Barren Earth - Curse Of The Red River CD


Barren Earth's Curse of the Red River is not an easy piece of art to define and describe to anyone who has never heard the music. There's 70s progressive rock, married with mid-career Amorphis, mixed with modern death-doom, seasoned with a dash or Opeth-esque newer progressive sort of metal, and left to simmer for a good five hours in a wood-fired oven in a cast iron pot. With herbs, coarse sea salt and oxtail. 

In Barren Earth's case, the term "supergroup" gets unwarranted attention, but the sheer incredible professionalism, vision, experience, and, first and foremost, the extreme variance in the personal histories of the musicians probably work to the band's advantage. Verily, the band members mix their own particular musical comfort zones, probably step way outside them, and blend them without prejudice. As a fusion of the different ingredients, they manage to assemble the perfect stew. It's proggy, but not the standard progressive metal: the music and technicality works for the songs. It's tainted with the 70s for the sound's sake, but definitely not for any retro-bullshit: the 70s is an influence and an inspiration, not the beef in the sandwich. It's modernized, but not for commercial optimization: the sound and the extreme clarity work for the music, and don't polish something that should be left in the toilet bowl, as the clinical cut-and-paste production of the sub-genres and bastardizations of metal that mostly get labelled as "modern" so very often does. And it's varied, but not in the awkward way many bands with aspirations to cross over to every genre they can possibly reach with their slimy tentacles happen to assemble the fruits of their labors: the wandering around on the fields of music is natural, never forced or intentionally directed towards any specific spot the composers might have spotted with their audial binoculars.

And the songs are full of things! Oh unholy Lucifer, they are filled to their brims with things! The two guitarists and the clearly audible bass do more than just lay a foundation for the tunes, they are everywhere. The songs are so full of intertwining and choreographed forms and shapes that every instrument seems to be in its natural place all the time, despite the audible evidence that every single one of them is practically shredding and creating parts of the whole throughout the hour of music, and all of them would be considered masterworks in the ranks of a lesser band. Even the jaywalking keyboards or the occasionally almost thrashy guitars buried deep in the foundations of a few songs would be considered displays of skill in other contexts; here they are organic parts of the songs, nothing more, nothing less. This mighty battleship soars, and it soars high!

While the album is a masterpiece, and will probably get tons of infatuated fans, it's equally obvious that it will get more than its share of detractors and hate. The sheer abundance of ingredients ensure that any over-critical listeners will always find something to dislike, either intentionally or subconsciously. Anyone who dislikes today's Finnish doom-death will be repulsed by the vocals and certain rhythm guitar passages. Anyone with dislike of acoustic guitars will experience an allergic attack, and those who fail to enjoy the late-90s Amorphis or 70s progressive rock will find something that turns into a pebble in a shoe. That cannot be helped, unfortunately, and this album will be known as an opinion-splitter far into the distant future.

Munch! Regurgitate! Munch! Ruminate! Repeat!