Review Summary: Some people keep on growing, even as they go unnoticed
Berri Txarrak. This power trio is, maybe, the best band on that broad genre called "post-hardcore" from the Iberian Peninsula. Starting their career almost 20 years ago, in 1994, this band emerged from the ashes of the most important hardcore movement in Spain, the "Rock Radical Vasco" (Basque radical rock). Their intention was to make hardcore evolve, thus invigorating the Basque punk scene. And they did it well.
Incorporating several different influences to their hardcore and metal heritage (such as grunge, nu metal and even pop punk) they managed to advance and create their own blend of hardcore, despite the odds against them. Because success wasn't easy for Berri: for political reasons they chose Basque as the only language of their songs, what immediately made them suspicious for many people. In my humble opinion, it's quite good to listen a different accent sometimes; besides, Basque language have a quite interesting sound that matches their compositions perfectly. But much of the Spanish public doesn't seem to agree with this, neither the record companies: Berri Txarrak is still signed with a little indie, GOR records.
Even during the emo explosion of the last decade, this band kept into obscurity. Fellow bands like Rise Against, based on a similar (melodic) approach to hardcore got... reasonably popular at the time. But well, Spanish musical panorama can't be compared with those of the USA or the UK, unfortunately.
So we have a band that was the victim of its historic and cultural situation, creative people that struggled to make their sound progress with every release. After four long years of silence, this dedicated band returned in 2009 with "Payola", recorded with Mr. Steve Albini and which showcased their power in a more heartfelt and visceral manner than ever.But the well known aesthetic approach to production sported by Albini wouldn't get the best from the Navarre trio. Two years later, the band will start to work (in a hard and Spartan way, legend says) under the direction of Ross Robinson. That would be the recording sessions of their most adventurous and progressive effort: Haria.
"Haria" is a step forward in the career of the already long-lived Berri. In Haria there's room for metal, but it's no longer the straight forward nu metal present in albums like "Ikasten". There's room for melody, but not like in "Libre": Txarrak's influences are finely layered creating their most mature record to date.
Lyrically, we face an album that excels: poems that don't fall in the vague sentimentalism that characterizes most of the bads associated with post hardcore and related genres, nor in the cheap propaganda that marks the character of a lot of political hardcore bands: they manage to evoke emotions as they're fiercely politic without losing a drop of the intelligence they always showcased. At the same time, they manage to philosophize without the mystic, near religious edge of Thrice, a band whose lyrics always kept me distant from their beautiful music. Besides, they have posted translations of their lyrics in their website, knowing the fact that many of their fans don't know a single word of Basque (me included).
Robinson's production it's other positive factor, and it brings us back to that great album of the year two thousand: Relationships of Command. But it seems that Robinson learnt the lesson that At the Drive-In taught him: in this album you can't only hear a well assembled production but also the mighty strength the band has when playing live. Robinson mixes the primal force of this power trio (an elementary force, when treating with rock formations) turning it in a sonic aggression wall that is sometimes pierced by electronic and choral arrangements.
In the musical aspect, as said before, we can appreciate quiet diverse influences: there are riffs in the Basque Radical tradition that sometimes thread into a territory closer to Nu Metal (although in the "metallic" sense the band experienced what we can perceive as a "growth" or expansion: just listen to the beginning riff of "Lepokoak", which shines with impeccable hardness), lots of heartfelt melodies and some sonic experimentation both with instruments (in terms of volume and distortion) and with production.
The album opens in a perfect way, with a song that brings together everything we'll listen to in this album: Sugea Suge. Aggression, melody and some luminous passages with a remarkable progressive edge. The atmosphere created near the end of this song, which seems to elevate us to a brilliant but shady horizon, and which is fit to the lyrics, as they deal with fight and hope of the individual.Albo Kalteak is another of the songs in the album that we could use to define this new era for Berri Txarrak: that's why it was chosen as the promotional single for this new album. The lightness of the dialogue between drums and guitar at the beginning contrasts with the bitter distortion that characterizes the core of the song.All of the songs seem to flow without evident incoherency, which is quite an achievement considering the progress this album marks in terms of songwriting. "FAQ", a frantic melodic track that features Matt Sharp (yeah, the guy that was in Weezer when there was still hope for them) is probably the catchiest song on the record. Its chorus serves us to appreciate he magnificence of the synergy between Robinson and this band from Lekunberri. We should also acknowledge the presence of "Lehortzen", the final track. A dizzying, psychedelic fable about fishes watching his pond going dry, nervous.
The song, which stands as a rarity in Berri's catalogue mostly because of it's pace and experimental quality works as a perfect closer for this album, which is another demonstration of the band's growth.
Berri Txarrak, that creative, quality band that is troubled because they don't agree with some basic principles of their country politics. Berri Txarrak, that band that trusts that a little tag reading "produced by Ross Robinson" would help them to sell more copies of the album than the big "Berri Txarrak" printed in the cover.
Luckily, those that have listened to this album realized that it shouldn't be like that.