Friday, July 31, 2009

Amorphis - Skyforger

When Amorphis’ opening song on Silent Waters began with a roar and continued by displaying the best of the band’s prog and metal sides, it set the tone for an album that ended up being near flawless. So, when SkyforgerFar From the Sun, failing miserably, and it seemed that the band were poised to repeat those mistakes. Fortunately, a complete run-through of Skyforger alleviated concerns of another Far From the Sun fiasco, but initial listens can be deceiving.

Preliminary listens confirmed that the band was trying their hand at a more prog-oriented album, but it also appeared that they had pulled it off. It seemed that they had learned from their past mistakes and had retained the strong melodies, death growls and stylish keyboard accompaniment of the past but had integrated those elements into prog rock structures that pushed the clean vocals and choruses to the forefront. This blend of strong guitar melodies and catchy choruses resulted in an album that’s instantly appealing and enjoyable. Due to this outcome, it didn’t seem to matter that the death growls had been relegated mostly to a support role or that heavier sections were few. Unfortunately, the immediate nature of the songs and the focus on moderately paced prog also results in a quick decline in replay value that will ultimately be the album’s undoing.

After a handful of listens a lot of negative elements that might not originally be apparent start to become more evident. The main problem is that the choruses are very similar to each other due to the limited vocal range of Tomi Joutsen and the similar tempo that almost every song utilizes. Also, the guitar melodies that initially seemed to be so strong start to feel redundant and in some cases recycled. This recycling of melodies is no more apparent than on “Sky is Mine” which is almost a direct copy of the faster section on “Under a Soil and Black Stone” from Eclipse. These repetitive elements weigh heavily on the album as a whole and cause the songs to blend together into one giant mid-paced rock song. The underlying riffs that often sound generic and bland, as if they were only an afterthought, only worsen this monotonous experience.

The only thing that saves this album from being a complete disappointment is the strength of the band’s song writing skills. So, while these songs will ultimately be seen as redundant, they’re still enjoyable enough to listen to once in a great while. It just seems that the band can’t pull off the prog rock album that they’ve now tried for twice. Both attempts have seen the band develop a tunnel vision that forces the songs to conform to a very limited set of ideas that ultimately creates a very dull, repetitive album. While this attempt is better than Far From the Sun due to its instantly catchy songs, it’s a weak hook that loses its edge fast. Unfortunately, as enjoyable as this album is initially, within a few weeks of having it there is absolutely no incentive to replay this instead of delving into the band’s back catalog. started with a simple piano melody before segueing into laid-back prog, it caused a little concern.

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