March 25, 2010

Barren Earth - Curse of the Red River

Wow. Here is an album that makes you sit up and take notice. Barren Earth with their first full length release have crafted an album that stands out from the crowd. The metal album crosses genre lines with ease, never settling down in one, rather it effortlessly transcends them. Curse of the Red River is a progressive epic that draws you in and holds you be the head while it transitions through atmospheric, brutal, melodic passages that massage the ear and punch the gut. If they do nothing else in their career, the Barren Earth collective has made a mark on the music scene that I hope will be remembered for years to come.

In my few years of writing, I have had the opportunity to be exposed to so much more music than I ever would have had I not taken a dive into this hobby. I long considered myself a metal fan, but it was not until I started doing this that I was exposed to a much broader spectrum of the genre, being introduced to up and coming bands and classic artists I had not been formally introduced to. Barren Earth falls into the category of up and coming band I never would have heard without this opportunity. Do you have any idea how hard it is to keep up with everything? It's near impossible I tell you!

Barren Earth is a supergroup of sorts, comprised of members of other bands that may of you have probably not heard of. Maybe you have, I don't know, suffice to say they are bands that I am equally unfamiliar in and will now likely have to track them down. The represented bands include Amorphis, Moonsorrow, Swallow the Sun, Kreator, and Waltari. Of those, the only one I have had any experience with is Waltari, who have put out some strong albums.

My Photos  Photo by Mitja Harvilahti  BARREN EARTH

Curse of the Red River follows up their debut EP Our Twilight (released November 2009). I have not heard those first tracks, but it is my understanding this is a strong follow up that further realizes their sound. This, their first full length, is comprised of nine songs that defy classification.

The album runs nearly 55-minutes. It spends much of its time shifting tempo, pace, style, and focus. We shift from metallic groove into a melodic portion while the focus shifts away from vocals as the guitars come up before moving into a something closer to a power charge. It is accessible as it is experimental. It also sounds like it could be a mess, doesn't it? Believe me, it isn't. With all of the really subtle shifts and tonal changes it could have turned the songs into mud or at least cause the band to lose their identity. This never happens, the songs all add to a unique voice that knows where it is going and what it wants and does not subscribe to the standard ways of achieving one's goals.

The first song offers a good example of what to expect. "Curse of the Red River" runs nearly 8-minutes and covers a lot of ground. It has a heavy groove riff to get into, death metal growls, melodic clean signing, face-melting leads, acoustic passages, and a flute solo! Yes, there are tastes of Opeth and Jethro Tull to be found, but they do not overwhelm.

The entire record is one that moves and breathes. The music has life. This is the sort of album that one looks forward to listening to, one that is crafted by musicians at the top of their game and with a definite plan of attack. There is a lot to like, a lot to discover, and the trip is well worth taking.

Highly Recommended.

Track listing:
1. The Curse Of The Red River (7:52)
2. Our Twilight (5:27)
3. Forlorn Waves (4:39)
4. Flicker (6:42)
5. The Leer (4:56)
6. The Ritual Of Dawn (6:34)
7. Ere All Perish (5:54)
8. Cold Earth Chamber (5:34)
9. Deserted Morrows (6:50)

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