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There’s been some rather jolting reboots of bands in the grand history of metal, but the one that took place in 2009 with Finnish tech. death proponents Amoral shifting styles and taking Ari Koivunen, famed idols winner, into their fold is about as extreme of a twist as I’ve ever heard of. Given the complete change in sound, image, and delivery, it is pretty understandable that fans of the older version were lighting the torches in anticipation of a witch hunt. Nevertheless, as someone who saw this band as perhaps a passable outfit in a style that I’m fairly lukewarm about, this change didn’t hit me the same way it probably did most.
No matter what way you look at it, “The Year Of The Suckerpunch” is about as pop/AOR of a take on power metal you can get without going directly to Ari’s solo catalog. There’s a somewhat heavier character to the music, with perhaps a small tinge of melodeath aesthetics on the edges. It tends to groove and follows the most standard format that one could expect from radio music, though there’s some technical lead work interspersed with the predictable, derivative riff work. Ari’s vocal performance is adequate for someone who sounds more boyish and squeaky clean than even the smoother sounding member of the Finnish power metal scene, the guy can sing, though his sound is not terribly appealing to most that don’t go in said sub-genre’s direction. The Misfits cover pretty much follows the same format, but with more of a driving feel and slightly less lead work. It’s a faithful reinterpretation, Ari does his best to sound deep and serious (which is a lot cause), but the song is fun and catchy.
My indifference to the lyrics and the wigger-boy imagery on display here is primarily the reason why this didn’t hit me as overtly offensive, and anyone who wants to try to like this album should probably not look at the album art and band pictures while digesting it. It is par for the course for what Ari has been doing for the past couple of years, it is totally inoffensive, yet pretty well short of spectacular. The best way to improve upon something like this would be to give the guitars more prominence and rely less on the vocalist, who is obviously the weak link in the band musically, though more than likely also the biggest draw that the band has for non-metal listeners, who probably make up a sizable chunk of their fan base now. But hey, it beats Five Finger Death Punch and Cold by a mile.
When I first heard that Amoral was going to release a new album this year, I was ecstatic. Until, of course, I found out they had a new vocalist. I thought I'd give the new guy a shot, I mean, he can't be that bad, right? Boy was I surprised. "Year of the Suckerpunch" is an appropriate name for the single, as that's what I felt like had happened after having heard it.
I had high hopes for this new album, and I was let down after hearing just 2 songs from it. The music itself wasn't terrible, though it wasn't the same as on Reptile Ride or Decrowning. The big time deal breaker to me was the drastic change in vocal style. It just doesn't fit with this particular group of musicians. It just isn't Amoral to me. Yes, I'll admit, there were times while listening to Reptile Ride where I felt that if clean vocals had been added, it would have possibly enhanced the song, though it was nearly perfect as it was. But going to pure clean vocals? Wow. One word comes to mind. Blind-sided.
I rated this 15 out of 100 because the only chance at redemption for this album was the music itself. That's about as good as it will get for those out there, like myself, hoping for another release like their previous 2. I, along with a few others I'm sure, was very disappointed. I'll stick to Decrowning and Reptile Ride when looking for an Amoral fix.