Mr Barleycorn - _The Stendahl Syndrome_
(Alter Ego, 2003)
by: Jackie Smit (8.5 out of 10)
It's hard to believe that the arid climate of South Africa could produce so cold and dark a gothic beast as Mr Barleycorn -- least of all because up until now the country has hardly produced anything worthy of more than five minutes' listening time. Even harder to comprehend, is the fact that _The Stendahl Syndrome_ is their second full-length -- the follow up to 1998's _Blood & Romance_ -- and that up until now this highly talented five-piece have somehow slipped underneath the radar of the goth metal fraternity. Mixing equal parts of Depeche Mode, Type O Negative, Sisters of Mercy and Radiohead into their rather bleak alchemy, _The Stendahl Syndrome_ sees them successfully manage to stamp down their own identity on every track on the album, whilst at the same time cleverly avoiding most of, if not all, of the clich├ęs that the genre is so loathed for. Of special mention in this case is the performance of vocalist Luigi, whose exceptional voice sounds at once intense, desperate, angry and vulnerable and contributes virtually an entire added dimension of emotion to the record. Granted every song on the disc doesn't match the quality of _Run With Scissors_, _All You Ever Wanted_ or _Plastic Bag Sky_, and the production, while adequate, could have used some work in the guitar department, but overall _The Stendahl Syndrome_ is miles ahead of anything that Silke Bischoff, Christian Death or even Moonspell have managed in years. Overall this album holds its own as an impressive testament to the group's tremendous potential, and to say that Mr Barleycorn are currently somewhat underrated is a triumph of understatement. The chances are very good though, that with records like these this may very soon change.


(article published 18/5/2003)

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