Review Summary: This progressive death/doom supergroup are slowly finding their own sound, but early Amorphis is still an obvious influence.
Barren Earth’s Our Twilight
EP was a good collection of proggy doom/death tunes, but it wasn’t anything special. In the end it was too bogged down by overly simplistic nods to Thousand Lakes
-era Amorphis, average clean vocals, and a lack of original ideas to be anything more than run-of-the-mill. In fact, for most people the main appeal of the band was in the fact that it contained ex-members of Amorphis
as well as current members of Swallow the Sun
. Time has shown, though, that supergroups can’t survive forever on star-power alone, and thankfully the band realized this. While the EP was simply Amorphis-worship with a slight twist, Curse of the Red River
is the sound of a band more effectively trying to find their own niche while still using their influences as a starting point.
The band’s main influence is definitely still Amorphis – from the keyboard tones to the cyclical guitar melodies, the similarities are obvious. It’s a forgivable offence, though, because two of this band’s members were previously in Amorphis, and they integrate that influence more than they simply emulate it (unlike the EP). This was mainly accomplished by fleshing out the folky lead guitar melodies and using them less regularly throughout each track. By doing this, they were able to give these lead melodies a bit more individual personality as well as remove a lot of the feelings of redundancy that cropped up on the EP.
In order to compliment these fuller melodies, the band incorporated another influence to help improve the underlying riffs. This influence is, of course, the poster children for progressive death metal, Opeth
. This new influence has had the direct result of making the songs sound more modern and expansive as well as a bit more energetic. Fortunately, though, the band knew to avoid the extended song lengths and meandering structures associated with Opeth and instead chose to stick to creating epic tracks that are also compact and instant.
While it seems that the band put a lot of effort expanding their musical palette, they were apparently content with the vocals as they already were. Anyone that has heard the band’s first EP (or Swallow the Sun for that matter) should already know what to expect –deep guttural growls accentuated by black metal rasps and decent clean singing for occasional variation. The problem with the vocals is that the clean singing is weak in places and has a tendency to be kind of nasally (for lack of a better term). Of course, the multifaceted music and the little surprises such as flute sections, random high-speed death parts, and things of that nature tend to overshadow any vocal deficiencies.
Despite the band’s tendency to wear their influences on their sleeve, Curse of the Red River
is still a solid progressive doom/death album -- and the throwback to Amorphis’ humble beginnings is a nice addition (considering Amorphis don’t do it anymore). The melodies are catchy, the keyboards are subtle and tastefully done, and the vocals are powerful (minus some cursory issues with the clean singing). As a debut, this album is great and it definitely proves that the band has what it takes if they continue to move towards their own niche.