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Barren Earth - “The Devil’s Resolve”
44th place album of the year 2012
Barren Earth are a ‘supergroup’ of sorts. Created out of current and former members of two of my favourite bands in the melodeath scene, Amorphis and Swallow the Sun, and a few other bands I will have to check out, Moonsorrow, Rytmihäiriö and Kreator. The band focuses on the progressive side of melodeath, as opposed to the doom and thrash of the bands it is formed from. “The Devil’s Resolve” is the band’s second full-length, continuing their style of merging melodic death metal and 70’s progressive rock, along with other genres such as folk.
Like any band who uses both clean and growled vocals, many will make comparisons to Swedish cousins Opeth, and there are plenty to be found on this album. Barren Earth utilize the same acoustic sections Opeth have become known for, specifically in opener “Passing of the Crimson Shadows” and “Vintage Warlords”. There are also hints of the heavily slide-based riffage of Opeth, specifically during “Oriental Pyre”, where we hear the dual acoustic and distorted guitars of early Opeth works.
“Oriental Pyre” also draws elements from Mikko Kotamäki’s other band Swallow the Sun, with the spoken-word vocals STS use to create their doomy atmosphere. “The Dead Exiles” also contains a very doom laden first few minutes, which could have fit perfectly on any Swallow the Sun album.
Despite being a death metal band, Barren Earth utilize clean vocal melodies excellently, in a similar manner to Amorphis. “Passing of the Crimson Shadows”, “The Rains Begin” and “Where All Stories End” all have very strong chorus hooks.
The folk and progressive elements are alive in “The Rains Begin” and “As It Is Written”, my two favourite songs on the album. “As It Is Written” begins with a hint of bagpipes, but unfortunately they do not play a huge role in the rest of the song, as I have not heard many good uses of bagpipes in metal outside of laughable folk metal bands. The growled vocals over a Hammond organ in “The Rains Begin” is quite surreal, but is actually one of the highlights of the album, merging a very retro and 70’s sounding instrument with a modern style of music. Both of these songs have folk-influenced riffs, which carry on to very good choruses, and “As It Is Written” has my personal favourite part of the album, the extended piano bridge.
The only real downfall of this album is the growling. I have never been a fan of growling, but over the years I have come to tolerate and even enjoy it, but Mikko Kotamäki’s throaty rumble hear renders lyrics indistinguishable, and often overpowers the very well written guitar parts. Of course, there are always exceptions, and I think that the chorus of “The Rains Begin” contains the best use of the death growls, but again they would be better if the lyrics were more distinguished and he didn’t sound like he had a cold during recording.
Overall a solid effort, although the quality does begin to wane in the second half. If the band can continue to come up with great riffs as the ones in “The Rains Begin” and “As It Is Written” and great choruses as in “Passing of the Crimson Shadows” and “Where All Stories End”, and clean up the growled vocals, then we have a very unique band with a hopeful future.
Originally posted at my facebook page/blog http://www.facebook.com/neoprogisbestprog