Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Beginning of Times - Amorphis - 2011

The Beginning of TimesJust Friday evening I decided to go back to Amorphis and give the new The Beginning of Times a try. The gentle, progressive touch of Tuonela had gone too far afield for me and I hadn't followed the band's work across the last decade but decided to sample their latest based on recent reviews as well as my own renewed interest.

The Beginning of Times is a lush album and an accomplished piece of work but it is not melodic death metal. It is not heavy metal. It is not hard rock. It is nice, harmless, safe and unthreatening progressive rock. Yes, there are occasional death metal growls but that doesn't make it metal any more than a few bars of banjo would make it bluegrass.

While Amorphis' yet-unmatched Tales from the Thousand Lakes incorporated folk and progressive elements and introduced melodic vocals, it never once betrayed its utter heaviness. Their output since then has shifted the balance to the extreme that I would almost go so far as to file The Beginning of Times with New Age recordings. Some snatches of their origins remain but they appear as rare oddities against a richly layered, albeit largely soulless, forgettable backdrop of pleasant sounds.

One Tomi (Joutsen) has replaced another (Koivusaari) on vocals since I fell in love with the band and I have seen recent live footage proving that he has the chops to tackle the old material handily. While his melodic singing certainly bests Koivusaari, what Joutsen offers, unfortunately, also carries about as much menace as, say, Jon Anderson.

The Beginning of Times is a fine record. It plays well across the day at work and you don't even realize it's over once it has finished. If you sat down and dissected it you may find hints of virtuosity worthy of revisiting. Still, as I age, my patience for working at enjoying something has greatly diminished. I want music that makes me excited. I want something to grab me and offer me a reason to return to the record, to recommend it to a friend. I am not ashamed to admit that I like hooks and monster riffs and volume. Prog certainly has its place and one only need look as far as Astra to find a current band doing it so very well. This, on the other hand, is no Weirding. Not even Weird. Just Boring. I recommend The Beginning of Times, then, friends, for those of you with long, gray days punctuated by thoughtful cups of hot tea. For the rest of you, ever hear of Jungle Rot?

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