AMORPHIS: ECLIPSE (2006)
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.
Unquestionably a jump back to better form here. For some reason, with Koskinen's departure, the music is once again credited to individual members of the band rather than the collective «Amorphis» — with the lion's share distributed between Holopainen and keyboardist Santeri Kallio. The lyrics, once again returning us to motives from the Kalevala, are all properly credited to new vocalist Tomi Joutsen, on whose issue I am undecided. The trick is that his normal singing voice is not very interesting, lacking the sharpness and perkiness of Koskinen; but he also does some growling, and does it damn well — he actually manages to sing while growling, with real vocal modulation. Besides, he switches to growling only in the appropriate spots, justifying the practice as a normal artistic trick rather than a silly obligatory trademark.
Musically, Eclipse tries to reintroduce progressive elements that had been so completely squandered on Far From The Sun in favor of noise, noise, and more noise. Unfortunately, «tries» is an appropriate description, because the final result is still very far removed from the level of adventurousness that characterized Elegy and even Tuonela. Those albums had nothing approaching the flatness of such numbers as 'Born From Fire', which just drags on like a dead weight — until, at the very end, the boys get a bright idea to overdub a folk dance-style lead part on top of the boring rhythm chords. Which is something like thirty seconds out of a four-minute tune. And this pretty much summarizes my entire feelings about the record.
Essentially, the quieter these songs are, the better they work: my favorite is 'The Smoke', built around a simple, but impressive seven-note piano riff from Kallio — but it remains exciting only as long as the guitars are kept low enough to let you hear the riff, or the song degenerates into boring noise. 'Leaves Scar' has a fine, poetic intro, then steps into martial noise territory, of which there is simply too much on the song for me to lump it into the «high creativity» category. And so on and on: change is very much welcome, but way too much sludge remains for the change to bear significant importance.
Worst of all, Eclipse does not have either a convincing beginning or a convincing ending. 'Two Moons' may be carried by one of the most complex riff patterns on the entire record, but it is neither as memorable or as properly epic as 'Day Of Your Beliefs'. And the sadness and despair of 'Empty Opening' is way too mild — it is simply not enough to choose a minor tonality and then decide that your instruments will do all the work on their own. What's up with all that bland phrasing? What's up with all the slushy power chords? We know this band is capable of perfectly well strung note sequences — is it just a matter of well strung note sequences not sounding loud enough? What about that search for identity?
Thus, at its best, Eclipse seems like an honest attempt to pull themselves out of the rut, successful in spots but, overall, a disappointment. The change of vocalist gives only a marginally fresh angle (at least, it could have been worse), and none of the individual songs reach classic status (well, maybe with the lone exception of the album's most aggressive tune — 'Perkele', on which they manage to hit upon a winning combination of growling vocals and ultra-black guitar). The only ray of light comes from realizing that they haven't given up on trying to recapture the magic — although, the way I see it, an obvious first step would be to start writing riff-based rather than sludge- and drone-based music again. Thumbs down. Keep in mind, however, that many fans regard Eclipse as an awesome master-comeback, something I don't hear at all — but that's just me, your local promoter of American Idol.
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