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A complex of soothing atmospheres - 85%

kluseba, June 12th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Century Media Records (Digipak)

Barren Earth is classified as progressive melodic death metal band but one has to point out that the group's fourth full length effort A Complex of Cages convinces with smooth flow, enchanting melodies and quite charismatic clean vocals inspired by a minimal Middle East timbre that blends in perfectly. It's no surprise that this album recalls a band like Amorphis when it released Elegy more than two decades earlier since Amorphis' former and now again current bassist Olli-Pekka Laine founded this band. Those who like intellectual progressive folk metal bands like Arkan should also give this release a chance.

There are several elements that make this album stand out. First of all, it has a very smooth flow and the generous running time of more than an hour but only nine songs passes by very quickly. Secondly, the band has a talent to come around with soothing melodies which are sometimes carried by the guitars, at times also by the keyboards and in some cases by both instruments. The musicianship never tries to show off like so many other progressive bands do and always serves the atmospheric impact of every single song. The clean vocals work wonderfully as they are very distinctive, enchanting and expressive, recalling at times Middle Eastern chants. The production is quite airy and adds to the impression that the album invites the listener onto a magical journey.

If I had to pick a song that immediately stood out, I would have to mention the wonderful ''Further Down''. Powerful growls meet dramatic clean vocals. Beuatiful keyboard and piano sounds are contrasted by a steady rhythm section and grounded riifs. Timid acoustic guitar and flamenco passages are cleverly interwoven. The song unfolds emotive atmospheres through six and a half wonderfully imaginative minutes. The track reminds me of a mixture between Opeth and Orphaned Land. You should check this song out and if you like it, you should give the entire record a spin.

There are only a few minor elements to criticize on this beautiful album. The death metal vocals are solid but aren't quite distinctive enough if compared to the charismatic clean vocals. The extreme metal riffs could be a little bit more intense from time to time to contrast the more epic soundscapes. The production could be a little bit more powerful as well.

In the end, you should expect a progressive metal album with melodic folk elements instead of a challenging extreme metal output. Aside a few isolated riffs and the harsh vocals, this album doesn't have anything to do with death or doom metal. That's why some people might dislike this album's direction but in my personal case, A Complex of Cages is exactly my cup of tea. It reminds me of the time when Amorphis became more epic, experimental and melodic with albums like Tuonela and Am Universum without exactly copying this particular style. This atmospheric album is a grower and deserves more attention than it has received so far as it's one of the best records of the year.