Celebrating ten years of what has been dubbed progressive death metal and has earned them a cult following, Finland's six-piece outfit Barren Earth have released their fourth full length album, A Complex Of Cages. Each band member - Jón Aldará (vocals), Janne Perttilä (guitar), Sami Yli-Sirniö (guitar), Olli-Pekka Laine (bass), Antti Myllynen (keyboards), and Marko Tarvonen (drums) - possesses their own musical background, but the one unifying aspect among them since day one has been the appreciation of '70s progressive rock bands, an appreciation they readily admit trickles down into their songwriting. And while the "progressive" tag could be seen as locking Barren Earth into a box, they wear it proudly in the context of heavy metal even though their sound is so much more dynamic and multi-dimensional than the technical performances so often attributed to progressive metal. Look no further than A Complex Of Cages for proof.
A Complex Of Cages is the very first Barren Earth-album featuring the talented young keyboard wizard Antti Myllynen. He succeeds former keyboardist Kasper Mårtenson, and adds unique flavor to the mix with his innovative soundscapes and adventurous playing.
The second album with Jón Aldará in the Barren Earth ranks, A Complex of Cages greatly increased his ability to write along with his bandmates as most of his Barren Earth debut, On Lonely Towers, was written before he joined the ranks. Jón wrote nearly all of the lyrics and was responsible for most of the vocal melodies; it was a case of all six band members offering input during every phase of constructing the songs.
Jón: "Although my influence on the music itself was mostly restricted to making vocal arrangements for - and providing criticism of - music written by the others, I did work out the thematic arc of the lyrics, which also ended up influencing the final artwork quite a lot."
Although his bandmates single out Olli-Pekka Laine as Barren Earth's most productive composer, A Complex Of Cages was a unified group effort with no member being less important than the other in creating the soundscape and compositions on the album. Songwriting for A Complex Of Cages was a labour of love in that the band didn't rush to get finished, instead spending more time in their rehearsal room comppared to previous albums, thus allowing the songs to breathe and develop organically. The guitars were tuned down another step (to C), giving the songs a more guttural, aggressive and brutal sound. It was anything but "business as usual", having ventured into new and unconventional places even by Barren Earth standards.
Janne: "None of our albums are business as usual. We sometimes do initially come in with special goals in mind, and those goals are often the first ones to fly out of the proverbial window."
Sami: "Compared to On Lonely Towers, I would characterize our new album as more upbeat, intense and compact. Anyone who listens to it would agree. A lot of work was put into it over a long period of time."
As a first, Barren Earth enlisted a producer to help guide the songs into one coherent Complex. This was masterfully achieved by the notorious V. Santura, who also recorded, mixed and mastered the album at his Woodshed Studio.
Barren Earth's line-up boasts a diverse mix of musical backgrounds, its members hailing from acts including Amorphis, Kreator, Mannhai, Rytmihäiriö, Hamferð and Moonsorrow, yet the band doesn't sound like a knock-off of any one of them. They maintain that Barren Earth started with a clean slate right from their debut (Our Twilight) with no expectations of how the music should sound. Simply put, there would never have been a Barren Earth to begin with if the members had been able to satisfy their musical appetites in their respective bands. As such, A Complex Of Cages features brand new material written specifically with Barren Earth in mind. It is not - nor has any Barren Earth album ever been - a collection of leftovers dusted off for the sake of releasing them.
Sami: "This is very a very healthy thing for any musician to do as often as possible, as it provides a feeling of spiritual release. The riffs I presented for Barren Earth have nothing to do with Kreator riffs as they emerge from a completely different place with different objectives."
Janne: "The very reason the band exists is purely musical, that’s the way it’s always been. It was born out of a need, a passion. For each of us the band continues to be a product of love for music and the continuing search for that said release that comes from creating something new and beautiful."