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Exquisite - 96%

MaDTransilvanian, January 18th, 2010

Every once in a while, a person will discover an album which will, to that particular person, be forever connected with the first time(s) he heard said album. This reality is greatly magnified if the moment of introduction to the album coincides with the music’s original evocative abilities, for example if one would buy an album which evokes autumn during the depths of that season. Such is the case for myself and Amorphis’ eighth album, Silent Waters, the second album from what may be aptly named the Amorphis Renaissance, featuring newfound vocalist Tomi Joutsen and an accompanying evolution in the totality of their sound compared to the previous few albums (the ones before Eclipse). A virtually blind purchase for me during one October day long ago turned into one of the best decisions of my life, music-wise: the discovery of Amorphis in general and this album especially.

The sound of post-Eclipse Amorphis is unique and yet surprisingly accessible, even to those with only a passing interest in metal. The band now plays a kind of melodic metal which has three main influences: at its base it’s a catchy subset of rock music mixed with the band’s old death metal days as well as hints towards the band’s historical doom influence, on the earliest records. On paper this might not be the most attractive proposition ever but it’s pulled off incredibly well, with just the right balance to make everything heavy enough as to not get boring yet melodic enough as to be very strong in the evocation of strong emotions and the creation of a profound atmosphere. This atmosphere is in itself complex, being simultaneously gloomy and depressing yet strangely, almost happy at places, like there’s a glimmer of hope for a future which would surpass the shortcomings of the present. As mentioned earlier, it also has that powerful autumn ambience because of that overall grey feeling present throughout the album, so characteristic of said season.

Silent Waters is one of those albums whose songs are very consistent and go perfectly together yet, once one listens to the album sufficiently to become familiar with it, no two songs are alike. Variation is emphasized on this album, going from the more hard-hitting beginning, made up of the duo that is Weaving the Incantation (arguably the closest the album ever gets to actual death metal) and A Servant before proceeding into the album’s mid-section, which from the title track all the way to Shaman is comprised of almost nothing but cleanly sung, melodic songs, with the notable exception of Towards And Against, a reminder of the album’s somewhat harsher beginning. The softer songs which form this middle part of the album (as well as Black River, the last track on the album) are all unique and rather slow-paced, almost ending up being several ballads in a row. That said, the highlight of the song is most certainly White Swan, a fitting reference to the album’s masterpiece of a cover and a song which alternates perfectly between Tomi Joutsen’s clean vocals during the verses and his growls during the choruses, exactly as he did on one of the previous album’s highlight songs, The Smoke. White Swan is however more complex, with constantly alternating riffs and a solo near the end, not to mention the reversal of the vocal pattern during the last chorus. Speaking of Tomi Joutsen, his performance is mind-blowing, more mature than on i>Eclipse (this is actually true of the entire band’s performance) and generally more satisfying to listen to. He can go the deepest growls and the most melodic of clean vocals with equal ease, and both are excellently balanced.

The rest of the band members are just as good, and they all work towards the high quality of this album with their instruments. The two guitarists play riffs which are, along with the vocals, the highlights of every single song, driving the music forward and making it catchy from beginning to end. The drumming is a little less remarkable in terms of technicality, but is nevertheless used to give the songs the metal edge they need, especially when it comes to the slower numbers, while the faster, more death metal-oriented tracks evidently require this element to be credible, the work being at its most technical here. All this is helped by a production job which is very clean, an approach which is perfectly suited to an album such as this, where all the elements should be heard clearly.

This all sounds perfect, and indeed up to this point it basically is. Unfortunately, the guys also the need to include a bonus track after Black River on some versions of the album; namely, Sign, which pales in comparison with every other track before it. The reason for this is that Sign is driven by a main riff which is melodic but somehow sounds… out of place, almost like a parody, a bad farce. Even Tomi Joutsen’s vocal lines are weaker than everything up until now, proving that the song itself is simply badly written and should’ve been completely left out. That said, this album is still excellent, definitely worth every penny asked for it. Amorphis are on an amazing run right now, as proven both here and on the subsequent Skyforger, a run which I dare hope will continue for a few more albums as good as these.