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17 pounds of blubber - 94%

Napero, May 18th, 2009

Amorphis went through some difficult times in the late 90s and early 21st century. From the rather mediocre Tuonela, through the weak Am Universum, and finally finishing the downward slope with the boring and lackluster Far from the Sun, Amorphis looked like it was done with, a tired, exhausted thing from yesterday. The Chapters compilation seemed at the time like a painful way for the band to admit that the good things were indeed in the past, and that the future would be bleak. What's more, the Relapse Singles Series Vol. 4 single compilation looked like a final cash-in by a record company, holding a final scavenging feast on the carcasses of several bands of yesteryear.

However, there was life in the carcass. The compost pile made some muted sounds, and from out of nowhere, House of Sleep popped onto the radio waves. The new vocalist, Tomi Joutsen, managed to show that he is not only fully capable of singing the parts performed earlier by no less than three vocalists of diffent styles, but to practically wipe the floor with each and every one of them, including the greatest early 90s clean voice promise, Ville Tuomi. What happened?

They stayed the course, essentially, and refused to change the horse midstream. House of Sleep and the whole Eclipse is essentially a continuation of the thematics they invented on Tuonela and managed to pretty much blunder on Far from the Sun. They just managed to do it right this time, with the perfect vocalist and a perfect tune, and the new days of glory dawned.

What is House of Sleep made of? Well, some metal, naturally, but not very much. The music is basically slightly metallic rock with a vaguely progressive edge and a sprinkling of Amorphis' not-so-distantly folkish tunes on top of it. Joutsen's rock voice fits it like a glove, the crystal-clear production gives it a golden hue, and the catchy tune makes it an instant hit.

Because it's catchy.

It's so catchy it's not fun.

Seriously.

House of Sleep's main attraction is the tune that knocks on the door in the wall that separates riffs from guitar melodies, and politely asks to be admitted to the "riffs" side of the divided house. And that simple little thing is catchy as hell. It's so sticky a 7-year old beginner pianist can learn it as her seventh tune (there's proof of this), and a grown-up metalhead can find himself humming to it after days of silence while doing something completely unrelated. It's like fat: once it gets attached to your mother-in-law's butt, it will never go away... no, it grows, and suddenly a full 17 pounds of it wobbles there, and plays itself in the grey mushy jukebox inside your head. It sticks to the mind, refuses to go away, but in a good way. Because, damn, it's wonderful!

Yeah, it goes into the proggy, keyboard-driven midsection, and resurfaces again after a minute, and even the midsection is catchy. Incidentally, it resembles a stripped-down gravelpit racing version of a classical finnish kantele tune called "Konevitsan kirkonkellot" ("Church Bells of Konevitsa"), and there's reason to believe it's not pure coincidence. Then the main article comes back, and leaves an impression that has all the characteristics of a branding iron mark on a blubbery butt. It stays there for years to come.

It's not far-fetched to claim that of all the metal-related singles in the finnish scene during the first half of the decade, House of Sleep is the finest choice off any full-length album. The perfect, catchy lure is the most infective thing among the songs on Eclipse, but since the mood, atmosphere and thematics on the album perfectly click with House of Sleep like pieces of a puzzle, the gateway song has guided a lot of people into the full-length's marvellous world, and those poor suckers have not yet realized how progressed, difficult and professional music they are in fact listening to. The second song on the single, "Stonewoman", is a perfect example of this: perhaps it would not work as well as an individual song, but once House of Sleep has opened the door into the complex interior of Eclipse, everything becomes accessible, and the bait has done its work.

This single is nearly perfect in many ways, but the main attraction is the tune, the gateway drug to a better world. This thing will create a lot of future metalheads, because to learn to appreciate a cuisine, something easily digestible is a good thing to start with.