Since my discovery in 2010 of the Finnish super-group Barren Earth, I’ve been amazed at what they’ve been able to accomplish in such a short time. The band has released two albums, “Curse of the Red River” and 2012’s “The Devil’s Resolve,” and both of them were so spectacular they made my “Top Ten Albums of the Year” lists. Now Barren Earth is releasing “On Lonely Towers,” with one major change to their lineup: Faroese native Jón Aldará has taken over the vocal duties from Mikko Kotamäki. Fear not, Barren Earth fans. I’m here to tell you “On Lonely Towers” and Aldará will blow your mind.
Your journey begins with a short but beautiful instrumental, ‘From the Depths of Spring.’ The next track, ‘Howl,’ truly demonstrates the emotion Aldará brings to Barren Earth, from deep growls that will scare the socks off you to soaring and powerful operatic heights. Musically, if you grabbed a blender and threw in doom, death, progressive, atmospheric and one surprise genre I’ll touch on soon, you get “On Lonely Towers.” For the majority of this album, Janne Pertillä (guitar), Sami Yli- Sirniö (guitar), Marko Tarvonen (drums), Olli-Pekka Laine (bass) and Kasper Märtenson (keyboards) do a masterful job at mixing two or more of these genres into each song on this album. I was privileged to experience songs such as ‘Frozen Processions’ and ‘Chaos the Songs Within,’ which range from the hauntingly beautiful atmospheric pieces to the monstrous melodic riffs. I especially loved when the band stretched their musical limits. The keyboard/death metal guitar riff trade off at the mid-point on ‘Set Alight’ is one to behold. But the one track you have to hear to believe is ‘Sirens of Oblivion.’ It starts out with a clear bass line, deep death growls and a killer riff, but what is this in the middle of the track? A jazz saxophone on a metal album? Don’t worry Daddy-o, it’s all groovy like everything else in this track. The song ends with a blistering solo with crashing cymbals in the background.
Sadly, there is one disappointing track for me, and it’s the title track. There is some great guitar work, but for my taste it was to long and felt flat, and I found myself fighting off the sandman. The last track, ‘The Vault,’ is just straight up prog greatness, with Märtenson letting loose on the keys. It reminded me a bit of when I first heard the band Yes playing ‘Roundabout.’
Overall, “On Lonely Towers” is an impressive performance, thanks to the incredible musicianship and Jón Aldará‘s powerful pipes. I know it’s early in the year, but Barren Earth has once again earned a spot in my top ten list.