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Getting bored is only human, but some might call the result of Amoral’s boredom with death metal ridiculous given its result. But whatever the actual motivation behind what became one of the most blatant style shifts in metal history since Metallica’s “Load”, “Show Your Colors” might as well be put out by a different band, in spite of most of the members being in congress are the same ones who brought 3 fairly impressive albums before this. The usual warning labels of “keep away” or “look elsewhere” would naturally apply here for fans of this band’s past work, but given that this is a solid album by the standards of recent Finnish power metal output, I don’t have the heart to really ram that point home.
The best way to describe the sound on here is sort of as a middle ground between the heavy edged power metal style typified by middle era Nocturnal Rites and Twilightning, and the lighter side of melodic death metal as heard out of late 90s In Flames and recent outputs by Amorphis. The overall tone and mix of the album puts a huge emphasis on the bottom end, spearheaded by an assortment of chunky, chugging, groovy guitar riffs that are loaded up with flashy melodic fills. At certain points the album literally sounds like “Colony” but with a clean vocalist who is actually somewhat competent, while at others it gets a little bogged down in attempts at stylistic eclecticism and comes off as somewhat glam rock-like.
The drive of this album reveals itself to be an appeal to a very different audience, one that isn’t all that far removed from the one that Masterplan and Powerworld appeal to with their AOR infused take on the genre. The obvious appeals come packaged in neatly trimmed and snazzy rockers “Gave Up Easy” and “Perfection Design”, which come off as bluesy rockers that are just a little too heavy for classic rock, but seem to be pleading for rock radio play. Along with the fluffy ballad “Last October”, they stand as the weak links of what is otherwise a solid effort. Ari Koivunen of Idols fame delivers a slightly more powerful vocal performance than usual, and shows some signs versatility and maturity as he manages to rough his voice up where necessary, while still sounding his usual boyish self.
The real meat and potatoes of what makes this a fun listen, in spite of the somewhat blatant AOR tendencies, is found in what remains on here. “The Year Of The Suckerpunch” has a fairly goofy name, but it’s a solid and catchy tune loaded with some entertaining guitar gymnastics here and there. The melodeath tendencies, particularly geared towards late 90s In Flames can be heard on “Release” and “Exit, where the guitar work gets pretty fancy but the melodic underpinnings are blatant and the songs are given enough time to develop before ending. Things even getting taken into a modern thrash direction on “A Shade Of Grey”, which could be compared to the Calavera Conspiracy debut, but with a singer who is gritty yet tuneful rather than a post-death metal barker akin to the former Sepultura front man.
While this album will probably be panned as the biggest sell out in metal history, quality should be given its due regardless to what name the band carries. It might have been better to have simply scrapped Amoral as a name after “Reptile Ride” was put out, but name recognition and recording contracts ultimately are what decide such things. I can’t really say I approve of the gangsta meets emo image that the band has adopted, but as an album “Show Your Colors” is a solid release that will definitely appeal to everybody who wished Twilightning hadn’t gone off the deep end after “Plague House Puppet Show” or that Nocturnal Rites hadn’t have put out “The 8th Sin”.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on February 7, 2011.
I'm going to state first that Amoral has shifted quite a bit from their earlier years of energetic death metal riffing and vocal grunts. The musical proficiency is still intact, but if you are expecting Wound Creations or Decrowning part two, just avert your ears and do not even bother checking this album out. I'm serious. This is a melodic metal album with more akin to countrymen Twilightning or Sonata Arctica than anything you'll hear in the Finnish melodeath uproar. There were hints on Reptile Ride, but the band has gone all the way this time.
With that in mind, Show Your Colors is not a bad record in of itself. In fact, it's catchy. "Random Words" is a tasteful but forgettable acoustic intro, but "Release" really opens the album with a speedy, resounding guitar lick reminiscent of what Amorphis was doing on Tuonela or Am Universam. Gone are the growls of Niko Kalliojärvi; Amoral have chosen to employ Finnish idol singer Ari Koivunen as the new frontman. To his credit, he sounds far stronger with this material than on the prettyboy melodic metal by numbers of his solo efforts. A silky voice which can hit any register required, and it flows seamlessly across the progressive thrash leanings of "A Shade of Grey", the driving anthem/groove of "Year of the Suckerpunch", and the dirty rock out factor of "Sex 'n' Satan". The ballad "Last October" and the catchy "Vivid" are also strong, despite a few weak lyrics. The album does have some filler material, like the bluesy shuffle of "Perfection Design" or "Gave Up Easy", but even these have at least 1-2 riffs of worth.
