Review Summary: A slightly different direction doesn't ruin the album, but Skyforger demonstrates how a band can mishandle their music even when experimenting with fitting traits.
Amorphis have had a less-than consistent career, to say the least; going through three different lead vocalists, releasing albums leaning towards and away from various subgenres while returning inconsistent reception. By 2006, Tomi Joutsen took over as the current frontman and has worked with the band on three studio albums (four if you include the recently released Magic & Mayhem
). Though much dispute has surrounded the band, most generally agreed that their 2007 effort, Silent Waters
, was a strong one and a sure sign that more solid material would follow. This is where 2009's Skyforger
comes into play (not to be confused with the band of the same name).
is musically similar to its predecessor, Amorphis saw fit to incorporate progressive elements into the music. But those who haven't listened to the album yet shouldn't be fooled, for these aspects are only evident in the sound. Generally speaking, progressive music tends to take a more elaborate approach to the structure and sound; something that Skyforger
is in short supply of. Really the strongest signs of progression are found in the opening and closing tracks, neither of which feel like they're taking a full-on utilization. For these reasons, the album comes off as occasionally conflicted with just which direction it wants to lean towards.
This leads to how Skyforger
stumbles in many spots, even during its strongest moments. The difference between an album such as this, which feels indecisive, and one like Something Wild
(by Children of Bodom), which seamlessly incorporates a few subgenres, is that the latter embraces its aspirations. Here, we get the impression that the band had a conversation that ultimately amounted to "this doesn't really sound or feel natural, but let's see if we can work around it at all." One example of how Skyforger
feels unsettled is through a comparison of the track "Majestic Beast," easily the worst song on the album, against "From the Heaven of My Heart" or "My Sun," both unremarkable tracks. "Majestic Beast" is primarily a means for Tomi Joutsen to display his harsh vocals which, in this case, feel forced yet weak, simultaneously. Meanwhile, the other two aforementioned tracks are slower and more calm which, while unimposing, sounds closer to what the group are comfortable doing.
All of these criticisms aren't to say that the album is entirely weak. In fact, there are a few good moments throughout, with the title track being its pinnacle and "Sky Is Mine" being a lesser but still-honorable mention. And though the progressive elements definitely aren't utilized fluently, they give a few parts a less predictable feel. The entire band show themselves in sufficient form as well, but they definitely aren't realizing as much potential as they could. Similarly, the common themes of other Amorphis albums are present here as well, getting the point across, just not enough to be truly compelling.
isn't one of Amorphis' best efforts and, after the superb Silent Waters
, it's hard to accept it as a true successor. Yet even for all of its problems, there's still some decent material to find; along with one of the band's more commanding songs as of recent in the title track. The music, while lacking a sense of initiative with its direction, is still functional; just without much lasting power, especially after the first half. Any who've yet to listen to it need not rush out to discover if they may or may not like it, but the material is fair enough to avoid being a titanic disappointment.