Vera : From the very outset, with the first MCD ‘Our Twilight’, we were flabbergasted by the beauty of Barren Earth’s music. Initially – with vocalist Mikko of Swallow The Sun in their ranks – they profiled themselves as a kind of congenial band with outfits like Ghost Brigade and Insomnium with melancholic doom/death metal. With the entrance of new singer Jón Aldará on the third album ’On Lonely Towers’, their sound suddenly turned into progressive areas, but once again eclectic. All band members also have other obligations, for instance in Hamferð, Amorphis, Keator and Moonsorrow, but three years after the predecessor we can welcome more than an hour brilliance on ‘A Complex Of Cages’.
We like to fathom the albums of Barren Earth during several intensive listens before writing a review for them. This happens to be complex material, even though main song writer Olli-Pekka Laine states that this album should be more compact, intense and upbeat. One line-up change occurred since ‘On Lonely Towers’. Now Antti Myllynen appears to play the keyboards and he put his signature stamp on the material with equal fabulous keyboard pads, including Hammond. With the reciting of the title ‘The Living Fortress’, this fourth album kicks off, followed by proggy structures and keyboard melodies a bit akin to Opeth. Momentous clean chants resound, with sweet harmony vocals in the back, but soon we have an outburst with growls and magnificent leads. Heavy parts are intermittent with sudden introspective passages starring jaw-breaking clean chants. This dynamics between introspection and dense heavy parts appear to be the foundation of this album and it also graces ‘The Ruby’ with its extremely catchy chorus. ‘Further Down’ turns into quite a rough song in which we demand extra attention for the fervent guitar soloing, the centerpiece full of momentum and the dramatic ending with serene vocals. ‘Zeal’ remains calm for a long time with piano, vocals and howling guitar leads. A heavenly atmosphere with dark spoken whisperings finally leads towards grunts again and heavier parts. A stunner it is! In the beginning ‘Scatterpey’ includes some Amorphis allied melodic fetching guitar skills, but later it develops into heavier, tight parts. The epic stunner is ‘Solitude Pith’ with its ten minutes length. It remains calm for a while and captivating, goes in crescendo and includes an experimental phase with eastern flavoured keyboards. Next it accelerates into a fervent cataract of exquisite guitar skills, followed by a quiescent ending. ‘Dysphoria’ has this balance between rocking and thoughtful fragments as well. ‘Spire’ is hectic in a kind of weird manner, and finally they occlude with the sensitive ‘Withdrawal’. Speechless… ‘A Complex Of Cages’ can demand its place right next to ‘On Lonely Towers’, equally superior.