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Has Amberian Dawn Finally Found Its Niche? - 70%

A Friendly Observer, September 15th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Napalm Records (Limited edition, Digipak)

Amberian Dawn has been a frustrating band to follow: since its promising 2008 debut, River of Tuoni, it has somehow managed to keep running down the runway without ever taking off. Every album has featured 1-3 songs good enough to keep me checking out everything they've released, and yet I've always found myself disappointed. If I could collect their 12 best songs, I'd have enough on my hands to produce a metal masterpiece. But their quality songs have always been scattered about from album to album, with not one album cohesive or consistent enough to show to fellow metalheads to explain why I like them.

Not anymore. New singer Capri is a gem. Her smooth-as-butter pop-rock voice can criss-cross genres and convey a wide range of emotions -- unlike previous singer Heidi, who could do nothing but sing everything in an intense but emotionally flat hammering operatic voice. The band has taken notice of the new possibilities open to them, and has dialed down the breakneck tempos and turned up the infectiousness of the hooks. There's nothing like the million-miles-a-minute 'Fight' from 'Circus Black', nor anything like the dramatic ode to repentance 'Evil Inside Me' from 'River of Tuoni.' Instead, we find the band unabashedly embracing their love of ABBA-style pop, even going as far as to record poppy 'Maybe' in the very studio in which ABBA recorded their later albums. And as a big ABBA fan, I'm happy to say that they got the sound right.

A lot of the old aggression is gone in favor of a more standard romantic symphonic metal approach. Amberian Dawn has always stood out among the various 'female-fronted' acts for their aggression and speed, and that's not so prevalent on this album. Still, it's plenty evident nonetheless: opener 'I'm the One', a warning against pied pipers, and 'Dragonflies' both feature propulsive guitar performances.

But it's the urgent, heartwrenching vocal performances that really shine here. This is what Nightwish's 'Dark Passion Play' should have sounded like: the choruses of 'Abyss' and 'Sky Is Falling' extend the ABBA-metal formula, and the manic-depressive sense of longing is palpable. Some metalheads will balk, and admittedly getting this sound right requires a delicate balance, but Capri is just too convincing -- and the production balance shimmers like never before.

There's still a lack of spark and consistency that keeps the band from ascending to the power metal heights of Epica or Sonata Arctica. Only about half of these songs are worth coming back to -- a decent hit-to-miss ratio, but not good enough to make an album great. Yet, surprisingly enough, seven albums into their career, Amberian Dawn might be stumbling onto a formula that can bring them there with another album or two. Five years ago, I wouldn't have expected an album like this from them, and I've successfully evangelized this one to a couple of people. It will be interesting to see where they go from here.

Delicious high quality artisanal cheese - 95%

LycanthropeMoon, December 4th, 2017

Amberian Dawn are a highly prolific symphonic power metal band from Finland, a hotbed for this kind of stuff - no doubt thanks to the success of bands like Nightwish, Sonata Arctica and Stratovarius. In fact, you can hear the influence of all of these bands in Amberian Dawn's take on this sound, alongside a few quirks that lends this band an originality many others of their ilk seem to lack. Basically, if Danny Elfman somehow decided he thought flowery European power metal was super awesome, this is probably what he'd end up creating. Tuomas Seppala's songwriting takes some clear influence from him in the orchestration department - add to that loads of neoclassical pm and ABBA-style pop hooks and you've got this band's current sound down pat.

Darkness of Eternity is the band's fourth outing featuring the powerful vocals of Capri (pictured - and highly photoshopped - on the...rather questionable cover art here). Her voice is as big as it is beautiful, hitting some near-impossible heights without missing a beat. Don't get me wrong, Heidi Parviainen was certainly a good enough vocalist and River of Tuoni was one of my favorites of 2008, but she sounded like every other female singer in this specific metal niche - she was essentially another Tarja clone, and didn't have much range to speak of. Capri's vocals stand on their own with ease, and the woman can sing her ass off. Despite the whining of people that ignorantly think classical singing automatically equates to better singing, it's clear who the best of these two actually is. Also, the people complaining that Capri's ugly (she's not) can go fuck themselves - metal ain't a fashion show, ya dolts.

I'm the One starts the album off with a bang, neoclassical guitar work - courtesy of Emil Pohjalainen and even Tuomas himself, who also plays the keys - and epic orchestral flourishes flooding the listener almost immediately. Jukka Hoffren's drumming is pretty damn furious too, by this genre's standards at least. This harkens back to the first two albums - just straight forward, catchy neoclassical power metal. Capri even lends the song some classical vocals during the chorus (much like on Magic Forest's title track), showing that much like her peer in Floor Jansen, she can probably sing any style with relative ease.

Like on the two albums before it, the band dips its toes into shimmering, crystal-clear ABBA waters a few times. Sky is Falling is the first of these poppy little numbers - it kinda makes you wanna bust out the disco ball and get funky, if I'm being honest. This band is weirdly adept at combining these sounds with their signature brand of power metal. Maybe exudes similar ABBAisms, the only metal thing about it being the somewhat downtuned guitars. Ghostwoman is a perfect combination of sugary sweet pop and symphonic metal. It bridges the gap between these styles with ease, and it features what is quite possibly the most infectiously catchy chorus on the whole damn disc. I don't know how they put these two sounds together so well, they're simply uniquely talented in that regard. Other bands have certainly tried, but most haven't been nearly as successful. Maybe Therion, with their thoroughly impressive cover of Summernight City, but even then they completely changed the style of that song to suit their own sound. Amberian Dawn are an anomaly, and a damn fine one.

To balance things out (between light and dark of course), we have Dragonflies - this is probably one of Amberian Dawn's most aggressive tunes so far. There's some thick double bass, heavy riffing and a frantic speed-driven sound. Capri's voice really shines here, her belting is simply phenomenal. There's some great interplay between the guitars and keyboards, bringing to mind the technical theatrics of early Rhapsody. There's also Symphony Nr. 1, part 2 - Darkness of Eternity. While it isn't a heavy tune and relies entirely on orchestration and Capri's singing, it still has a dark atmosphere to it. It is, after all, about a girl that's put in a coffin, buried alive and resurrected as some undead witch-thing. Sure, it's more of a 90s Disney villain song sort of darkness than a truly unsettling one, but it works very well for what it is.

The verdict: this is one of Amberian Dawn's best albums, and probably one of the best power metal albums released in 2017. Tuomas Seppala's songwriting is sharp, clear and concise - these songs never overstay their welcome and he's got a laser focus on what he wants to do. His flirtations with ultra-sweet, diabetes-inducing pop are strangely enchanting and the metallic moments are as awesome as they've ever been. Capri's vocals are enthralling, and she's quite easily one of the best vocalists in her genre. The fact that this band is so underrated in power metal circles is a shame, they deserve as much attention as they can get.