Release Date: March 12/13, 2012
With the release of its 2010 full length debut Curse of The Red River, Barren Earth firmly planted a flag as a premier force for a new age of metal fans. The Finnish sextet has taken extreme metal elements of death and doom and blended them with the precision and experimental power of 70s progressive rock, and then also added a fair touch of folk to the mix. The band’s second full length opus, The Devil’s Resolve sets about further cementing the group’s status in the metal community.
Barren Earth has been hailed as something of a “supergroup”, a title they no doubt abhor. But it’s hard to argue the point. Comprised of bassist Olli-Pekka Laine (Mannhai, ex-Amorphis), vocalist Mikko Kotamäki (Swallow The Sun, Alghazanth), keyboardist Kasper Mårtenson (ex-Amorphis, Mannhai), drummer Marko Tarvonen (Moonsorrow, Chaosbreed) and guitarists Sami Yli-Sirniö (Kreator, Waltari) and Janne Perttilä (Rytmihäiriö, Circus of Flesh). The sound of all the members collective bands have melded into what has become a unique new signature for Barren Earth. At the heart of the band’s unique style, and perhaps what sets them apart is the intangible and glorious atmosphere added by Kasper’s work at the keys.
With The Devil’s Resolve, Barren Earth continue on the journey set forth with its 2009 EP Our Twilight. While the group continues to progress it has not strayed too far from the foundation it created three years ago. Production was once again handled by Jukka Varmo and Barren Earth at Helsinki’s Sonic Pump Studios. They band tapped Dan Swanö (Opeth, Katatonia) to handle the mix. American artist Paul Romano (Mastodon) created the album’s cover art and Finntroll’s Mathias Lillmåns stops by for some added guest vocals.
The Devil’s Resolve kicks off with the proggy build up of “Passing of The Crimson Shadows”, which sways between bucolic reverie, to moments that recall classic Dio era Rainbow, to a mix of beautiful clean vocals and harsh growls. This is a glorious beginning to what promises to be a brilliant album.
Next up “The Rains Begin” and immediately we are treated to an uplifting swirl of folk inspired melody treading through a field of Mårtenson’s keyboards. More trade-off between clean and harsh vocals. This track truly encapsulates the magic of the band’s genre combining signature. There is a nice classic Hammond breakdown by Mårtenson here that’s delightfully opulent.
“Vintage Warlords” brings us a wallop of heavy melodic death with doomy overtones. And still Mårtenson makes his mark with understated but effective Moog moments. Halfway through there is a harmonious respite from the death that lasts just long enough to whet our appetite for more epic reaping. While many Opeth fans felt their band went too far off into the land of progression with 2011’s Heritage, Barren Earth have seemingly found that perfect middle ground between melodeath and prog, and the band shows that off on this track and throughout The Devil’s Resolve.
One of the album’s absolute highlights is the fourth and longest track, “As It Is Written”. Former Korpiklaani member Jaakko “Hittavainen” Lemmetty even makes an appearance on bagpipes here, setting the tone from the opening bars. Lavish vocal harmonization with a melody designed to embed into the listeners cranium. Once again Mårtenson truly shines here with a breakdown of ethereal beauty overlaid by a classic Rush style jam.
“The Dead Exiles” has a grand spectacle feel to it in its dark and desolate way. Muddy, death soaked, and yet oddly lush.
We get an Asian influenced prog feel on the aptly titled “Oriental Pyre”. The song has weight and edginess which tethers the more soaring vocals moments, never letting them stray too far.
More deathly doom on “White Field”, while the album’s closer, “Where All Stories End” intros with a twisted storybook bent. This is a decidedly disturbing yet engaging way to close it all out. Another standout track among an album of standouts.
While all six members of Barren Earth shine on this album, it is undeniably the sonic alchemy conjured by Kasper Mårtenson which elevates each and every track.
For those who were astonished and enraptured with Barren Earth‘s Curse of The Red River, The Devil’s Resolve will give listeners that much more to be excited about. More prog, more edge and intensity, more ebullience, but the same great songwriting and spirited performances. I could offer up effusive praise to the point of hyperbole, but one must actually listen to appreciate the genius of this record. Certainly one of the year’s best, and a sign of a long and productive future for the band.
For those who make the investment, as all should, the special edition comes with two bonus tracks, “Martyrs of Devotion” and “World in Haze”.