Barren Earth - Our Twilight EP (Peaceville, 2009)

Barren Earth are a crew that look quite impressive on paper. Active members of Swallow the Sun, Kreator and Moonsorrow join a couple of Amorphis alumni to cook up some fine Finnish cuisine. Melodic death metal is the foundation, but the product is a savory blend of progressive and doomy elements. Our Twilight serves as an introduction to the Barren Earth sound, as well as a teaser for their full-length debut next year.

People on this side of the pond seem to have a low gag threshold for cheese in their metal. I, in particular, can't seem to keep down overly potent prog or raw folksiness. Fortunately, Barren Earth infuses these elements into its music in modest measure. Their formula is roasted to perfection and doesn't offend my delicate American palate. The result is just exotic enough to send me looking for more.

The guitar work on Our Twilight is memorable and fairly dynamic. There are chugging chunks of rhythm guitar accompanied by melodic leads. Some passages evoke latter day Opethian stylings, with a bit of My Dying Bride thrown in for fun. For the most part, this is melodic death metal meat and potatoes, which suits me fine. There are some absolutely insane solos in the mix. It's serious shreddage with a satisfying arc of movement.

The guitars are accompanied by Kasper Mårtenson's stellar keys. The sound shifts between guttural organ and straight piano. Some subtle symphonics can also be heard, although they are generally downplayed. Mr. Mårtenson seems to intuitively know the Limburger limits of keyboards. He flashes impressive skills and augments the music without overpowering or overstepping.

I was already a fan of Mikko Kotamäki's vocal work in Swallow the Sun. His death rasps are excellent here and ground the music in a kind of blue collar workmanship. Mikko's clean vocals are fairly subdued - he doesn't push too far out of his comfort range. At the very least, the clean singing gives the proceedings a melancholic feel.

All told, there is a fairly ridiculous amount of entertainment to be found in these 4 songs. Our Twilight doesn't meander - I get a sense of immediacy throughout. This is definitely worth checking out, and I'm quite looking forward to the full album.

Oh, and don't think I didn't notice that the first 4 notes of the title track sound exactly like the intro to the Death song "Bite the Pain." Alas, it is a passing guitar phrase, and a completely inoffensive coincidence.

82/100

Our Twilight is out on November 17th in the U.S.

You can check out samples of the songs here.
Barren Earth Myspace

Full disclosure: Peaceville provided me with a promo copy.

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