AMORPHIS: FAR FROM THE SUN (2003)
1) Day Of Your Beliefs; 2) Planetary Misfortune; 3) Evil Inside; 4) Mourning Soil; 5) Far From The Sun; 6) Etheral Solitude; 7) Killing Goodness; 8) God Of Deception; 9) Higher Ground; 10) Smithereens.
But as much as the combination of ingredients worked out for Tuonela and Am Universum managed to work out, there has to be an end somewhere. Even as a musical genius, you cannot go on forever at the same routine settings without blanding out, and the guys behind Amorphis had always been serious working men, rarely, if ever, attested in the state of flying towards sources of divine inspiration.
Basically I'm just trying to set up a stage here for explaining why Am Universum might just be a goddamn fine record, where its successor sucked so bad that I almost literally had to wash the sludge out of my ears after each new listen (and I did manage several — I so paid my dues to Finland in full, these guys can no longer lay proper claim to the Karelian Isthmus) — even if, upon first sight, there does not seem to have been a lot of change from one to another.
And yet, that's just it. Far From The Sun catches the band in a relaxed, lazier-than-usual, transition state, as they simply venture into the studio, crank out another bunch of tunes in the already familiar alt-rock/metal style... then forget, completely, to make this bunch interesting. In fact, they seem to have forgotten everything, right down to waking up the sound engineer: Far From The Sun is atrociously recorded, as if all the instruments and vocals were processed through one channel. Just as Pasi finally earned his «Prog-Metal Vocalist That Is Relatively Tough To Make Fun Of» diploma (one of the top distinctions in the genre) for the last couple of albums, they put his voice behind a radioactive metal curtain — you can hear it all right, but there is no way you can enjoy it without opening your ears to fatal dosage.
Occasional praise could be heard on the part of those who were happy that the band had dropped much of its artsy pretentiousness, along with the retro keyboards and saxes and flutes and what-not, and went back to its metal roots. Unfortunate fools! Even if that were somehow a good thing per se, Far From The Sun still sounds nothing like Thousand Lakes — instead of clear-cut black metal riffs, you are still getting alt-metal sludge. Only this time there is no delicious frosting on the cake to compensate for the dull taste of the dough — just sludge. One thick layer after another, ten songs in a row. Turn it on at any random second, chances are you will be getting the exact same grumble-grumble all over the place. And who the heck needs it these days, now that we have And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead offering the same approach on a 24/7 basis?
If the entire album consisted of its opening number, 'Day Of Your Beliefs', we could count ourselves happy. It's got a marginally bigger hook, a marginally doomier atmosphere, and a marginally catchier chorus. At least five or six of the other songs sound like marginal variations on the same topic, only duller. The sludge recedes only once — on 'Etheral Solitude', driven forward by what sounds like reggae chords (!), but still not a particularly good song. Some numbers start out promisingly, like the distorted martial punch of the opening to 'Killing Goodness', only to get engulfed in even more sludge as time goes by.
I cannot blame Pasi for quitting the band after this album. Probably, this had less to do with its overall quality, or with the fact that just about any singer, including a tonedeaf one, could have performed on it with pretty much the same effect, than with personal reasons of a non-musical nature — as it always happens. But he could also sense that, with the band continuing to go — or, rather, to limp — in this direction, he had no creative future in it whatsoever. «Far from the sun» indeed: a firm, stern thumbs down.
Check "Far From The Sun" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Far From The Sun" (MP3) on Amazon