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Amorphis- Tuonela (Review)
“Not Flawless, But Very Good”
Amorphis are often known as one of those metal bands that simply never plays the same style. This is both good and bad, for obvious reasons. Tuonela easily represents one of their biggest stylistic changes. It’s not even really a metal album, but more of a progressive grunge rock record.
The song "The Way".
Perhaps the biggest departure in style is the lack of growled vocals. Only “Greed” has its vocals predominantly harsh, with only a few more growls spread about. The singer is capable, though a bit generic. He’s good but his voice gets old after a while; I strongly prefer when the vocals were a mix of death growls and cleans. There are still heavy riffs in the, but they are very far removed from the death metal of The Karelian Isthmus and even the progressive metal of Elegy. The songs are also simpler, being built around laid-back instrumentation and catchy choruses. Speaking of the choruses, there’s a mainstream element to some of the songwriting. This further removes the album from the metal genre, but doesn’t necessarily make it bad.
The song "Summer's End".
The musicianship is very good; especially considering the band’s other work. I’ve already mentioned what a departure Tuonela was from the band’s previous work and this only adds to the brilliance of the composers. Tomi Koivusaari and Esa Holopainen use their guitars very well, pumping out a slew of great riffs and moody solos. It’s a lot different from their approach on Amorphis’s early work, but it’s very good nonetheless. The drums are not bad, but definitely not mind-blowing. There’s less double-bass drumwork reminiscent of death metal, which is missed to an extent even though it wouldn’t suit this style of music. The bass is really just like the drums; it’s audible and well-done but not flashy or anything like that. The keys are also more prominent than before, and less cheesy. They suit the lighter music well just like the other instruments. There also guest appearances by other instruments such as the flute and sitar. These brief passages of unusual (for metal and rock) instruments really give the album its character and unique atmosphere.
The song "Rusty Moon".
The opening song, “The Way”, starts the album off on a definite high note. However, Tuonela takes a dip in quality with the second song. “Morning Star” isn’t a bad song, but it’s easily one of the least memorable. The first half of the album progresses with intriguing songs such as “Nightfall” (a personal favorite of mine) and the moody yet forgettable “Tuonela” before coming to the central song, “Greed” which is the only song on the album that is even close to being death metal. “Greed” doesn’t stand out to me as much as it logically should- the riffs are good but the song is still rather unmemorable. Oddly, the first half only presents two songs that are consistently listenable. “The Way” and “Nightfall” end up being the only songs that I listen to frequently, while the other three are only essential listening if one wants to experience the whole album. They aren’t bad, but Amorphis can do way better.
The song "Withered", my favorite from the album.
The Songs (Continued)
The second half of the album is, easily, a vast improvement. “Divinity” is an excellent song, similar to “Nightfall” with hugely catchy choruses. It’s notable for some heavier guitar riffing and a few growls. “Shining” is almost a copy of the song that came before, but with more melody in the guitar riffs- another fantastic piece. “Withered” is easily my favorite song from the album. It’s lighter than the two tracks that came before it, and resembles “The Way” more than anything else really. The other contender for favorite track is “Rusty Moon”, one of the most experimental songs on the album. The flutes are beautiful and so are the vocal passages. Finally, the album closes with “Summer’s End”. This was one of the songs that got me into the album and it’s very easy to listen to. Ultimately, however, it is not as good as songs like “Rusty Moon” and “The Way”.
What's the best song from Tuonela?
Tuonela is, perhaps, more interesting than it is good. There’s a unique sound, both progressive and very simple at the same time. It is in no way better than what Amorphis had done prior. Those first three albums were classics, but Tuonela just isn’t. It’s not consistent enough, and many of the songs fall into the ‘good but not great’ category; they are also rather similar sounding. The unusual, unique sound makes up for this to a degree but the album comes across as significantly weaker than all of its predecessors. Tuonela is a good listen, but not a mandatory one.
Best songs: “Withered”, Rusty Moon”, “Nightfall”, “The Way”, “Divinity”, “Shining”, and “Summer’s End”.