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Barren Earth - A Complex of Cages

Label: Century Media Records
Format: download
Released: 2018
Reviewed By: Jack Mangan
Rating: 8.5/10

“A Complex of Cages” is the exciting 2018 release from Barren Earth, elite members of the New Wave of Finnish Heavy Metal. (NWOFHM isn’t really a thing. I just made that up.) For all of their Progressive Death Metal technicality and Akerfeldt-esque ambition, Barren Earth excel most when they get into the mid-tempo pocket, chugging brutal muted power chords. Their similarity to classic Opeth is the most pronounced, but there are also pieces of The Royal Hunt, Testament, Metallica, Dark Tranquility, In Flames, etc.


A word about the vocals: Like Akerfeldt with Opeth, Barren Earth vocalist Jón Aldará splits his time somewhat equally between clean voice and growls. He’s an extraordinary talent with a tinge of official training (whether he’s received tutoring or not), but his clean voice sounds a bit like someone doing a mock-operatic voice, almost a parody. This is a little jarring at first, but after a few minutes, you get used to it. I promise; you will. His guttural roar is also good, but this is where I make still more Opeth and Akerfeldt comparisons.
Barren Earth tune down to C, but still maintain a crisp, starched, unmuddied sound. No sludge or Doom here; the deeper core just adds power and voltage to those pocket sections. This is especially prominent in track 2, “Ruby,” which may be my favorite on the album. It’s a photo finish between that one and the wonderful transitionally acoustic and electric, “Solitude Pith.“ These songs will continue to be in rotation in my ear buds and car speakers, long after this review is done.
So, I’ll only use that ‘O’ name once more; I recommend this album, and highly recommend it for fans of pre-Prog Opeth, who yearn to hear more new music in that vein. My strongest criticism of Barren Earth’s sound on “A Complex of Cages” would be that they sound a little bit too much like. . . Mikael Akerfeldt’s band (not Storm Corrosion). . . but they’re not a rip-off - - not by any means - - and they do have plenty of distinct qualities of their own. This is a good one. Don’t miss it.

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