Review: Ben Baruk - What Love is That?

Hezekiah Rose
Hezekiah Rose   Follow

Band: Ben Baruk

Album: What Love is That?

Genre: Symphonic/Processive Metal

Record label: Vision of God Records

Release Date: December 18, 2020

Album length: 66 Minutes

Track list:

  1. Messiah 7:19
  2. Prelude to Kenosis 1:44
  3. One With Christ 5:36
  4. Lacrimis Solantia 2:21
  5. Nocturnal Lament 7:50
  6. Cry to Me 5:40
  7. Distant Thinking 8:02
  8. What Love is That 6:32
  9. What Will I Do 5:55
  10. A World of Tears 8:16
  11. Black Romance 8:25

Ben Baruk, according to their Bandcamp page (opens new window), identifies as a metal band “formed by people who share the same faith and worldview, with the aim of creating heavy and extreme music reflecting our daily lives, our convictions, and our influences”. However, I would like to propose that they are underselling themselves with such a simple statement. What Love Is That transcends genre boundaries and challenges what you thought you knew about how to construct a metal album.

Lyrically, Ben Baruk mixes elements of biblical theology and personal proclamation to highlight that even in our darkest moments all we have to do is reach out to God and He will be there for us; serving Him is not our glory but for His. It’s important to note early on that the Portuguese accent is prevalent in the cleaner vocals from André Fernandes, and that given that the band has a non-European origin, some lyrics have a non-traditional structure. Nocturnal Lament is a great example, with the lines “now, I find myself trapped and claiming for help/my heart is sad for this limitation”. However, this adds to the band’s character, and I really enjoy the use of language in this album. From incorporating The Lord’s Prayer in Hebrew in the opening track Messiah, to passages of Job in Nocturnal Lament, to the clean (accented) male vocals calling us to “stand together, one with Christ in One with Christ”, the album weaves together elements that wouldn’t normally coincide. Black Romance closes the album, and is a little more obscure, with the lyrics not quite as transparent as the preceding songs.

Sonically, this album is incredibly complex. A doom-style opening, moving through to an almost Celtic feel, downshift as the bass, drums, and death vocals kick in. Don’t neglect to notice the influence of 80s progressive rock, some light djembe, a selection of keys, and the high points of the cymbals. Maybe add in some djent as the aforementioned Lord’s Prayer is recited, with a choral backing track. And that’s just the first track. It shouldn’t work! But it does. And this mix of contrasting elements is a constant narrative throughout the album. Heavy reliance on drums, cymbals, and low tuning remain as an undercurrent throughout the album. Prelude to Kenosis is a haunting instrumental that tiptoes through gently built highs and lows. Lacrimis Solantia leads with the bass drum that gradually fades as the keys and choral rise to prominence. Cry To Me opens with the black metal-styled distant distortion before evolving into a more progressive rock sound with clean male vocals. The following track Distant Thinking delicately steps in with synth and symphonic elements similar to Death Therapy’s latest project. Black Romance, the closing track, is an uplifting finish with a collection of sounds summarising the album.

Overall, Ben Baruk presents an incredibly complex album, both sonically and thematically. There are moments mid-song, wherein in a musical sense, the song heads in a completely different direction to the opening. It’s a little disconcerting at first, although digging a little deeper with successive listens it appears the band is incorporating earlier moments in their six-year history with more mature elements. As the first complete album, this is definitely a solid demonstration of the band’s capabilities.

Support the artist! Find their album here: Spotify (opens new window) | Bandcamp (opens new window)

Rating: 7/10

Favourite tracks: It’s hard to beat Messiah for a favourite track. It really does encapsulate the album as a whole and I really enjoy the incorporation of The Lord’s Prayer in Hebrew. Nocturnal Lament is a close second for the beautiful female vocals from Maria José, the guttural stylings of Rafael Rodrigues, the spoken words of André Fernandes, and the driving bass line and drums from Carlos Eduardo and Lais Cunha respectively.

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