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Barren Earth should require little introduction, this Finnish supergroup have been kicking it since 2007 and this is their second full-length release “The Devil’s Resolve”. Welding Melodic Death Metal with 70’s style Progressive Rock, Barren Earth are the sonic equivalent of a winning lottery ticket for a prog-nut like me.
Take “Elegy” period Amorphis, add healthy doses of mid-period Opeth and Edge of Sanity roll up and smoke said concoction to the sounds of Riverside or Porcupine Tree and once the haze clears you’ll be facing Barren Earth. If you enjoyed the latest In Mourning album I reviewed then this one will be right up your street, and is certainly of a similar quality. A good base of comparison from the get-go, and as far as production goes is if you did hear the latest In Mourning, “The Devil’s Resolve” is a much warmer sounding album, and definitely feels a little more natural.
The proceedings kick off in style on “The Devil’s Resolve”. From the push of the play button a volume swell paves the way for a dark and dirty theme, with a slight Doom Metal edge. The articulation and build is superb; “Passing of the Crimson Shadows” is the ideal opener, with excellent dynamic it really works its magic in introducing the listener to the album, and the band. The vocal approach is that of a balance between clean and harsh, and I honestly believe Mikko Kotamäki is at his best with Barren Earth, his clean vocals are particularly well done here, reminding of the British Progressive Rock acts from the 70’s. “The Rains Begins” absolutely reeks of Amorphis, featuring lush melodies, excellent layered vocals, and a tremendous prog section in the middle. “Vintage Warlords” is a song which shows exactly what Barren Earth are about and would be a good one for new listeners to check out. Rounding off the first half of “The Devil’s Resolve” is “As It Is Written” which almost ends up being the weakest on the album, if not for some great guitar melodies and a breathtaking piano segment in the middle.
The prog elements are very well played on “The Devil’s Resolve” and I feel as though the band put forth a fairly interesting take on the genre, especially when taking into account the Progressive Death Metal side. Of course the Metal scene is no stranger to Progressive Metal bands lending from the 70’s glory days, however Barren Earth succeed in flawlessly incorporating that style into their sound, and save a few Dan Swanö related acts and select Opeth I’d say this was some of the finest material in the Progressive Death Metal niche.
The second half of the album crawls along with the dirge of “The Dead Exiles” which is a bonafide highlight. The first half of the track is dark and oppressive with Doom Metal pacing, which slowly builds into an absolutely stomping riff that demands a nodding head at the very least. The flame ignited in “The Dead Exiles” burns right through the superb “Oriental Pyre”. “White Fields” takes us on to the final stretch of the album, and probably stands as the weakest on “The Devil’s Resolve”, although some strong riffage keeps it from totally missing the mark. Closing the show is the haunting “Where All Stories End” which rounds off the album in great form, giving the listener a sense of finality. One of the more melodic numbers, with some of the finer vocal lines served up on the album.
Admittedly “The Devil’s Resolve” did require a few listens for it to fully gel. It wasn’t until I sat down and truly focused on the album and each of its aspects that I fully appreciated what Barren Earth had done. A dynamic, progressive album; “The Devil’s Resolve” should be high priority for any Progressive Metal fan. There is a suitable level of depth here that will keep the listener coming back for more which is one of the many reasons why “The Devil’s Resolve” is a such a special release.
Originalyl written for http://www.metal-observer.com