.

Oddly, but quite effectively, we then seem to hit reset, “Unspoken Psalm” following a similar structure and melody to the opening piece, although this time much more clean synth focused. Leaving the acoustic guitar of “Oceanic Cages” to neatly rebuild the atmosphere, although as before, it does so in patient and mainly pulled back terms. The short “Vapor” is a sub-minute synth meander that while nice, is a little needless, before the album’s title track heads back into heavier territory. Although even here there are long clean sections with controlled singing and church organ like theatrics; highlighting once more that one of the real starting points for Shallow Ocean is to deliver black metal ideals, but often in a much less than black metal setting. Closing the album out is the piano and cello of “Black Ballad”, which while expertly laid out does feel like something of an ‘I can, so I will’ moment, this less than essential track leaving a taste of only being included to show off Krim’s undoubtedly impressive and varied musical skills. Beyond that, on a cleverly constructed album, it is an anticlimactic close.

Shallow Ocean is an interesting release that doesn’t always play by the rules and which often makes a stronger mark for that very reason. What’s happened to the project since, I’m not sure. However if Krim was to suddenly resurrect Barzakh, then it would be wise to investigate further.

Track Listing
1. Forgotten Psalm
2. September Morning
3. Catilina
4. Unspoken Psalm
5. Oceanic Cages
6. Vapor
7. Shallow Ocean
8. Black Ballad

Added: May 25th 2019
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Barzakh on facebook
Hits: 258
Language: english

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