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Barren Earth - "Curse Of The Red River" (CD)

Barren Earth - "Curse Of The Red River" CD cover image

"Curse Of The Red River" track listing:

1. The Curse Of The Red River (7:52)
2. Our Twilight (5:27)
3. Forlorn Waves (4:39)
4. Flicker (6:42)
5. The Leer (4:56)
6. The Ritual Of Dawn (6:34)
7. Ere All Perish (5:54)
8. Cold Earth Chamber (5:34)
9. Deserted Morrows (6:50)

Reviewed by on March 16, 2010

"With only their first full-length album, Barren Earth has already taken their rightful place among the best of the melodic death metal bands."

After the release of their impressive “Our Twilight” EP (reviewed here), recently formed Finnish act Barren Earth has returned with their new full-length monstrosity “Curse of the Red River.” While the disc is only the band’s first full album, each member hails from well respected and long running metal groups. When super groups come together, the hype can tend to outweigh the actual product, and the level of intensity created in the early demos doesn’t always translate well into a complete album. Thankfully, Barren Earth doesn’t suffer from that affliction at all, as “Curse of the Red River” builds on the promise shown in their debut EP and offers a nearly perfect progressive metal experience.

Much like “Our Twilight,” the album’s biggest strength is its total disregard for standard metal song structures. The guitars don’t always lead, the vocals aren’t always the focal point, and the songs have no problem switching from depressing doom to upbeat melody without lag or uneven transitions. The first minute of the opening track is a wild ride that lets the audience know to expect the unexpected. First its doom, then its prog rock, then its melodic but aggressive death metal, and then it’s something in between all of those styles.

What’s so impressive about the song, and the entire disc, is that the many changes never make the album seem schizophrenic or lacking in a unifying theme. Whether it’s heavy, mellow, slow, or fast, the songs consistently deliver the goods and retain a feeling of epic metal. The wide range of sounds makes the album well rounded and provides a fuller musical experience beyond the bounds of standard death metal. While songs like “Flicker” come off as folksy with a bit of a depressing feel, there are also tracks like “The Leer,” which have a flamboyant energy that almost brings to mind power metal.

The main problem with “Our Twilight” was that it sounded just a little too much like Swallow the Sun for its own good, mainly due to the presence of Swallow the Sun vocalist Mikko Kotamäki. The problem has been handily dismissed as the other members of the band provide backing vocals at various points, creating a good deal of variation in the screaming and clean singing. The final track, “Deserted Morrows,” has the most compelling departure in the clean vocal department, working with the acoustic guitars to create a gothic atmosphere reminiscent of Tiamat.

“Curse of the Red River” does include the title track from the earlier EP during its run time, but at a full nine songs ranging from five to eight minutes, it doesn’t feel like the audience is getting short changed. The song also fits seamlessly into the track listing, as it was recorded at the same time as the new album.

With only their first full-length album, Barren Earth has already taken their rightful place among the best of the melodic death metal bands. The experimentation, progressive musical attitude, and powerful clean vocals make “Curse of the Red River” an early contender for album of the year.

Highs: Switches smoothly between depressing doom, prog rock, and more upbeat melodic death metal.

Lows: Includes one song from their earlier EP, but it doesn't really detract from the album.

Bottom line: Barren Earth offers a nearly perfect progressive and melodic death metal experience with their debut full-length album.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

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)