The album sounds top notch; the guitars are playfully riffing even during the most accessible metal radio tunes. The band does retain some of its youthful energy and the 'excite' factor that made the earlier death metal records stand out. Though good, the songs here could always be better, and now that they've got a strong voice for this style we will have to hear if they can truly capitalize on this directional shift. Fans of Amoral past who are not open to change had best avoid this, they will hate it, but if you enjoy melodic metal with good vocals and musicianship (especially the aforementioned Twilightning), this album may sate you.
Amoral used to be a moderately well known Finnish death metal band with undeniable talent and some excellent releases. Their music was somewhat groove-tinged technical death metal, but even on the debut album, "Wound Creations", there was, in some parts, a certain noticeable yet tastefully implemented element of rocking catchiness, which remarkably complemented the otherwise slightly one-sided death metal sound. The vocals, however, remained true to the band's extreme metal appearance, remaining entirely harsh on every album save "Show Your Colors". Same goes for the tastefulness of the elements that made some of Amoral's music rather accessible and catchy for a death metal band. On this album, they have greatly overshadowed the extreme metal sounds, and the very of core of the music changed to, plainly put, pop rock.
When music is stripped of the characteristics that pigeonhole it to a certain genre, and said characteristics are replaced with something softer, mellower, more appealing to masses, the music obviously loses something in the process. In order for a musician to still compose equally satisfactory music, what is lost must somehow be replaced. This is the trapeze, the thin line between art and crap, that many former metal bands walk on nowadays. When metal becomes not metal, or at least, when it loses much of its metalness, there are two roads the music can take. In the first road, that being the road of natural progression of a musical style, metal is indeed replaced with something. It's a risky process, but the music may improve just aswell as it may detoriorate. Road two, being the sellout way, almost always results in watered down, shitty music that generally alienates the original fanbase and attracts a new audience thrice as great as the former, its average age often being about a third of the original's. Amoral, by hiring the Finnish pop idol singer, Ari Koivunen, and consequently thinning down their music to a mere superficial shell and completely removing its now incompatible extreme metal core, obviously falls in the latter category. The decline of lyrics' quality is equally remarkable as the music's - from decent to repugnant and pseudo-meaningful retardation. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the mother of all sellouts.
"Show Your Colors" is indeed a far cry from anything Amoral has released before, both in quality and overall sound, and particularly in how it attempts to substitute its onedimensionality and lack of content with a shiny outer shell of clear production and pseudo-heavy guitar riffs. The album starts with an entirely forgettable intro, "Random Words". Instead of opening the album with a short, high-speed instrumental tech death assault like "The Verge" on "Wound Creations", it's entirely composed of acoustic guitars, keyboards and some bass. Those already aware of Amoral's change (and unaware of Koivunen's slightness of ability), may feel a tiny flicker of hope as "Release" kicks in with its guitar lead; perhaps Amoral maintained some of their essence and ingenuity. Sadly, Amoral's failure becomes quite clear before long. The song goes absolutely nowhere, and it becomes apparent how nugatory and sterile the music is. Completely depthless guitar parts - wishy-washy riffs with a modern-sounding overproduced tone, no less - accomanied with puerile attempts at power metal vocals and plain, unarousing drum beats. Not unlike the rest of the music, the basslines are vapid and nondescript, not improving or adding to anything. As anyone who has heard of him before could guess, Koivunen's vocals are the weakest link on this album. On top of sounding extremely bored, his vocals are forced, delivery bafflingly passionless and overall impression nearly vomit-inducing. If it weren't for his shockingly abhorrent crooning, the music would be merely pointless, invalid and empty, but instead it's utterly appalling and repulsive.
"A Shade Of Grey" is a faster song, and features more interesting drum parts, although the drum tone is hopelessly bad. Undistinguished guitar riffs ruin the beginning, and the abominable vocal performance takes care of the rest. The chorus of this song is known to cause problems with mental health, and instead of using riffs to fill the song, there are completely deplorable keyboard implementations and sorry chugga-chugga plight to ensure maximal discomfort. "Year Of The Suckerpunch" features some of the most harrowing vocal parts so far. Although Koivunen has thankfully stopped with the inexcusably sloppy attempts at grungy, raspy voice, the the chorus of this song is worse than fingernails on a chalkboard, and the unnervingly feminine verses are almost equally offensive.
