AMORPHIS: SKYFORGER (2009)
1) Sampo; 2) Silver Bride; 3) From The Heaven Of My Heart; 4) Sky Is Mine; 5) Majestic Beast; 6) My Sun; 7) Highest Star; 8) Skyforger; 9) Course Of Fate; 10) From Earth I Rose.
This third volume of Eclipse is marginally more interesting — because the level of sludge has been slightly lowered in favor of slightly more distinguishable melodicity. In fact, 'Sampo' begins the record with a serious promise. A spiraling piano riff, a sharp guitar tone doubling the melody, and suddenly even the obligatory crackling of the thunderstormy metallic accompaniment becomes more tolerable, although I could still live without it.
From there and onwards, though, there are no surprises. Except, perhaps, a more significant emphasis on growling vocals — which is unfortunate, because, at this point, Tomi Joutsen does not merely sound like our friend the Cookie Monster: he sounds like Cookie Monster with acute larynx inflammation, and, considering that these vocal parts usually arrive at «climactic» (heaviest) moments of each given song, the effect is unintentionally hilarious. (As much as I have trained myself to accept death metal vocals as part of the game, the training is still only effective when [a] the music is not deadly boring and [b] the death metal vocals really tend to sound like death, completely pitchless. Skyforger offers no such deal).
At one point, I intentionally embarked upon the quest to find something worth writing about — my prize was discovering a little bit of flute melody on 'Highest Star', like a pale shadow of what it used to be on 'Rusty Moon' from Tuonela, because this time it sounds fairly wimpy even during the quiet parts, and fades out completely on the loud, sludgy ones. Nothing else. There is nothing else to write about. Yes, there are some good riffs, but the godawful production simply massacres them. If this is metal, I expect at least one or two songs that kick butt like it used to be with 'Better Unborn', without the muffling noise. If this is progressive stuff, bring back the flutes and the Mellotrons and the whatnot, give me some frickin' diversity.
Unfortunately, at this point, what with the small, but surprisingly loyal, bunch of Tomi Joutsen's fans, throwing their thumbs up every time Amorphis gets loud, it already looks like the formula stuck pretty hard: the band that, for a brief moment, was on the front line of merging extreme forms of metal with prog, has opted to retreat to a safer place, one in which all the songs are freely interchangeable, but which is cozy enough to offer the necessary protection. If you loved Silent Waters, you will love Skyforger (good luck telling the songs apart, though); otherwise, do not even begin to bother. Thumbs down.
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