Thursday, April 26, 2012

Barren Earth: The Devil's Resolve (2012)

It Removes Tough Stains . . . and It's Evil!

As far as normal people are concerned, a famous musician is only allowed to be in one band. If they hear that someone is going to be in a different one, they assume the old band broke up. This was something about metal that, for me at least, took some getting used to. Every band has a revolving door (or two), and nobody is a member of just one band.

Given this environment, it's pretty tough to say what's a supergroup, and what's just a "side project" or a second (or third, or eighth) band, or who's famous enough to make a true supergroup. But by any reasonable standard, Barren Earth qualifies, featuring as it does members or ex-members of Amorphis, Swallow the Sun, and Kreator. The Devil's Resolve is their second full-length album.

I reviewed their first album when it came out. My conclusion at the time was that it sounded just like Elegy-era Amorphis. That's still true, for the most part, but they have branched out somewhat. They've cranked up the 70's prog (check the awesome organ/guitar interplay of "The Rains Begin"), and gone Opethian in places (especially "Oriental Pyre"). They've also flirted with death/doom, as on "The Dead Exiles," which ends up sounding like you might expect--a combination of Amorphis and Swallow the Sun.

The other major area of improvement is in the use of Mikko Kotamäki's vocal abilities. Whether it be through arrangement or the excellent Dan Swanö mix job, his clean vocals are no longer overpowered.

It's not all improvement, though. They occasionally go off the deep end with prog wank, especially the last two interminable minutes of "As It Is Written," with its ridiculously long and stupid keyboard solo. This could be the result of taking the bad 70's prog with the good, or lack of an established band method for eliminating garbage. But still, they've got a good thing here.

The Verdict: Improved in some ways, but not in others, The Devil's Resolve is a step forward and a step back for the supergroup. If you liked their first record, there's no reason not to like this one, so once again I would recommend it to fans of mid-90's Amorphis, and also to fans of prog metal generally. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Buy The Devil's Resolve

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