Review Summary: Not for purists, but everyone else should give this album a shot as it's an accessible and remarkably good blend of different metal aspects...
2007's been a great year for music so far: especially a lot of good metal was released this year, including the new Symphony X, the new Pain of Salvation (hate me, yo), the new Dark Tranquillity, and then I'm not close to finished yet! Well, prepare yourself, as we can add another album to this list. Amorphis, Finnish sextet, unleash their eighth album, entitled "Silent Waters", upon us, and behold another album that ranks among the best releases of this year.
What Amorphis does on this album is basically this: take one part death metal (Finnish style). Mix with liberal folk influences, blend in clean vocals and acoustic passages, add some proggy keyboards and layered atmospheres, and simmer for a while. Cool it down a little before serving: Amorphis don't play it scorching hot like some other metal bands. Instead, they keep the tempo to a nice mid-paced groove.
This (rather wise) decision reveals another key factor about what makes the album so good: The tempo at which they play ensures all the disparate influences don't blend into either a wall of noise covered up with wildly distorted guitars, nor does it become so slow that the songs start to drag or run into each other. Instead of settling for a tepid borefest or an overdone metal assault, they keep it nice and simple. Added to that are the concise song lengths (nothing on here runs for more than 6 minutes) which is a great setting for some good hooks to be stuffed in without musical themes having to be repeated ad nauseam.
Amorphis seem to have taken that cue well, as the most brilliant thing about this album is not that it contains musical influences as far removed from each other as the pseudo-Korpiklaani twin-set of folk songs Enigma and Shaman, or the melodious old-school melodeath infused Weaving the Incantantion. It's that they imbue their songs with a good old dose of melody and passion as well, making the meld palatable for first-time listeners: the title track boasts an impressive hook with a grand guitar solo halfway and "Her Alone", for my money, has one of the best choruses of the year. They even include some quasi-Nightwish piano/keyboard plonking in the bridge, which just adds to the melodic force of the song.
Much has also been made and said of the vocalist change, but the singer's voice is more than bearable. In fact he carries many songs home: "I of Crimson Blood" is nearly a showcase of his vocal capabilities, whereas A servant proves he can't just sing, he can also growl without sounding cheesy or silly. And his vocal melodies absolutely rule on many of the choruses, which ensures the songs aren't just well-written and well-played; they are also consistently memorable, giving the album a great amount of replay value. Moreover, the layers and different styles that permeate the album still give listeners the opportunity to find something new and interesting in each subsequent spin.
Amorphis may not be favoured highly by metal purists who don't like anything after Tales From a Thousand Lakes anymore, but then again, this was never what the band (or music, for that matter) was all about. With this new album they've provided not only a technically flawless interpretation of old and new work, they've also imbued it with a sense of veracity, melody and God-knows-how-many hidden gems of hooks. This accessible amalgam of musically distant spectra is one to haunt your cd player for a while. What do you mean, should I buy it?