Album of the Week 49-2013: Amorphis – Silent Waters

Although ‘Elegy’ will always be one of my all time favorite albums, Amorphis has been recording a series of impressive albums ever since singer Tomi Joutsen joined halfway through last decade. With Joutsen being as good at clean vocals as powerful grunts – needless to say, I’m more of a fan of the former though – and keyboard player Santeri Kallio proving to be perfectly complementary with lead guitarist Esa Holopainen in terms of songwriting. Despite everything by this lineup being of consistent quality, ‘Silent Waters’ is truly their magnum opus.

Fans of the early work by the Finns might be put off by the large amounts of melody on both the majority of the songs as well as Joutsen’s voice, but that is exactly what makes this album so good. The contrasts between the melodic passages and the heavier segments – which, with the exception of opening track ‘Weaving The Incantation’, aren’t all that heavy anyway – works extremely well and the songs are just very well written. Strong riffs, big hooky choruses and as usual, fantastic melodic lead themes with a hint of folklore to them.

Listening to this album, one of the things that stands out is how much sense the whole thing makes. The order in which the songs are presented is obviously well thought out. For instance: the way ‘Shaman’ follows the unique folky approach of ‘Enigma’ – with its acoustic guitars and impressive multi-layered vocal work – is just right. Just take a listen and you’ll hear what I mean.

But in the end, it’s the songs that matter. And luckily, they are very strong this time around. I found myself being touched by many of the anthemic choruses on the record (the beautiful ‘I Of Crimson Blood’ and ‘Towards And Against’, a song driven by awesome contrasts, spring to mind) and as always, it’s impossible to resist Holopainen’s fantastic lead guitar. He won’t lead many “best shredder” lists, but his impeccable melodic sensibilities definitely make him one of my all time favorites.

The downright beautiful and moving title track has Joutsen crooning the goosebumps inducing lyrics at his most gentle. The same can be said about the passionate ‘Her Alone’, which is probably the closest Amorphis has ever come to a proper power ballad. ‘The White Swan’ is probably rhythm guitarist Tomi Koivusaari’s most impressive contribution to the Amorphis canon, with its haunting melodies and contrasting sections. The guitar solos are nothing to be ashamed of either.

It’s hard, almost impossible to go wrong with Joutsen-led Amorphis – ‘The Beginning Of Times’ had some mediocre moments – but it’s also hard to get it better than what is on display here. This is a band so comfortable with its style that it doesn’t really pay attention to what style fits the songs best. The result is an album full of songs that are low on pretense, but incredibly high on content and melodic qualities. Add Holopainen’s lead guitar, Joutsen’s vocals and Kallio’s tasteful keyboards to the mix and you’ll have a cocktail of musical brilliance.

Recommended tracks: ‘Silent Waters’, ‘I Of Crimson Blood’, ‘Towards And Against’, ‘Her Alone’

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