Once upon a time, an elder goth told me “goths are corpses, and corpses don’t evolve.” There’s a lot to unpack with a sentence like that, but generally speaking, the idea that one cannot evolve, improve, or become better is a damaging one. What is old can be new again, if given the right opportunity to grow. With the uptick of the independent scene thanks to platforms like Bandcamp and sites like these, there are some who have decided to go about things with that old time tradition, albeit through the modern lens of production.
To nail down the sound of the self-professed dark pop maiden BARA HARI is to take up a fool’s errand. One moment could bring something post-punk, while the next could go into dark electro-laden pop. After a few years and a handful of singles, we now have Lesser Gods, the singer’s first full-length, and it is equal parts celebration and revelation, steeped in darkness and uncomfortable subject matter behind ten varying dark alternative soundscapes.
The tone set by the opener “Siren Song” is haunting, an invitation into darkness that lives up to its name. Unease gives way to a post-punk groove on “Tempest,” with a bass line that harkens back to the old days of gothic rock and the first instance of Corey Hirsch’s lively drumming helping to solidify the rock foundation upon which this song is built. Sam Franco, the voice behind BARA HARI, has a voice reminiscent of Lacuna Coil’s Cristina Scabbia, with the harmonies to boot. The following track “Immoral Tales” further serves the comparison to the celebrated Italian alt-metallers, with the guitar work by Ian Flux getting a moment in the sun. “Violence Rising” builds up from its sampled vocalization and electronics to a Nineties-flavored goth- and alt-rock number, something akin to Garbage in their heyday. It’s a throwback with modern polish, and it makes for a standout single.
“Looking for Oblivion” takes things in a more electronic direction, with Franco’s vocal harmonies shining on this electropop tune. It’s accessible and blissfully uncomplicated, and would make for a great call to the dance floor. The next track, the cinematic and foreboding “House of the Devil” needs to feature in a film or television series as soon as humanly possible. It has that vibe of a main title theme, or perhaps it would be more suited for a montage full of secrets being uncovered. Heavy, swaying, and ominous, and yet still so easy to get into and find oneself humming along to the vocal melody, this song is another notable one. The debate over “Agoraphobic” being a song of the times is remotely debateable, but the trip hop influence and staccato guitar riffing capture the crippling anxiety disorder for which the track is named.
“Delusions of Grandeur” brings the proceedings fully back to that rocking core with another guitar-driven track supplemented by lush synths and more of those sweet vocal harmonies. Again, Corey Hirsch’s drumming has a moment here, bringing the energy back up after the last couple of tracks brought the BPM down ever so slightly. The penultimate “Easy Target” plays around in Nineties and early Noughties alt-rock, with clean guitar lines floating over synths of many flavors and flourishes. We end on “Immortal,” another goth-rock banger with a prominent bass line and everything else that brought this record to the dance in the first place.
BARA HARI doesn’t reinvent the goth pop wheel with Lesser Gods, but rather celebrates it and gives it a facelift. When the goal is a vibrant sound while maintaining that darker vibe, Franco and Co. can do that. If the aim is to evoke the sounds and the names of those who came before, they can accomplish that as well. For a first full-length, Lesser Gods strikes a balance between honoring the old blood while establishing themselves as the new blood, and in a scene as booming and saturated as the dark pop realm, a confident and capable voice like Franco’s is welcome.
Lesser Gods is available now via Re:Mission Entertainment.