Finnish progressive death metallers Barren Earth have returned with their fourth studio album, A Complex Of Cages. The combine influences from different genres to create some unique sounds, with melodic, Nordic, doom and death metal genres prevalent in their work. In the music industry many bands are now experimenting and crossing the boarders between music genres, but Barren Earth appear to straddle these boundaries with relative ease.
Barren Earth combine standard and non-standard time signatures, melodic, Nordic, death and doom metal elements into The Living Fortress, the first track on the new album that establishes their experimental tendencies. Opening with a synth melody and haunting whispers, The Living Fortress delves into heavy instrumentation with distorted guitars and bass rhythms drawing on doom metal influences. The contrast of changing time signatures and acoustic guitars, along with smooth melodic vocals by Jón Aldará, could easily create an incohesive track. However, this is not the case, the alternating light and heavy sections do not feel disjointed. Merging so many elements of varying genres into one track illustrates Barren Earth’s song writing skills. Death metal influences are prevalent in Further Down with heavy, distorted guitars and vocals from the start. The melodic lead guitar in the verse, piano motifs and clean vocals in the chorus add an extra dimension, and the overall heavier tone in this track creates an impressive contrast to The Living Fortress.
The fourth track on the album immerses the listener into a Gothic atmosphere. Zeal opens with a haunting piano melody and gothic style vocals, while background choir motifs enhance the atmospheric sound further. A distinctive bass melody and synth effects take this track to a whole new level. Heavily influenced by doom metal, the slower tempo and heavy instrumentation takes the veers the album off in a different direction. Barren Earth list Paradise Lost, Opeth and Pink Floyd as bands that have significantly influenced their work, and Solitude Pith, the sixth track on their new album, is the longest, reaching over ten minutes in length and clearly exhibiting some Pink Floyd influences. Featuring synth melodies, a slow tempo, piano melody and scat backing vocals, Solitude Pith appears to resonate Pink Floyd’s experimental style combined with death and doom metal features as the track unfolds. As intriguing as this experimental track is, it is perhaps a step too far. The instrumentation is well written and executed however, it does not appear to portray Barren Earth’s sound distinctly; their own sound becomes lost in the mixture.
Barren Earth are a band full of ambition. Their in-depth knowledge of a range of genres has enabled the band to experiment at merging such varying ideas together. A Complex Of Cages is a captivating album illustrating the talent of the band members and their understanding of music. Some tracks on the album are more successful than others as the extent of the experimentation on occasion causes Barren Earth to become lost in their influences. That being said, they are without a doubt a talented band.
For fans of: Amorphis, Kreator, Insomnium
Words by Holly Royle
‘A Complex Of Cages’ by Barren Earth is out now on Century Media Records.