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Barren Earth - On Lonely Towers


by Matt Hensch

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Barren Earth has established quite the creative universe within the compelling dimension of doom/death metal bands testing the waters of the experimental. Not exactly breaking news that the Finnish group would attempt such a sound while featuring two ex-members of Amorphis, whose procedure has been anything but conservative. "On Lonely Towers" is a grand feast of doom/death metal ŕ la early Amorphis experienced through a scope of progressive elements that course through the album with perceptiveness and delicacy, making something vibrantly isolated yet eccentrically arid among Barren Earth's counterparts and associates. It has quite the belfry for its own trajectory, running on strange yet compelling mechanisms that set Barren Earth apart from the mundane.

Barren Earth is somewhere between an Opeth that isn't completely sedated and Swallow The Sun-Mikko Kotamäki was the band's vocalist for six years, in fact. "On Lonely Towers" features Jón Aldará taking over vocal duties in the place of Kotamäki, who left after a few records. The vocals are an embodiment of the creative landscape upon which these strongholds are planted, featuring little in the way of conventionalism. Aldará applies a hearty combination of low, guttural growls and howling clean vocals that remind me somewhat of the stuff you'd find in Akercocke, minus the Satan. He does well, at times helping to conceptualize the sheer magnitude of the total musical spire, with a vocal performance matching the incredible custom, reaching far beyond what eyes can see.

"On Lonely Towers" is likewise something extraordinary on the musical spectrum. Barren Earth runs less on a style than it does a gamut, moving dexterously across the terrain of a doom/death metal enterprise and a rich progressive landscape. At times the band throws out progressive jams like the stuff you'd find in a Dream Theater album ("A Shapeless Derelict") while taking hold of blast beats and death metal riffs under different cuts ("Howl") while all maintaining a central mentality. The nuance placed in the guitar solos and the keyboards plays a vital role in the enriching of the atmospheres of desolation and despair, which are semblances "On Lonely Towers" captures incredibly well. The album is quite long, featuring two eleven-minute behemoths, but the group is so interesting in their surrounding that the long, detailed tracks turning the cogs make the record satisfying from the pretty guitar lines of the opener to the crushing, melancholic melodies of "The Vault."

I am going to ruin the fun and complain about the production, however. The sound quality is way too polished and synthetic to justly extract the true possibility of these brave, awe-inspiring songs. But if we're discussing "On Lonely Towers" as a comprehensive unit, then it's important to understand that the zany and the forlorn both exist in the cohesive membranes of this sprawling slab of progressive doom/death metal. It is the kind of album that requires several rotations to truly grasp, though as calorific as it is, "On Lonely Towers" is a treat, and wouldn't have been as massive had it been trimmed.

Barren Earth - On Lonely Towers
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