Barren Earth

Curse of the Red River

Written by: EW on 25/03/2010 14:31:46

It was worked to perfection wasn't it? Releasing a debut EP last November to get us all excited, "Our Twilight" was but a teaser of what to expect on the debut album of this Scandinavian 'supergroup'. That which we expected is this deliciously well-composed piece of prog-death-heavy-metal-rock which already has its sights set on many year-end lists based on the quality contained within, unequivocally stating the band members' desire for Barren Earth to stand proud on it's own two feet rather than living off the 'other' acts it is associated with.

Just to get it out the way for all time's sake, they are: Swallow the Sun, Moonsorrow, Kreator and Amorphis (among other lesser names). Though facets of some of those acts are apparent across "Curse of the Red River" it is the sheer experience of musicianship that is most important in making this album what it is; just a cursory listen will make clear how this could never be the work of a totally new band - the song-writing from start to finish is much too adept, with an excellent professional production to boot, for it to be the work of a bunch of johnny-come-latelies.

Strong Opeth and Edge of Sanity elements linger throughout, where songs such as "Flicker" and "Cold Earth Chamber" deal with experimental song structures yet, crucially, tie these into coherent pieces that ebb and flow exposing a great labour of love that has been invested in this project since formation back in 2007. Rather like picking highlight tracks, identifying one instrumental aspect of this tapestry over any other is very difficult: Mikko Kotamäki's growled and clean vocal performance is better than I've ever enjoyed with Swallow the Sun, the lead guitar work of Janne Perttilä and Sami Yli-Sirniö is both artistic and powerful, but Kasper Mårtenson's keyboards are simply a revelation. Sometimes subtle but always effective, Mårtenson's work (see "Forlorn Waves" and "The Ritual of Dawn" for instance) ties the output close to Amorphis and is the ace in the pack as far as "Curse of the Red River" goes, showing an imagination that is sadly lacking in most keyboardists in the metal world (especially that of power metal).

Though complex and uneasily digested, necessitating repeat and careful listening, this debut album by Barren Earth comes with my personal guarantee that with decent promotion and touring it will quickly become loved by many for the beauty and compositional knowhow that has gone into every song. Looking at how big Opeth have become with a style even more complex and demanding, Barren Earth, with an album like "Curse of the Red River" behind them, stand to enjoy great opportunity and adulation ahead; a real 'supergroup' quite possibly worth the title this time.

Download: The Ritual of Dawn, Flicker
For The Fans Of: Opeth, Edge of Sanity, Amorphis, Swallow the Sun
Listen: Myspace

Release date: 29.03.2010
Peaceville Records

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