Barren Earth, whose members hail from such heavy-hitters as Moonsorrow, Kreator, and Swallow the Sun, amongst others, can be described in a number of ways: with the annoying and unnecessary “supergroup” tag, or as a prog band, or as a death metal band, or as a any-number-of-other-kinds-of-genres band. But no matter what you call them, there’s no denying that their new release, The Devil’s Resolve, is always interesting.

The album opens up with “Passing of the Crimson Shadows,” immediately taking root on the more progressive side of the musical specturm. But just when you think you’ve wandered into a Porcupine Tree-on-crack-esque realm, you’re met with a guttural death growl so sinister and deep you’d swear it was being cast out from the bowels of a possessed wild hog. The marriage of prog and pure death metal only becomes more evident as the album progresses, and the genres are meticulously and smartly blended. The standout track on the album, “As it is Written,” blends folk, jazz, blues, 70s prog, and death metal, all while uniquely utilizing bagpipes, keyboards, and exceptionally interesting guitar work.

The production quality is pristine and crystal clear, which is no surprise, given the lineup and their resources. Be thankful of that, too, because without it, the vocal harmonies and stop-on-a-dime musicianship couldn’t be appreciated as they should be. Artists as proficient and talented as the ones here don’t need to rely on production quality to “save” an album, but sometimes it’s just flattering, and fitting of the style, to have a polished release.

Overall, the album has an otherworldly feel  — sometimes the place is deep into a foreign galaxy and sometimes it’s hell, frozen over. No matter where you find The Devil’s Resolve taking you — even if it’s up the street to the grocery store — if you’re a fan of melodic death, folk metal, or prog, that place will undoubtedly be a happy one.

(four out of five horns)


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