After over a decade, Barrabus have returned for the release of their debut album. Lead by the mighty UK underground overlord that is Paul Catten of Medulla Nocte, Lazarus Blackstar and Murder One fame, Barrabus are a noise-rock band that draw comparisons to USA Nails and Chickenhawk-era Hawk Eyes.
The first thing you’ll notice on the band’s self-titled debut album is Catten’s voice. It’s as instantly recognisable as ever. Catten has a wonderfully unique, piercing scream that loosely flops around between low-pitched grumbling and spoken word sections accompanied by a bizarre, Southern-American drawl. Catten does what he wants and does it with passion. Similarly to Mike Patton, here’s a vocalist who could easily sound like he’s taking the piss, but thanks to how wonderfully heart-on-sleeve his performance is, it always sounds genuine even if it’s a tad unconventional.
However, we should move on from Paul Catten’s vocals because these are just a single element in this almighty racket. Frequent Catten collaborator Mark Seddon (also of Medulla Nocte and Murder One) is playing guitar on this album and my word does that man have chops. Despite this album being quite a frantic, often messy slab of noise, Seddon keeps the album grounded with big riffs that are memorable enough to get their hooks deep into you. Porn! is a real highlight in this regard (I mean with a title like that, obviously) and its punky guitar work is surprisingly catchy considering how unapologetically heavy it is.
Album highlights include the slow-burning, somewhat doomy opener of My Nightmare as a Reality TV Contestant and the no-nonsense thrill ride of Behind Closed Doors. This track barrels along at a devastating speed before breaking down into sheer lunacy. Let’s not forget the similarly structured Kleptomania which gets equally weird after its opening barrage of riffs. Then we’ve got songs like In League with Vader which decides to add a touch of black metal to the mix with its opening tremolo-picked riff. There’s just so much going on here that it’s difficult not to be enamoured by the sheer amount of ideas Barrabus have managed to include in such a short space of time.
Barrabus’ debut album is a fantastically weird collection of songs that don’t outstay their welcome. It’s all over in 29 minutes and rarely gives you a moment to breath. This is a noisy, sludgy punk album that isn’t too interested in showing any restraint. This album has certainly been a long time coming considering Barrabus’ last release was a demo in 2006, but its arrival is much like Paul Catten himself; unexpected and unrelenting. Long may he reign.
Barrabus’ self-titled debut album is out now and available to buy through Undergroove Records.