Barren Earth - Curse Of The Red River (2010)



From the frozen hotbed of all things metal, Finland, comes a band whose name is misleading. There is nothing barren about the land the band hails from, nor the members. Featuring former and current members of Moonsorrow, Amorphis, Kreator, as well as heralded Swallow The Sun vocalist Mikko Kotamäki, this offering is more than just a "who's who" in the metal world.

"The Curse Of The Red River," the album title and opening track, is as bountiful a harvest as you could ever hope to witness. From a prog rock guitar intro, directly into Kotamäki's signature death metal growls, the song mixes so many styles into one strong outcome. The chorus finds the deep screams combined with clean, melodic singing. A strong guitar solo, which is not merely for show, paves the way for Kotamäki to scream his way home. And what better way to end an epic masterpiece than a flute solo that would make Ron Burgundy proud.

The formula is present throughout the album, with crushing guitars leading the way into melodies almost reminiscent of classic rock of the 70's. Never is this more evident than in "Our Twilight," where synths and keyboards bring out the nostalgia, before tearing it down in a crash of double kicks and screams of emotion. The range contained here is simply mind boggling. A piano laden intro takes you head first into "Forlorn Waves". The precise guitar work, and flawless execution of the rhythm section are a constant, but combined with a strong piano presence, they take this track to another level, with a main riff that will stick in your head for days.

"Flicker," an Opeth-style composition, jumps back and forth across the line that separates beauty from sorrow, hope from devastation. A guitar sound akin to the spanish flamenco style jumps in to accompany the smoothest of bass lines. "The Leer," on the other hand, has no such identity crisis. It drives forward at a faster tempo, using Kotamäki's gutteral screams and a syncopated drum beat. Wailing guitar solos slam the exclamation point on this all out assault.

Taking a short step to the folk side of metal, "The Ritual Of Dawn" provides a great contrast between the harsh vocals and the melodic, marching music. The classic rock vocal stylings chime in for another appearance, only to be joined by growls and the complete synth experience. "Ere All Perish," arguably the darkest track on the album, and "Cold Earth Music" show the off the bands versatility again, with seemless transitions from heavy to delicate.

"Deserted Morrows" brings the sledgehammer down for the final time, chugging through a 6 minute denouement that reminds you what you came for. The gloom and doom return in all forms; vocally, lyrically and musically. Oddly enough, the track and the album seem to end on an emotional high, with a triumphant musical outro that empowers that most fragile of listener.

With such a strong pedigree, Barren Earth are deserving of any and all praise they accumulate. But beyond that, they have earned their status as rising stars in the death/doom world. Despite the seemingly hopeless, ominous name, there are only lush landscapes awaiting this band in years to come.

8/10

Official Site - http://www.barrenearth.com/
Myspace - http://www.myspace.com/officialbarrenearth