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A wonderful surprise - 95%

androdion, March 12th, 2012

The Devil’s Resolve marks the return of Finnish supergroup Barren Earth after a very successful first collaboration only two years ago, with the band unleashing yet another great effort that’s bound to conquer the metal world.

People in the metal world tend to dislike supergroup collaborations. This happens for many reasons amongst which we can find the typical backlash against a favourite musician or composer for indulging in something different than his everyday band, or the fact that the quality output of said supergroup isn’t on par with the intervenient members’ main body of work. The fact is that the metal community tends to frown upon this type of releases in order to avoid bigger disappointments, as many of them turn out to be. With that being said supergroups sometimes happen to work very well and Barren Earth seems to fall into this category of success. Their first album, Curse Of The Red River, was warmly received when it came out in 2010, with people lauding them for having the guts to release a record that despite bearing similarities with some of the members’ bands was still very much enjoyable and fresh. This year’s release, named The Devil’s Resolve, is again a statement made into the heart of the metal world, a cry of affirmation that in its thundering roar comes to say that this band is here to stay!

With members having participated in international acts such as Amorphis, Swallow The Sun, Moonsorrow and Kreator to name some of the most famous, this is a group that can easily work its way around quality songwriting as their past works have proven us. I admit that I approached this record without having heard their debut and their strange and uncanny brew of melodic and progressive death metal, mixed with doom and folk elements struck me as something unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. Well almost, but I’ll get back to that in a bit. Their progressive leanings turn to Edge Of Sanity’s interweaving of complex flowing patterns as much as the lengthier and epic passages of Opeth, but at the same time there’s this unavoidable feeling and hovering presence of the 70’s progressive rock scene. Many times the guitars and synths will go into territories travelled before by other bands such as King Crimson or Rush, carrying a very melodic approach and a subtle sense of psychedelia with it. There are even moments where I could swear it’s the almighty himself Ritchie Blackmore on the guitars, as his playing style is also present. The folk component found here is transpired by some acoustic and Celtic sounding melodies that give an added flavour to the music being delivered.

The album’s opener, “Passing Of The Crimson Shadows”, starts as a creepy nod to the beginning of the progressive metal scene, with the complex rhythms of its rock-based forefather being mixed with heavy riffs and howling growls spewing forth words of desolation behind a wall of melody that forms besides it. The wailing of the clean singing carries the music alongside the rhythm section, where the bass and drums put out their best attempts at layering the sorrow tinged guitars. The song drops down into a bleak atmospheric passage where the resonance of the keys along with the howling wind makes for this absolutely beautiful atmosphere, before it all explodes again in bellowing roars and haunting guitar leads. And if this wasn’t already impressive enough then the following song, “The Rains Begin” hits you immediately with its folk tinged keyboard opening and its marvelous guitars that lead you through the green pastures during springtime blooming. This is where the first moments reminiscent of Mr. Blackmore begin to show themselves and for a moment I’m carried away into the year of 1976 and into the marvelous tunes of Rising.

I said earlier that I hadn’t heard anything similar to this band in terms of the mixture applied on their different elements; the obvious references to bands like Opeth, especially in the monstrous riff of “Vintage Warlords”, Edge Of Sanity and its enticing intertwining of melodies shown on “Oriental Pyre”, or Amorphis for the obvious folk leanings of Tales From The Thousand Lakes that appear in “The Rain Begins” and “As It Is Written”. There are also death/doom elements present from time to time and the carving up made on your soul by the start of “The Dead Exiles” is a great example of it, with its slow pace and cavernous growls that give away a sense of impending doom. All of these seemingly disparate elements are as present as the nods to Rainbow or Rush, and the brewing achieved by Barren Earth is indeed unique. However, I can’t seem to ditch the hovering presence of Dan Swano’s Moontower album while listening to The Devil’s Resolve. That album has been many times described with a single line, “If Rush played death metal in the 70’s”, and to me this Finnish project feels very much as if the wheels on that train of thought were finally being put in motion and the practical expansion of the ideas on Dan’s solo album were now finally blooming.

This album features so many different elements that pointing all of them out would take me more time and wording that I can bear, so I’ll leave you with the above thoughts along with a final conclusion that simply reads, Barren Earth are back and they portray their music with a rekindling passion and a quality delivery that is very much needed in the metal world today. In a moment where bigger names seem to be stepping down a notch in terms of quality writing and creative output, this Finnish supergroup is here to act as victor and claim the spoils of others’ defeats. At the same time they’re beginning to carve a name for themselves that is bound to be set in stone if future efforts bring us anything as good and impressively fresh as The Devil’s Resolve. This album is quite amazing to listen to and even more to comprehensively apprehend as the magnificent piece of art that it is. Some may argue that this is different for the sake of being different, or that there are too many nods to already established bands. I simply say to enjoy it for what it is, a fantastic amalgamation of discrepant elements glued together in such a smooth way that you’ll have trouble finding its limiting edges. Fantastically varied in its approach and immensely fun, this is an album that’s going to be discussed a lot during the next few years.

Originally written for and posted at Riff Magazine