Barren Earth – On Lonely Towers (Century Media)Thursday, 12th March 2015
When multiple members of a sextet juggle recording and touring responsibilities for known entities such as Kreator, Turisas, and Moonsorrow, rest assured that new studio product isn’t going to hit the streets for a little while. Finnish progressive melodic doom/death metal act Barren Earth face their biggest challenge though to date beyond scheduling issues since their beginnings in 2007, as their third full-length album On Lonely Towers represents the vocal debut of Faroese native Jón Aldará – for Swallow The Sun requires Mikko Kotamäki’s full attention at this point in time.
To those unfamiliar to this band’s approach, these musicians offer up a heavy slice of Scandinavian death/doom, while also injecting a love of 70’s progressive rock in a lot of their piano/organ passages, spirited instrumental sections, and outside the box epic arrangements or left-field saxophone use. Early on they may have been considered sons of Opeth meets Amorphis, but not anymore. When they choose to be straight ahead doom in the closing sections of “A Shapeless Derelict”, the mid-range operatic bellows and evil heavy riff combination are classic Candlemass trademarks. Sami Yli-Sirniö and Janne Perttilä excel at layering guitars plus emotive, meaningful lead sections as the supplementary keyboards, bass and drums move in an alluring cadence that you can’t help but be swept into its melancholic majestic splendor – even at a close to 12 minute timeframe as in the title track.
Jón can gurgle from the swampiest lands (check out his Christian Älvestam register on the culturally adventurous “Set Alight”) but deliver these chill bump clean textures that recall the best work of Dan Swanö on “Howl”. And take a microscopic aural approach to the saxophone passages during “Sirens of Oblivion” – exotic, jazzy and occasionally syncopating to the churning guitars (2:36-2:51) but then free flowing in a lighter, progressive context during the subsequent instrumental section.
Barren Earth stands head and shoulders above a lot of the progressive doom/death pack because of their solid songwriting chemistry and ability to never push technicality over the limit to lose the human feel that makes On Lonely Towers special. Given North America’s proclivity to applaud foreign metal over much of the domestic product these days, you would be wise to add these 9 cuts to your playlist immediately.