Review Summary: Despite originality issues, Barren Earth delivers a solid progressive/doom album that should have fans of Amorphis’ earlier works excited.
I wonder if Mikko Kotamaki has a thing for the Twilight
movie series. I mean, it seems like a little more than coincidence that his main band, Swallow the Sun
, named their latest album New Moon
and now his side-project’s first release is titled Our Twilight
. Although, I guess it could just as easily be a carefully calculated decision to use keywords from the movie in order to catch the attention of vampire-obsessed teens – pretty sneaky guys. In all seriousness, though, both New Moon
and this deserve to gain some attention from the metal-buying public and free publicity is still publicity. In fact, with the line-up present on this release it’s a surprise that they haven’t been getting a ton of publicity already. In addition to Mikko Kotamaki (Swallow the Sun) on vocals, Barren Earth also features Olli-Pekka Laine and Kasper Martenson of Amorphis
on bass and keyboards, Marko Tarvonen of Moonsorrow
on drums, and Janne Perttila (Rytmihäirio
) & Sami Ylisirnio (Kreator
) on guitars. Of course, with a line-up like that the question is always going to be whether the band is equal to the sum of its parts, and the answer is surprisingly “yes”.
Anyone familiar with the work of Olli-Pekka Laine (The Karelian Isthmus
) and Kasper Martenson (Tales from the 1,000 Lakes
) will recognize the basic foundation of this band’s sound. Barren Earth is rooted in the same doom/death riffs accentuated by progressive/folk melodies that Amorphis made famous over a decade ago, but with a slight twist. The twist is that the riffs are either heavier or proggier than anything from Amorphis’ past which lends the band a sound that isn’t too far removed from a simplified Opeth
. Over these riffs are melodic guitar leads that definitely take a page from Tales from the 1,000 Lakes
, but they’re not as abundant. The other element that owes a bit to that album is the 70s/psychedelic keyboard sounds that accentuate every part of this release. In all honesty, this album wouldn’t have sounded out of place between Tales from the 1,000 Lakes
but that’s not really a bad thing. If there is only one element that sets this album apart from old Amorphis releases (and there really is only one), it’s the vocals of Mikko Kotamaki. His use of death growls and black metal rasps are basically the same as on any Swallow the Sun album, but his clean singing is much more interesting. Most of his clean sections are layered and harmonized in a way that almost reminds me of Porcupine Tree
, and he displays a pretty decent range as well.
I tried a few times to write about this album without the abundance of Amorphis comparisons, but it’s near-impossible. After multiple listens it’s pretty obvious that the similarities in style were completely intentional. The melodic guitar leads and psychedelic keyboards are bound to give one a sense of deja-vu and the progressive doom riffs are going to definitely sound slightly familiar, but it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter because Amorphis isn’t doing this sound anymore and, more importantly, the band pulls it off nicely. At the end of the day, this is a solid progressive/doom release that contains plenty of great leads, heavy riffs and a variety of growls and singing. Basically, despite any problems this album might have in the originality department, it is actually really good and that is all that matters.