Saturday, July 29, 2006

finnish soul



amorphis - 'eclipse'

released: february 20, 2006
running time: 45'28"
nuclear blast

songs: 1. two moons 2. house of sleep 3. leaves scar 4. born from fire 5. under a soil and black stone 6. perkele (the god of fire) 7. the smoke 8. same flesh 9. brother moon 10. empty opening 11. stone woman

'Eclipse' only clicked totally for me when I watched Amorphis performing live at this year's tuska festival. On one hand, hearing these new songs effortlessly rub shoulders with the older classics and, on the other hand, witnessing the surprising confidence of new frontman Tomi Joutsen in tackling songs from every period of the band made me want to go home and listen to 'Eclipse' with doubled attention.

It paid off - 'Eclipse' is one of those records that demands a little extra attention, especially if you're already a fan of the band. Even if Joutsen's vocals aren't a million miles away from former vocalist Pasi Koskinen (who, incidentally, is now focusing solely on Ajattara, highly recommended for fans of black metal), they do take a bit of getting used to, as they are more gruff and dense. Joutsen is more versatile, though - his voice reshapes itself all over the songs looking for the best fit to the compositions, with general success. There are hints of both Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost) and Kjetil Nordhus (Green Carnation).

The songwriting is equally very good. After two not really bad but slightly disappointing records ('Am Universum' and 'Far From The Sun'), you could look at 'Eclipse' as the proverbial return to form for these Finns. Not to say that this has much to do with their early death metal days, but it's a modernized halfway point between 'Elegy' and 'Tuonela'. I classified Tomi Joutsen's vocals as 'dense' up there, and the same can be applied to the overall feel of the album's sound. The strong rhythm section lays a strong foundation for the guitar melodies to flourish, and flourish they do - check out the incredibly addictive riff from 'Brother Moon' or the already live classic 'House Of Sleep' as perfect examples. The keyboard arrangements are equally well done, and very important in the atmospheres created by each song. Thematically, they once again dig into the rich world of Finnish folk lore. 'Eclipse' is a concept album of sorts, based on a tale from the Kalevala, called Kullervo's story, which i urge you to find out more about.

If a criticism has to be made, it could be the fact that the record lacks a true centerpiece. A storytelling effort such as this could benefit from an 'epic' song that would constitute the core of the song allignment. But that's mostly nitpicking. 'Eclipse' is the best Amorphis album in many years, probably since 'Elegy', and it sounds fresh, exciting and like a whole new beginning for an already historical band. The final verdict isn't higher simply because I'm still expecting them to improve more and more on this promising effort.

the good: impressive new vocalist, strong songwriting, gripping lyrical concept
the bad: lacks a true centerpiece song, important in a storytelling kind of record

6 comments:

  1. I have heard of them, but never heard them. I like the album cover.

    ReplyDelete
  2. they usually have really good taste in their covers. check out their website, it's really nice-looking too.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have Amorphis albums upto Elegy and they are great! My favourite to date is Tales from a thousand lakes. I've been thinking of checking out their later releases and will certainly listen to eclipse. Would you recommend the other 3 full length releases after Elegy and before Eclipse? What I like best about folk/viking metal is the folklore/ mythology lyrical content. It's fascinating stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  4. i would definitely recommend them on an absolute level, but it depends on what you're expecting from them, too.
    if you like 'elegy', by all means get 'tuonela', it's rather similar in sound and it has great songs. 'am universum' is the less metal record they've made, full of keyboards and 70s sounds. it's very good, but it doesn't sound like amorphis to me... then 'far from the sun' is more straightforward, more metal again, and it sounds in retrospective like a sort of build up for 'eclipse'.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I haven't heard anything by them since Tunela(sp?). I may have to check this one out.

    ReplyDelete
  6. if you liked 'tuonela', i do think you should pick this one up. that one was good, but on this one the sound is not a million miles away, and i think the songs are much much better.

    ReplyDelete