Review Summary: More a refinement of ideas than a huge leap forward.
When I reviewed Barren Earth’s debut album a few years back, I was impressed by their blend of prog and melodic death metal, but I also felt as though there was still room for improvement. The main issue that it suffered from was that it seemed to rely too heavily on tones, themes and ideas that Amorphis had already touched on sixteen years earlier. It was a forgivable offence because the album still turned out great and it wasn’t like Amorphis were pursuing that sound anymore, but that ‘crutch’ was only going to work for so long. While Barren Earth’s second album, The Devil’s Resolve
, isn’t a huge leap away from Amorphis’ old-school influences, it is still enough of a refinement of those ideas that they now blend perfectly with the band’s overall formula. The result is an album that does everything the debut did, but better and in larger quantities.
Basically, anyone that has heard Curse of the Red River
is going to pretty much know what to expect. The band’s foundation is still firmly built on doomy, melodic death metal with progressive influences, but they’ve finally mastered the formula. The 70s prog blends seamlessly with mid-paced doom riffs; while death growls sit comfortably next to (much improved) harmonized clean singing. In fact, in an album where every aspect of the debut has been enhanced, the vocals had the most room for improvement and they have not disappointed. Mikko Kotamaki (Swallow the Sun
) has really come a long way since Barren Earth’s debut. His death growls have definitely picked up a bit more power since the last album, but his clean singing is what has really jumped in quality. His clean vocals are used much more often on this album and they’re almost always presented in a harmonized mid-range that fits the 70s progressive influences perfectly. There’s even the occasional moment where he uses a lower register that reminds a bit of Funeral
’s current vocalist.
When the press releases started talking about an increased 70s prog influence, it almost seemed as though the band were set to abandon the sound of their debut, but it didn’t happen. Yes, the 70s influences have been given a more prominent presence and the role of the clean singing has definitely grown, but in the end The Devil’s Resolve
is still typical Barren Earth – only there’s more of everything. The heavy parts are a little heavier, the progressive sections a bit proggier, and the melodic sections are more developed and carefully integrated. This refinement has set the stage for The Devil’s Resolve
to truly showcase the band’s personal style without any blatant homage to other artists. The end result is an album full of songs that can only be considered one-hundred percent solid and well-crafted, but still just the slightest bit predictable.