What happens when you combine the music of OPETH with ICED EARTH and NEVERMORE? You get BARREN EARTH and their new album A Complex of Cages (out now via Century Media Records). Hailing from Helsinki, Finland, these six musicians have found the perfect technique to blend multiple genres including Death Metal, Progressive Rock and traditional Finnish Folk music without it sounding like a jumbled mess, which truly helps set them apart from the rest of the bands in their genre.
A Complex of Cages marks the group’s fourth full length release in their ten year career and is the second album with lead vocalist Jon Aldara. This nine song, sixty-three minute masterpiece really showcases the band’s writing ability with songs ranging from just under five minutes to just over ten. Opener “The Living Fortress” sets the pace for the entire record, with a back and forth combination of death growls and melodic vocals plus song structure that is neither too fast or slow. While the album is by no means a concept album per se, it is very conceptual with each song telling its own little story and not having meaningless lyrics.
The band keeps a reasonably rhythmic flow until “Zeal” kicks in with its slow keyboard intro and soft harmonized vocals lasting for about two minutes and twenty seconds as the song creepily picks up just a bit to become a heavy yet eerily slow banger which further turns into a very dirty old school thrash metal type of song. The band switches gears towards a more folk metal sound with “Scatterprey” which features some amazing double bass work by Marko Tarvonen, and very subtle atmospheric keys by newest member Antti Myllynen.
Clocking in at 10:30 “Solitude Pith” is the album’s longest song and easily the most complex with the band switching between slow melodic keys and drums to full blast death growls. Those in turn give way to random jazz-like interludes and solos by guitarists Janne Perttila and Sami Yii-Smith. BARREN EARTH continue their trend of starting slow and building speed throughout the rest of the disc, choosing to end with “Withdrawal”, the most melodic song on the album with no death growls throughout its entire 5:16 run time.
The band instead chose to focus on instrumentation and clean, melodic vocals the entire time. Gone is the drawn out song intro, with vocals starting at thirty seconds, a combination of slow acoustic guitars and keys setting the mood with bassist Olli-Pekka Laine working with the drums to keep a very steady rhythmic beat throughout the track. A Complex of Cages is easily one of the most diverse yet enjoyable albums to be released this year and serves as a great starting point for anyone unfamiliar with BARREN EARTH.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “The Living Fortress”, “Zeal”, “Solitude Pith”, “Withdrawal”
-BRIAN “TORCH” IDELL