It’s about time someone conducted a scientific study into just exactly what is in the water, or beer, in Scandinavia.
From trailblazers Opeth and Ihsahn to Beardfish and Dimmu Borgir, it seems they had it really good up there in the northern plains. Finnish sextet Barren Earth have been spawning prog-death hues since 2007, and their third album, On Lonely Towers, sees the group – who share members with the likes of Kreator and Moonsorrow – hit heady heights. Comparisons to old school Mikael Åkerfeldt et al are hard to avoid: there’s the lofty riffs plucked from the depths of hell or thereabouts, rumbling vocals and experimental flicks honed when three members of Barren Earth were in a Camel-influenced prog group. But this record is more than just some My Arms, Your Hearse wannabe. Set Alight gives singer Jón Aldárá a platform to showcase an operatic luminosity, and 11-minute finale The Vault ramps up the prog with jaunty 70s keys amid some off-kilter gusto. At times On Lonely Towers is an enchanting listen, and with Travis Smith’s artwork rounding off the package, it’s well worth investigating, metalhead or not.