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INTERVIEW: Janne Perttilä & Jón Aldará – Barren Earth

Combining progressive rock with death metal is nothing new. As metal’s most ferocious genre continues to expand and look to incorporate new elements to remain fresh, bands who refine their sound and hone their strengths are the ones that should be cherished in the metal community. Finland’s BARREN EARTH have been honing their blend of progressive death metal for ten years now and throughout their tour with countrymen INSOMNIUM. We caught up with guitarist Janne Perttilä and Jón Aldará before a show in Manchester (read our review here) to talk touring, the band’s fusion of progressive rock and death metal alongside unveiling new details surrounding their next studio record.

You’re quite a few dates into the tour with INSOMNIUM, how has it been for BARREN EARTH?

Janne: It’s been great! We’ve been waiting for this for quite a while since for some reason this is our first European tour so somehow we had missed earlier opportunities. So we’re pretty excited and it’s a good package and it is a very good thing for the band right now. It’s a bunch of people we already know, a bunch of friends, criss-crossing across Europe in a bus, what could be merrier?

You’ve mentioned about the tour package, it really is good for you guys touring with INSOMNIUM, have you seen the rewards of that?

Jón: Absolutely! Getting to walk into the crowd and hopefully there are people who are into us but this time even more we’re getting people saying “hey I didn’t know you guys existed, I just bought your CD.”

Has there been any standout shows in particular?

Jón: I think they have all been great so far, every one of them has surpassed expectations. Germany is always a good experience, the Germans love their metal and they had really had good crowds. But yesterday (Birmingham) was the first time we had played Britain and for me, ever, and that was a really positive experience. It was a really good show and I’m expecting even better tonight!

So has it lived up to the experience? With it being your first European tour, has it lived up to everything you imagined it to be?

Janne: We had no expectations, we knew that we can not expect everybody to know our stuff so we just wanted to do the best we can to present it and hope for the best. It’s not the easiest thing to go on stage and play for 45 minutes of virtually unknown material, there are some mouths singing along here and there, but as a majority people don’t know anything from us.

Jón: It’s also exciting because I think generally we experience a rise in the level of enthusiasm in each show, they are a bit apprehensive in the beginning like “hey what is this all about.” But by the end people are generally more excited, that’s how it should be.

Janne: I’ve played with really different headliners before and I know how hard it can be sometimes. But the crowds we have at every show seem interested and musically it feels like it is just the right combination.

You guys are categorised as progressive death metal, what would you name your influences as?

Janne: Well, death metal and progressive music [laughs]. On the death metal side I guess we are mainly influenced by bands like AUTOPSY, Swedish death metal like ENTOMBED and DISMEMBERED.

Jón: MORBID ANGEL maybe?

Janne: MORBID ANGEL yeah, PARADISE LOST.

What would you say makes you stand apart as a band?

Janne: Well perhaps we dare to mix more 70s influence whilst still desperately clinging to death metal, the stench of rotting corpses has to be there!

So by mixing the progressive elements with death metal, how have you found that process?

Janne: It comes naturally, we are all pretty musical guys, I’ve been listening to that stuff for ages so it is in our DNA so it would be hard to do something else.

Jón: I know what you mean, you can probably fall into a grave of playing death metal and then progressive rock and then death metal, chopping it up like that. Actually melding the elements together is more of a challenge but that’s what we really try to do, to mix death metal and progressive music.

Janne: Personally all those terms are so broad.

So coming into this tour it has been two years since your last record, On Lonely Towers, what progress has BARREN EARTH made to the follow-up to that album?

Janne: Progress? I was actually booking flights for our next studio session this morning, which is getting intimidating close but we have material worked in, we’re polishing it and we’re getting ready. We’re excited to do it! It’s our second record with Century Media and it will come out later this year.

Seeing as On Lonely Towers received such a positive reception, have you felt any pressure with writing this new album?

Jón: Well the good thing about being in a progressive death metal band is that you can pretty much do anything and people will go “oh well you had this and that on the first or second album” and that’s alright if you like that stuff and we don’t necessarily employ it anymore, that’s too bad, but we have got to do what we got to do.

So really you have free reign to pull influences from such a broad range of styles?

Jón: Yeah and we really try to do that, not necessarily pull influences from everything, but try to create a unique sound that challenges people somehow.

With BARREN EARTH, it’s been ten years, you first formed in 2007. To celebrate such a milestone what has been some of your highlights in your career so far?

Janne: Wow, ten years, the first American tour was hilarious. Jón wasn’t in the band at that time, it’s why he looks so young, that was definitely a highlight. Playing the first festivals obviously and I would say this tour, being able to tour On Lonely Towers because that’s the record I take most pride in. I think it sums up the band perfectly at that time and being here with Jón and having sold out shows, it couldn’t be better!

So you are very much living the dream right now?

Janne: Yes, drinking this tiny French beer, this is actually only my second beer on the entire tour. I’m a red wine guy, a whisky guy.

Jón: Oh, second beer?

Janne: Yes, second beer, number two.

Jón: And still, you’ve been drunk since we started!

Janne: It’s easier when you don’t waste your time drinking beer.

So is that the best way to cope with a tour?

Jón: I think everyone has their own way of doing it, some guys go surprisingly early to bed, early to rise and go walk around town.

Janne: I went to bed early last night, it’s probably why I look younger than I am.

Jón: He’s actually turning 39 today.

Janne: Yeah, it’s my birthday today. An interesting turn of events it is actually the other guitar players birthday as well, easy to remember. Guitar players, same birthday.

And really our last question for you both is with your focusing on the new album is that what fans can expect from BARREN EARTH for the rest of 2017? Is it going to be just focusing on the new album or do you hope to play at some festivals inbetween writing the new album?

Janne: We hope, there’s a bunch of other bands of ours that are active but we hope to be able to do shows before the album. It’s probably going to be a situation where we want to focus on the new album and do the festivals once the album is out.

Jón: So it will be next year but the focus is on the new album and when you are in the process of making the album that usually takes up all of your energy and time and playing shows there might not make sense energy wise. If we manage to get it out this year and get a good tour following it then festivals shows in 2018 definitely.

Well best of luck for tonight and the rest of the tour, thank you both for talking to Distorted Sound.

Janne & Jón: Thank you!

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