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Barren Earth - "On Lonely Towers" (CD)

Barren Earth - "On Lonely Towers" CD cover image

"On Lonely Towers" track listing:

1. From The Depths Of Spring (1:25)
2. Howl (5:40)
3. Frozen Processions (4:52)
4. A Shapeless Derelict (7:33)
5. Set Alight (7:27)
6. On Lonely Towers (11:52)
7. Chaos The Songs Within (7:45)
8. Sirens Of Oblivion (7:02)
9. The Vault (11:07)

Reviewed by on March 5, 2015

"This is the sound of Barren Earth evolving, with the album easily the most varied and original of all the band's discography."

Barren Earth finds itself in an interesting – perhaps even precarious – position as an established band that should have a trademark sound as it moves into this third release, but also having to regain its footing with a new vocalist and label.

The debut “Our Twilight” EP gave this collection of deep-rooted Finnish musicians a very strong first impression with an intriguing death/doom sound that mixed in a progressive aesthetic, and things really went to the next level with the still-stellar “Curse Of The Red River” full-length. Sophomore outing “The Devil's Resolve” was a solid offering, but didn't do much to shake things up. The same cannot be said of this third full-length disc, which is about to change your perception of just what constitutes Barren Earth.

Olli-Pekka Laine, who originally put the band together, has gone on the record saying “If there ever was a certain pattern in a basic Barren Earth song, this time we consciously tried to think things differently,” and that might be among the first times a press release from a band about its new album actually ended up being reality. Kicking off with a piano and string intro, the real meat of the music isn't revealed until second track, “Howl,” which is much different than long-time fans are expecting. The music isn't nearly as dark or brooding, and it takes nearly half the track for the doom to hit.

Barren Earth is shaking the sound up not just vocally but also geographically with new Faroese vocalist Jón Aldará. The clean singing is emphasized more strongly this time around and is far more grandiose and operatic than what was heard before. In what may be disappointing for some but a relief for others, a lot of the '70s prog rock vibe is stripped out, not really showing up at all until fifth song “Set Alight.” There's still more than enough variation and melody to make up for it for those who dug that sound, however, and “Sirens Of Oblivion” throws the progressive crowd a bone by mixing in saxophone.

Third track “Frozen Processions” showcases a lot of the overall changes, offering a symphonic/gothic metal sound mixed with a very melodic take on death metal. While the intro and outro are a tad on the long side, the title track “On Lonely Towers” is simply a thing of beauty, marrying atmosphere with musical prowess and balancing all the harsh and soft elements. That song again provides that sense of the unknown with mysterious and unpredictable sounds that evolved over time like on “Curse Of The Red River.”

Although fans may find themselves in unfamiliar territory at first, “On Lonely Towers” stands tall above the competition and won't disappoint, especially over multiple listens. This is the sound of Barren Earth evolving, with the album easily the most varied and original of all the band's discography. While it's unlikely Barren Earth is ever going to recapture that near-perfect dangerous magic from the debut full-length (especially now with the lineup changes), this is a damn good offering, and it seems like the band has moved on from its roots for good to explore totally new musical horizons.

Highs: This is the most varied and melodic Barren Earth yet, with loads of new sounds to work through.

Lows: Some of the songs are perhaps longer than they need to be, and the drastic vocal changes will take some getting used to.

Bottom line: Get ready to redefine your idea of Barren Earth, as the band shifts gears with a new vocalist and label.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)