Barren Earth is a six-piece progressive metal band from Finland. They play a style that some might say is akin to Opeth and their albums Still Life and Blackwater Park – this meaning that the music is epic in scope and shape and contains retro progressive rock elements. Most fans of this genre may remember Barren Earth’s first full length The Curse of the Red River from 2009, which had some great reviews and support. But here we hear a different band as singer Mikko Kotamaki has left to focus full-time on his band Swallow the Sun and now newcomer Jon Aldara is here.
Aldara adds different sounds and styles to the music, as he has a strong voice and uses power metal as well as classical training and vocal harmonies to enhance this epic music. Songs such as “Howl” display his power and versatility as he belts out clean and later guttural vocals that wouldn’t seem out of place on Blackwater Park. Another fixture of this album is the staple acoustic intros and interludes which always bring to mind Opeth and what has already been created in this genre.
The album makes use of all kinds of different instruments, whether it’s the theremin on “Set Alight” or Van Der Graaf Generator style saxophone melodies on “Sirens of Oblivion.” The band does a fantastic job showcasing their talent through the use of mood changes, heaviness and time signatures that would make Fate’s Warning or even Dream Theater envious. On “Frozen Processions” the group uses keys and synths to tell a story of epic fantasy and coldness and a power riff that seems to enhance the epic sounds.
Overall, Barren Earth draw and build on their influences to create songs that may sound somewhat similar and different at the same time. For some it may be easy to hear King Crimson played alongside Metallica with Dark Tranquillity for dessert and enjoy it as a separate entity, but for others there may just too much going on and the mixture doesn’t fit. Nevertheless, this recording has some great production and musicianship, so what more does one need from a modern progressive metal album?
(Century Media Records)