September 29, 2014
by Bryne Yancey

“What are your influences?”

It’s a boring, stock, thoughtless interview question primarily asked by unprepared, inexperienced or just downright lazy interviewers to musicians who often couldn’t be more disinterested in being an interview subject. The question and its answer can zap the energy out of the room, which is then portrayed in the finished product, whether it’s text, audio or video. Everyone has influences, but rarely if ever are they interesting to hear or read about. A band citing their own influences unsolicited can often evoke a similar feeling, one of predetermined and nigh-unreachable expectations. It paints a band into a corner in which “influenced by” and “sounds like” are expected to be one in the same.

Metalsucks, a wonderful website whose writing is often far smarter than it ever gets credit for, cited Melvins, Eyehategod and Queens of the Stone Age as influences for Bardus, but perhaps the only thing the Philadelphia-based trio have in common with those bands is a somewhat unconventional approach to aggression. They remind me more of Akimbo, the great, sadly broken up Seattle-based outfit who were also a trio and made their name by allowing their rhythm section, and not their guitar work, to do most of the heavy lifting, which only served to augment their swaggering, molasses-thick riffs and the opaquely cataclysmic howls from vocalist Jon Weisnewski. Akimbo were able to make a likely well-rehearsed approach sound uniquely thrown together and unpredictable—nearly every one of their songs contained an unforeseeable twist, and a lot of them had more than one. Their music felt exciting and dangerous, which a calculated, perfectly executed guitar riff or bass drop can rarely, if ever evoke.

Bardus’ full-length Solus, out digitally since August 2013 and recently reissued on cassette via Wolf Beach, goes all in on unpredictability and unconventionality. For a band with just one guitarist, there’s a real hossiness about the riffs contained herein—they bend and twist and turn, only to whip back with little, if any notice. That dexterity becomes more apparent when complemented by the band’s rhythm section: the bass, thank Lemmy, is clearly audible, chunky and dirty; the drums sound as though they were recorded in an airplane hangar, every snare hit, kick and cymbal crash reverberating in a way that’s reminiscent of the percussion on Metz’ excellent eponymous full-length; the vocals, searing but intelligently, not in a way that’s inaccessible or off-putting. For the most part, it comes off as layered yelling which make the songs, oddly, more fun. If every metal band took a hardcore-oriented mindset to the studio, the world would be a lot less confusing.