Barren Earth Curse of the Red River

Barren Earth Curse of the Red River
Barren Earth's Our Twilight EP was enough to create a little buzz around the band late last year, but Curse of the Red River is even harder to ignore. A few seconds in and you won't be surprised to hear there are ex-members of Amorphis involved in the project, and the Swallow the Sun connection (vocalist Mikko Kotamäki) isn't much of a stretch either. Prog-y death metal, melodic doom-iness and a little art rock showiness are the results of this six-man collaboration, so there's a fairly strong resonance with Opeth as well, not to mention Dan Swanö's Moontower album and even some Tiamat towards the end. Swanö's influence is particularly strong, since he mixed and mastered Curse of the Red River after it was recorded in Finland, and it bears his clear but meaty signature. Barren Earth have a distinct way of foregrounding their keyboard lines and clean vocals, so even though they tap into a lot of familiar (and old '70s) sounds, and switch gears with nearly every riff, you quickly get a sense of the band's collective identity, as well as their tightness and range. These are all reasons to appreciate the record, but it's the expert interweaving of brutality and restraint that ultimately holds the collage together. (Peaceville)