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Barren Earth - A Complex of Cages Award winner

Barren Earth
A Complex of Cages
by Justin "Witty City' Wittenmeier at 21 March 2018, 9:22 AM

BARREN EARTH’s fifth full length album shows the band further exploring folk and prog elements…and the metal world is all the better for it.  Don’t be too shocked—they still retain much of their Doom and Death Metal roots but with the added bonus of being more refined and taking ideas a step further.  When this band fleshes everything out and just lets loose, there are few in modern metal who can take them on.

The alternating of clean/Death vocals is obviously nothing new to the genre, but very few have mastered it like Jon Aldara have.  If I was already familiar with the band, and someone randomly played them for me, I would had never guessed this guy was doing all the vocals.  His versatility and in inflection is playful, operatic, theatrical, brutal, beautiful, and sometimes just down right evil.

The opening track, “The Living Fortress,” is probably the most aptly titled track I’ve heard this year.  Indeed, the song is a barricade of heaviness and mood changes that flow so well it does seem as if it alive.  New keyboardist Antti adds so much to the song (and the whole album), effortlessly blending in with the guitar and the very structure of the song itself.  You couldn't remove the keyboards any more than the other instruments without majorly changing their sound.  Not only do his keys consistently compliment the songs but they are some of the most important fabric of their very structure.

Whereas that song showcased how far the band has come in exploring their sound, the next track, “Ruby,” reminds us they can still bring on the pain.  Aldara’s vocals are truly frightening here as are Sami’s and Janne’s sludgy riffs that also find a way to give way to some dark melodies during the chorus. “Further Down,” finds the guitars creating the atmosphere this time around, the dual riffs definitely giving off the vibe of falling into something from which there is no escape.  The chorus is catchy as hell and I found myself singing it to myself all day while I was at work.

Olli-Pekka Laine and Marko Tarvonen are one fuck of a rhythm army. I say army because they do the work of what sounds like several dozen people. Olli definitely plays a crucial role in making BARREN EARTH even heavier and his interplay with the guitars is tight yet fluid. It has been said that the essence of metal drumming is to create a constant beat using speed, power, and precision.  MARKO takes that to heart, providing all of these elements in spades but it never seems overbearing and in some songs, such as “Solitude Pith,” is boundlessly creative.

Speaking of the aforementioned song, it is a Prog wet dream with multiple tempos, atmosphere, and the entire band putting everything they can do in one song.  The highlight is the middle of the song where the band plays around with some weird songs that go into some Egyptian/Middle Eastern styles before sliding right back into the Death Metal, complete with demonic vocals and a crazy guitar solo.  The whole song is so effortless in its many journeys it sent me on that I almost couldn’t believe it. BARREN EARTH have hit their stride so far into the atmosphere that it will no doubt go down in my top 10 of the year and probably go down as the best Prog album as well.

Songwriting: 10
Originality: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

1. The Living Fortress
2. Ruby
3. Further Down
4. Zeal
5. Scatterprey
6. Solitude Path
7. Dysphoria
8. Spire
9. Withdrawal
Marko Tarvonen – Drums
Olli-Pekka Laine – Bass
Antti Myllynen – Keyboards
Jon Aldara – Vocals
Sami Yli-Sirnio – Lead Guitars
Janne Perttila – Rhythm Guitars
Record Label: Century Media Records


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Edited 02 April 2023

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