The rest of the album is mostly repeating the abovementioned songs with some changes in melodies, progressions and rhythms, but none of the songs bring anything stylistically fresh or original. Listening to them in one sitting would be unthinkable: even listening to a song or two induces severe headache due to the album's unrelenting tedium. One of the songs, "Sex N' Satan", stands out though, and not just because of having arguably the worst sing title on the whole album (although there is some pretty tight competition!). The song is somewhat different than the others, as it features genuinely decent riffs at times, counterbalanced by entirely forgettable and inane ones of course. Incidentally, there are also some pointless and mundane spoken word parts. These things make it stand out from the rest, which is a good thing, because if you, for some unkown reason, one day try and listen to this tripe again, you'll remember which song to decidedly skip. There's also an unmemorable ballad, "Last October", which only sticks out due to the fact that it's acoustic. "Exit", the closing track, apparently tries to be epic, and not surprisingly, it's equally generic, forgettable, pointless and without value as the rest of the album.
What replaced Amoral's tech death core with this dolorous style shift, then? It's a subject difficult to elaborate on, as Amoral's new style is so empty, hollow and without defining characteristics that the music is very hard to put in a nutshell. Not all of the technical elements that Amoral used to be famous for have been abolished, but quite pathetically, they almost solely show when the formerly only slightly presented groove elements become disgustingly prominent: syncopated palm-muted power chords, with some technically demanding leads as fills, are predominant. In like manner, gothenburgish melodeath gimmicks appear throughout the album, whereas they used to be existant, but rare. The sound and the content of the album is greatly watered down on the whole compared to Amoral's earlier material, or any thing metal, and not a single riff or melody on the album invites to come and listen again. In fact, rather than being merely dissatisfying, "Show Your Colors" is utterly repulsive and disgruntling. Tripe like this would make a great april's fool. Unfortunately, this mangled, half-cocked rape of Amoral's former self, fused with such asinine and inept imitation of popular modern rock groups, is for real. This album is a sad, misshapen caricatyre; a fake plastic emulation; a mockery and a parody; a doleful misfortune and a great travesty. Do yourself a favour and avoid this abhorrent piece of crap at all costs.
What the hell is wrong with these guys? First, they hire a teenager pop vocalist who wouldn't be able to sing decently even if his life depended on it to replace Niko Kalliojärvi, who was a pretty good vocalist. Second thing, they start dressing like a boy band and, most importantly, they dumb down the music and start playing pop metal with distorted guitars.
The riffs here are pretty damn generic. The songs are devoid of any kind of atmosphere, originality, power, diversity. Damn, even the solos are generic as hell. Where is the melodic technical death metal they used to play? This is just watered down power metal that sounds more like metalcore a la Trivium with a vocalist who shouldn't be allowed to perform (at least Matt Heafy isn't completely horrible). The drumming is tolerable. Nothing over the top, but at least it's decent. The bass just follows the rhythm guitar, so it's nothing special.
Now, did I mention that Ari Koivunen is a failure of a vocalist? Yes, I did. And I'm doing it again. No wonder he sucks: he is the winner of the Finnish pop Idol, a reality-competition gameshow. What would you expect from a pop singer in a metal band? Nothing good, of course. His vocals lack power and strength, something that a decent metal vocalist should have. Not to mention he sounds like a girl at times (check it out by yourself if you don't believe it, although I'm sure you'll regret it).
All I can say is: this is ridiculously awful. It's like a modern day Cold Lake, except it's even gayer. If you liked their old material, I'm pretty sure you'll be disappointed. If you were a fanboy of this band, you'll probably want to kill yourself after hearing it. But, if you like sugar-coated pop music with distorted guitars, this is right up your alley.
I feel like I've been too generous with my rating, but I can't rate it lower.
I recently discovered this band, and I've been enjoying their previous albums for about a year or so now. When I heard they were coming out with a new album, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. I was expecting a block of solid concrete and got a moist loaf of bread.
First of all, their new singer sounds like an angry kid trying to sound like Nina Hagen. Trading Niko for this guy was their biggest mistake ever, and why they gave Ari a shot at the mic at all is a complete mystery to me.
The only thing pulling this up from a definitive zero, is that there's still some trace of the great musicianship we're used to, although they've severly cut down on technical riffs and rythms leaving them with a generic power metal sound. You can hear that there's talented musicians at work, but there's just too many clichés and generic solos. If I had to pick a favourite track off this album, it would probably be the intro 'Random words', most likely because theres no vocals on it.
It's such a shame that it would end like this for Amoral (because it most certainly is over for them after this blunder), all the other albums left you craving for more, while this one leaves you with a bitter aftertaste and never wanting to listen to them ever again. Listening all the way through this was painful and exhausting, leaving me with a strong hatred for power metal (which I used to like) and absolutely NO memorable songs. If you love this band, then for your own sake, don't ever listen to this album!