Barren Earth

Barren Earth
Tuska Open Air Festival 2014
Helsinki, Finland (6/26/14)

After spending a nice pre-show vacation in Northern Finland, becoming ill for a few days, and finally feeling like I had adjusted to Finnish time—it was time for Tuska.  After doing this festival twice, I felt confident that I’d have no real issues with partying and maintaining just enough energy to keep going for three days.  What makes it more difficult for someone used to having a drastic difference in night and day is that it can be difficult to tell when a good time to go back home and sleep for a few hours is—since it never really gets dark.  Last year, I wasn’t confident in that ability, and I skipped out on what would be the last Barren Earth gig to feature Mikko Kotamäki (Swallow the Sun).  But as luck would have it they were doing a pre-Tuska show this year at On The Rocks—a relatively small venue near the center of Helsinki.  In addition, the show would be the live debut of their new vocalist, Jón Aldará (Hamferð).  Needless to say, I was a pretty excited.

Now for those who are unfamiliar with Barren Earth, it was originally a ‘super-group’, a term I use loosely since that word has been thrown around an awful lot in the past few years.  It was comprised of members of Swallow the Sun, Kreator, Moonsorrow (live at least), as well as two members of Tales/Elegy-era Amorphis.  I point specifically to that era since this was a project originally born from the ex-Amorphis guys.  A lot of time has passed since Tales and Elegy, but their first album really sounds like an album that could have succeeded them.  Their sophomore effort saw them going in some different directions while still maintaining some of the sound from the debut.

I got to the show a little late and there was an acoustic Misfits cover band.  I’m not really a fan of the Misfits, but I know a few songs.  Mostly the ones that Metallica has covered over the years.  It was enjoyable enough and much of the crowd was really into it.  I watched a few songs and then wandered around a bit until people started arriving for Barren Earth.

The band got on the small stage—about knee high, and launched into “Forlorn Waves.”  I have to say that despite how small the venue was, it had some of the best sound I’ve heard out of any club.  Though the crowd was pretty small for the Misfits set, it exploded into a packed house by the time the band launched into “Our Twilight.”  While the band didn’t have much room to move on the stage, they maintained an almost ‘quiet energy’ about them.  I’m sure you know what I’m talking about—you know it when you feel it.  A band is so focused on their craft that you just soak it all in.

And make no mistake, Jón is a perfect fit for the band.  I love what Mikko did for the band, and while I was disappointed when he left, I was glad to see that Jón is most certainly up for the task.  He’s still trying to get comfortable in his shoes with Barren Earth.  Hell, he practically admitted to it halfway through the show by making it a point to let the audience know that all the musicians around him had influenced him as a vocalist and as a metalhead.  Understandable given who he was surrounded by and their participation on some fantastic albums, some which are very well revered by many.  Given it was also his first live show with these guys, I can definitely understand him seeming a little nervous between songs.

Since it was their headlining show, they played a ton of material that I had not had the chance to hear live.  I was finally able to enjoy songs from the second album like “The Rains Begin” and “As It Is Written.”  Songs from their upcoming third album were also played for the first time live and even though nobody knew the songs, it was nice to be the beta test so to speak.

Probably the biggest and most touching moment was when Mikko came out to belt out “Flicker” one last time.  He and Jón traded vocal lines back and forth which was really cool to see.  It was nice to see one vocalist pass on the torch to the next in a very public way.  And with that passing of the torch and a upcoming third album, I’m hopeful that the guys will get some traction and possibly hit the North American shores again soon.

Forlorn Waves
Our Twilight
Dead Exiles
Curse of the Red River
The Rains Begin
Oriental Pyre
A Shapeless Derelict
As It Is Written