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Barren Earth – On Lonely Towers

I believe any progressive metal and even death/doomsters with a broad taste will find something here to enjoy. The production is phenomenal, dare I even say, flawless.

Barren Earth is one of those rare cases of a supergroup actually matching (some might even say, surpassing) the expectations and hip caused by their mere existence. Our Twilight, their debut EP, was perhaps not as impressive as their original line-up, but they definitely made some tsunami-like waves with their first full-length, Curse of the Red River, one of the metal highlights of 2010. Combining melodic death, doom, and even some tiny splashes of melodic thrash a la modern Kreator with classic 70s progressive rock in a tasty and successful way, their sleek and compelling sound, though not the most original, placed them somewhere between prog death-era Opeth, or their similar-styled In Mourning, fellow countrymen, October Tide, Swallow the Sun, some of the works by sadly departed Sentenced and, certainly, Amorphis. No coincidence in listing those bands, since Barren Earth’s members were or still are in some of them. A Finnish powerhouse indeed, and a prolific one as well, now presenting their third long play, On Lonely Towers.

For this record there has been, however, a tiny but important line-up change. Swallow the Sun’s vocalist Mikko Kotamäki has been replaced by Jón Aldará, a Faroe Islander that has been involved in a handful of bands from said Nordic Isles. While he’s much less known than Mikko in the international metal panorama, I believe his strong performance on this album will definitely place his name on the map. He has the ability to pretty much replicate Mikko’s signature deep, monstrous, almost unintelligible growling, while providing powerful, semi-operatic clean vocals which are more in line with Candlemass’ singers than with the man he replaced in this band. I think this is a great change, since they’ll sound less like Swallow the Sun now. With no disrespect for Mikko, Jón seems like the right man for the band and I hope he remains in it for many more years.

As for the rest of the band, they’re spot on, as usual. In fact, musically, I believe this might be the band’s strongest effort, so far. 2012’s The Devil’s Resolve was a diminished return for me, but it remains a solid release nonetheless. However, On Lonely Towers masterfully blends everything that worked and was interesting on previous records with some exciting new tricks. A strikingly great, dark, earthly colored surreal image by digital art guru Travis Smith graces the cover, just like on Curse of the Red River. The music within opens with a brief piano intro and a couple of “short”, riff-driven rocking numbers that already show Jón Aldará’s powerful pipes at the forefront. His clean choruses are forceful yet melancholic at the same tame, and highly memorable, while the band traverses varied soundscapes of metal music with ease during a single composition. But as the album progresses, things turn out… EVEN BETTER!

The rest of the tracks are seven and a half minute long, or longer. All of them showcase the enormous talent this hell of a band has at is disposal. Busy tremolo death riffs, lush keyboards, monolithic solos, gentle and sweeping acoustic guitars and a fluid, organic rhythmic section are some of the strengths of this release. “On Lonely Towers” itself, it’s an enchanting, rock-solid and, well… towering, piece of progressive metal, just under twelve minutes in length, and probably my favorite composition of the bunch. Halfway through the song, Jón changes his voice to a whispering narration, not unlike Agalloch’s John Haughm, showing more of his versatility. It also stars some amazing, extended and very memorable soloing by guitarists Sami Yli-Sirniö and Janne Perttilä. My least favorite tune is the more laid back “Set Alight”, but even that track has its share of fine moments and unexpected compositional twists and turns. Last track, “The Vault”, is another 11-minute behemoth, with a middle section that recalls Canadian power-trio Rush’s prog era and the overall vibe of very recent Opeth. That’s another way to say: classic prog rock magnificently done by a modern metal band.

If you are a fan of the last couple of Opeth albums or the rest of Barren Earth’s catalogue, you’ll definitely love this! I believe any progressive metal and even death/doomsters with a broad taste will find something here to enjoy. The production is phenomenal, dare I even say, flawless. For me, this album will certainly appear on my “best of” list by 2015’s end, a year already teeming with fantastic releases in the international metaldom. I only wish to catch this band on tour and experience this amazing compositions being played in full force in front of a raving mass of metalheads!

Barren Earth - On Lonely Towers

Track listing:
1. From the Depths of Spring
2. Howl
3. Frozen Processions
4. A Shapeless Derelict
5. Set Alight
6. On Lonely Towers
7. Chaos, the Songs Within
8. Sirens of Oblivion*
9. The Vault

Barren Earth is:
Marko Tarvonen – Drums
Olli-Pekka Laine – Bass
Kasper Mårtenson – Keyboards
Jón Aldará – Vocals
Sami Yli-Sirniö – Lead Guitars
Janne Perttilä – Rhythm Guitars

Barren Earth band 2015

More Barren Earth:
Official Website
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About Ricardo (16 Articles)
100% Mexican metalhead, classic prog lover, international cuisine fearless explorer, avid traveler and virtuosic air-drummer who’s aim is to make a living out of professional illustration from his den in Guadalajara city. A fan of many artists, let’s just say that some of his very favorites in music and beyond include Pink Floyd, Judas Priest, Agalloch, Amon Amarth, Depeche Mode, Alphonse Mucha, Gustave Doré, H.R. Giger, Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, J. R. R. Tolkien, Guillermo del Toro, Quentin Tarantino, Studio Ghibli amongst zillion others. Loves to meet people from around the world, and to discover METAL from around the world as well. Not that he loves it all, but a good majority. What he searches in music (and art in general) is passion, honesty and emotion above everything else. While he sets up a new illustration site or blog this 2013, you can visit his DeviantArt gallery (http://xyrth.deviantart.com/) with old illustrations, drawings and paintings.

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