Barren Earth (BE), one of the finest Finnish progressive doom/death metal outfits around, recently unveiled their finest album to date, entitled “The Devil’s Resolve”. I had the chance to sit down with keyboard player Kasper Mårtenson. We had a friendly chat about the new album, the writing process within Barren Earth, touring and how frustrating it is to sit on a finished product and you have to six months until its release date…
Thank you for doing this interview. Your latest album with Barren Earth, “The Devil’s Resolve” is a more than worthy successor of your critically acclaimed debut album. Are you happy the way it turned out?
Very much so. With all the various elements, it could’ve ended as a total mish-mash. Thankfully, I think it turned out to be very coherent and cohesive.
“The Curse Of The Red River” was met with lots of critical acclaim. Did you guys feel any pressure while writing and recording its follow-up because of this?
I don’t think so. There’s always a wealth of material lying around since there are 4 writers in the band. We can always afford to discard material deemed unworthy.
What I really like about “The Devil’s Resolve” is the fact that it takes several intense listening sessions before the album really sets in. What are your thoughts on this?
It makes sense because there really is a great amount of musical information on the record. Probably more than on an average album. I’m happy to hear your perseverance paid off!
The new album is also more progressive and melodic compared to its predecessor. Songs like “The Passing Of Crimson Shadows” and “As It Was Written” are great examples. How do you see things?
The two songs in question can be viewed as sequels to a few tracks on the debut. The Passing… is somewhat similar to the title track of the first album. “As It Is Written” has a similar structure to “The Ritual Of Dawn”. Both new songs are different from their older counterparts, of course, but in some ways they take the blueprint of those songs, and transform them to something more imaginative, stretching the limits. Hopefully, in the future we can expand things even more.
From what I’ve heard and read is that “The Devil’s Resolve” was already written and recorded way back in 2011. Was it frustrating for you to have to wait for like six months before the album was finally released? How did you cope with that?
The main frustration was that we knew Swallow The Sun’s new album was due out in February 2012. Therefore, an autumnal release in 2011 would’ve made more sense. But then again, now we had ample time to have a decent promotional campaign, and we also managed to book Finnish dates for BE despite STS’s schedules, so the situation is quite all right.
How does the songwriting process work within Barren Earth?
The songs are composed as individual efforts. Olli-Pekka, Mself, Janne and Marko all contribute tracks. Once the person has the basis of a song completed he presents it to the rest of the band. That’s when the arrangement process starts, and that is a collective thing, where ideas are tried and tested and everybody can contribute. But if there are disagreements, it is usually the song’s composer who decides which idea will win.
All the band members of Barren Earth are active in other high-profile bands like Moonsorrow, Kreator and Swallow The Sun. How does that affect Barren Earth when it comes down to touring, band practise etcetera?
Obviously it sets restrictions. But none of these bands is active all the time, or even half of the time. It’s more a question of doing a month-long tour here and there. So there are always chunks of time left for BE too.
Having members from high-profile bands in our outfit must have its benefits as well. What are the advantages according to you?
It was probably no hindrance in getting a record deal. It also helped in terms of creating a buzz. People in general like name-dropping, because it generates interest. So it gave us visibility from the start. It also created a lot of expectations. I should think that so far we’ve done a pretty good job at delivering the goods.
Finland seems to be a very healthy and inspiring place to create some soul-stirring metal. The last albums by Moonsorrow, Swallow The Sun, The Man-Eating Tree, Ghost Brigade and Insomnium are great releases by any stretch of the word. What are your thoughts on this?
The metal thing is huge in Finland right now, and has been for quite a long time. It is the mainstream music here. I don’t think that’s the way it is in other countries. There are loads of metal bands and festivals, so the climate is very favourable for metal in general. There have been various theories offered as explanation, beginning from the Finnish state of mind and mentality and whatnot. Probably the fact that there is an international demand for Finnish metal has given the scene a boost of confidence. But to be honest I’m not a huge follower of the current scene, so the only album I’ve heard of the ones you mentioned is the one by Moonsorrow, since I helped them with the translations!
Time for the final question. What’s next for Barren Earth and it’s indidivual members in terms of touring, side projects and new releases?
To support the new album, we’re playing a series of shows in Finland in March and April. There are tentative dates for summer festivals too, but nothing is confirmed. Hopefully, after Moonsorrow, Kreator, and Swallow The Sun have completed their autumnal tours there will be time for a BE European tour. The next BE release is most likely not to happen before 2014. But we already have 4 new tracks, albeit in a rather embryonic state.
Thank you for doing this interview. Do you have any final thoughts or remarks?
If you like your metal proggy and folky and with bagpipes, look no further than Barren Earth!