It doesn’t seem like it’s already been 3 years since they released ‘On Lonely Towers’, but that could be more about the fact that for some reason or other I tend to leave my Barren Earth discography on the USB in my car, so it’s always in rotation. That probably does say a lot about their music being diverse and interesting enough to never bore. And that’s certainly true for the new album too.
The opening buzz of guitars following by the back-masking of the album title is the intro to “The Living Fortress” where the ultra-sweetly and operatically song vocals at first leave you wondering whether you’re listening to the right band, but the background keyboards and death vocals quickly confirm that you are, as does Marko Tarvonen’s work on the drums.
The first track to get a video release for the album is “Ruby”, which has Sami Yli-Sirniö and Janne Perttilä’s guitars combining melodies and aggression in such a way that both the death and clean vocals fit them seamlessly without them needing to alter for either.
Possibly the heaviest and angriest track on the album is “Further Down”, but it is still tempered by the airy sounding keyboards and clean vocals on the chorus before diving back into the heavier distorted guitars and death vocals.
The eerie female vocal and piano work perfectly with Jón Aldará’s very subdued vocals on “Zeal”, but it’s when Olli-Pekka Laine’s bass comes in to give the song more depth, followed by the guitars, that it goes from rock opera to melodic death metal with that well known Finnish keyboard undertone.
“Scatterprey” on the other hand starts immediately with the death vocals that become clean and melodic for the chorus as the music does the same thing.
The truly epic “Solitude Pith” weighs in at just over 10 minutes, but has a multitude of movements as it flows from heavy guitars to prog orientated keyboards by Antti Myllynen before Sami kicks into a lengthy but impressive lead.
The sounds of violins and huge percussive instruments for the opening of “Dysphoria” are joined by the guitars where intricately played riffs morph into far heavier distorted ones, but nevertheless maintaining the required melodies that run through the whole song.
There’s a heavy chuggy guitar rill on “Spire” that melds perfectly with the death growl, but it’s the keyboards that soften them during the chorus that’s even better. Then the bongo sounding drums and bass work their magic under the lead as the song winds down.
The final track, “Withdrawal” reminds me initially of Danzig with its gentle sultry tones and pace, but that soon ends are it doesn’t remain bluesy and Sami’s lead is as magnificent as Jón’s vocals over the harmonising accompaniment of voices. Great way to end the album.
If this wasn’t on your shopping list, it certainly should be.
(9/10 Marco Gaminara)