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Rebirth: Part II - 95%

OutlawXanadu, September 7th, 2007

To write music, a person (or a collective) sits down with a weapon in hand, experiments a little, reverses to the beginning of the process whenever things are going badly, and makes sure to note everything special that results from these trials. But, for all the work that is done in constructing a work of art, nothing compares to the work done in building the foundation for it. In the case of Silent Waters, Amorphis was aiming to continue the sound established with Eclipse, only in a darker vein. Their vision was one of grandeur, one that didn’t need to take many chances, but that, once completed, delivered everything it promised to.

It has been said that the songs on Silent Waters were basically Eclipse b-sides, which, despite being demeaning, is probably true. These songs are cut from the same cloth as the songs that came before them, and I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them were left over from the previous Amorphis album because both were released within a year of eachother. They are brothers in the truest sense, and as the band has alluded to on multiple occasions, they are a part of a trilogy that will be finished soon. Who knows where they’ll go after this chapter in their career, the band featuring arguably their strongest lineup ever, and certainly their strongest vocalist?

I cannot stress just how great Tomi Joutsen is on this disc. He’s been good elsewhere, but here he’s found his niche, and pulls out all the stops. On “The White Swan”, he’s ferocious, whereas on “Enigma”, he sounds like the most haunting of folk singers, his deep voice overpowering the glorious acoustic work layered underneath. I can’t help but think how good the early Amorphis albums would’ve sounded with him at the helm, because as good as those records were, Pasi Koskinen performed on a decidedly average level too often. Joutsen would’ve owned those recordings, no doubt.

The album’s cover art is one of the most gorgeous I’ve seen. Here’s a pink flaswango in the middle of a sickled dusk, its pink feathers the only bright spot in an otherwise bleak setting. You could say that the image is symbolic of the album as a whole, because even though all of these compositions are dark, they are home to moments of warmth as well. I’d argue that, although the record is undoubtedly their bleakest since Tales from the Thousand Lakes, it has more somber moments than anything else they’ve done in their career.

The only problem with the album is that it’s devoid of obvious stand-outs. It’s ruthlessly consistent, which is an undeniable positive, but unlike “Divinity” on Tuonela or “Veil of Sin” on Am Universum, there’s nothing that jumps out at you and pushes the record over-the-edge. Even on Eclipse, there were songs like “Two Moons” and “The Smoke” that you found yourself listening to more than anything else. Here, although “Towards and Against” and “I of Crimson Blood” come close, they miss the mark.

An invalid criticism of the record that I’ve read is that it’s too simple. It’s too straight-forward, some have said. Even though it is indeed simple, I don’t see why that’s a bad thing. What matters are its melodies, which hold up against any melodies by any other band writing today, regardless of genre. And, when you take the lush instruments driving every composition into account, you’re left with one of the most dense metal releases in recent memory. I look forward to whatever small step forward follows Silent Waters, because although I’m not sure it built on Eclipse, it was a worthy successor. And being worthy of an effort that good is no small vision to aspire to.