Finnish death metal/doom/prog act Barren Earth have had some recent upheaval in their line-up, with new vocalist Jón Aldará replacing the departing Mikko Kotamäki, but they haven't really missed a step as their latest CD On Lonely Towers picks up right where they left on their previous release The Devil's Resolve. Aldará brings some new elements to the table, as there are a wealth of soaring clean vocals here, as well as plenty of death metal growls and even some gothic styled passages, adding a new twist to the music of Barren Earth. Musically, some of the previous '70s styled prog flavors of previous releases seem to have taken a back seat, but they still pop up from time to time throughout the album.
After the opening keyboard drenched intro that is "From the Depths of Spring", the band launches into the crushing death metal of "Howl", a hell of a tune with some fierce riffing and great growls from Aldará. "Frozen Processions" mixes clean & growling vocals for a more gothic touch, and "A Shapeless Derelict" throws prog, death metal, and goth at the listener for a very varied and successful song, as the wonderful keyboard textures complete the crushing riffs quite nicely. The band puts forth their most blatant prog statement on "Set Alight", a must hear for any fan of Opeth's early material, as complex progressive metal guitar riffs interject between atmospheric interludes, keyboards, folky acoustic guitar, and a wealth of vocal styles. A similar trajectory is taken on the near 12-minute title track, a moody slice of prog & gothic doom, while the soaring "Chaos The Songs Within" successfully mixes death metal, goth, and a touch of pop for a formula that might be different for Barren Earth, but it works. Guest saxophone (!) appears during a jazzy break on the otherwise pummeling death metal of "Sirens of Oblivions", and the album closes with the lengthy "The Vault", an experimental piece the brings to the table extreme metal, prog, jazz, and even classical. It's a dazzling track that really shows the full palette of Barren Earth's repertoire.
It's obvious that a change in vocalist wasn't going to stop Barren Earth from once again hitting it out of the park here on On Lonely Towers. Janne Perttilä (guitars),
Sami Yli-Sirniö (guitars),
Kasper Mårtenson (keyboards),
Oppu Laine (bass), and
Marko Tarvonen (drums) have to be given a wealth of credit for continuing to create music this diverse and rewarding. If you are seeking out adventurous progressive extreme metal, look no further.
1. From The Depths Of Spring (1:25)
2. Howl (5:40)
3. Frozen Processions (4:52)
4. A Shapeless Derelict (7:33)
5. Set Alight (7:27)
6. On Lonely Towers (11:52)
7. Chaos The Songs Within (7:45)
8. Sirens Of Oblivion (7:02)
9. The Vault (11:07)