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There’s no quicker way to become persona non grata in the metal world than to make a shift from an extreme metal style to a lesser one, particularly if it is one more conducive to radio sensibilities. Pile on top of this an all out 180 change in vocalists from a one-dimensional death metal screamer to the winner of Finland’s equivalent of American Idol dubbed “Idols” and the wolves of metallic revulsion begin to howl. That is the story that most fans of Amoral told when Ari Koivunen took the helm and “Show Your Colors” was released featuring the band in what looked like emo attire. But buried under the endless sea of controversy was a somewhat catchy and overall decent heavy metal album with some occasional power metal leanings and a fair amount of modernity to it, and one that actually did a fair job of exploiting the band’s technical prowess without morphing into a Dream Theater clone.
For all the groaning that still endures to this day, this band is sticking to their guns with their follow up to the band’s 2009 style revamp “Beneath”. The same overall musical flavor endures here, albeit with a slight bit more adventurism into lengthy epic song composing, culminating in an opening and closing song that hold a slight candle to a progressive sound in the general sense, though still largely holding onto the band’s modern rock/metal tendencies. “Of Silent Stares And Fires Lost” does a decent job of merging together melancholy balladry with a slight helping of a Fates Warning character to it, and the title song mixes a set of complex grooves and fancy guitar tricks with an airy atmosphere, painting a somewhat heavier backdrop than Ari’s largely Stratovarius geared solo material and giving him some occasions to experiment with his voice a bit.
Interestingly enough, despite all of the shit Ari gets for being some sort of mainstream sellout before he was actually anybody in the metal world; he does a decent job as a melodeath screamer. Most of what is heard on “(Won’t Go) Home” is comparable to the material In Flames threw together for “Clayman”, but the vocal work actual has more of a sharp and dangerous edge to it than Anders Fridén’s whiny semi-shrieks, almost passing itself off as a decent answer to Mikael Stanne. Even on the more traditionally oriented metallic anthems “Wrapped in Barbwire” and “Hours Of Simplicity” showcase Ari able to translate his boyish counter-tenor voice into something exuding a respectable level of attitude. Now if only the band would avoid putting together sappy, boring, lame as all hell modern rock ballads like “Closure” and “Wastelands” then they might have something approaching a consistent album. This approach works occasionally for Dream Theater because of their philosophical lyrics and LaBrie’s fitting vocal style, but given that Ari often gets dangerously close to sounding like Sarah McLachlan at times and that the production sounds almost like a semi-grunge rock number when the clean guitars take over, the present incarnation of Amoral should steer clear of it.
This is probably an album that few older fans of Amoral will like, as was the case with the previous one. Speaking for myself, I prefer the earlier stuff, but I discovered the band after their changeover so it didn’t really affect me the same way. This isn’t the same band, and absent them writing a whole album of what is heard on “(Won’t Go) Home”, which is definitely the best thing on here, they will not be the same band again with this line up. But for those who had a lasting infatuation with Heed or the last couple of Nocturnal Rites albums before “The 8th Sin”, this is roughly in the same neighborhood, though the songwriting is a bit looser and less rigidly structured.