1/11/2008 - Review by: Etiam
Never reaches the higher plateau that it should
For a band that changes its style and lead vocalist more often than most metal bands change drummers, Amorphis is doing remarkably well. In fact, their popularity is as high today as ever, in large part due to newcomer Tomi Joutsen taking over vocal duties from Pasi Koskinen in 2005. The ensuing renaissance first produced ‘Eclipse’, one of Amorphis’s most critically acclaimed releases, and in 2007 offers ‘Silent Waters’, the band’s eighth studio album.
The first impression of ‘Silent Waters’ is that it is in most respects very similar to its predecessor. While this is the logical and expected result for most bands, Amorphis never seemed to be one to retread old ground. Still, while ‘Silent Waters’ does strike a blow against Amorphis’s tradition of experimentation, considering the great success of ‘Eclipse’ it should come as no surprise. The Amorphis of today seems quite comfortable in their role and rightly so—few bands can pump out well-crafted, straightforward, and highly melodic metal tunes with their kind of confidence and distinction.
Although the song structures of ‘Silent Waters’ are simple, Amorphis have always had a deft hand at layering—clean backing vocals, strummed acoustic guitars, filling synth chords—that compliment Koivusaari’s direct riffing patterns. As primary songwriter (and guitarist), Holopainen continues to join rock rhythms with folk-inspired melodies as seamlessly as ever, and balances well with Tomi’s diverse vocals in the leading role.
Still, ‘Silent Waters’ never reaches the higher plateau that it should. A good number of its songs are engaging and fun, but most draw from the same predictable chord progressions, and for all the time devoted to soloing, blessed few are worth remembering. Although ‘Silent Waters’ features plenty of diversity, from up-tempo harsh vocal songs to ballads to rock anthems, all the tracks have a similarly glossy feeling that doesn’t leave much of a lasting impression. One trick in particular that begins to wear thin is the use of ascending fourths as climaxes. Popular musicians have used this tool for decades to great success, but it appears so often on ‘Silent Waters’ that most songs telegraph their endings before the halfway point.
Much of Amorphis’s early appeal drew from a sense of folksy mysticism, and while some semblance of it remains, today’s Amorphis is more glamorous than substantial. Now that they have decided to focus on the path to rock stardom, though, this transition cannot be considered too startling or severe a disappointment. For fans who enjoy Amorphis’s newer material, ‘Silent Waters’ will no doubt be very appealing, but some of us remain who prefer their older, more intimate era.
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