Barren Earth

The Curse of the Red River

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This Finnish art-doom band is something of an underground all-star project, featuring members or ex-members of Swallow the Sun, Kreator, Amorphis, Moonsorrow, and Chaosbreed. Some of those bands play rough, guttural thrash/death, and others explore arty, progressive avenues, and Barren Earth lie somewhere in between. They mix clean vocals with death growls in a way Opeth fans will find very familiar, and their riffs and drumbeats crash forward slowly like a boat breaking through ice. Toward the end of this album's opening title track, acoustic guitar and flute break in, and the prog/Opeth feeling grows even stronger. Barren Earth do cultivate their own identity as the album goes on, of course; "Forlorn Waves" mixes a weirdly sea shanty-esque riff with pulsing piano, while the synths on "Ere All Perish" are almost worthy of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and there's an ultra-staccato guitar-and-drums breakdown in the middle of "Cold Earth Chamber" that's both totally unexpected and irresistibly adrenalizing. Most of Barren Earth's core ideas have been done before, by others, but when their generally well-crafted songs come together, it doesn't matter that much.

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