Eclipsing all doubt, Amorphis make strong return
I've said it once and I'll say it again. The loss of a vocalist to any band can be the make or break point and regardless will instantly split the band's fan base. As if the mixed reception to Amorphis' previous effort, Far From The Sun, wasn't enough, the departure of long time vocalist Pasi Koskinen left many wondering what would become of the band. After moving from Relapse to Virgin/EMI Records for their previous effort, the band switched labels again this time returning to the fold at Nuclear Blast Records. Guitarists Tomi Koivusaari and Esa Holopainen, bassist Niclas EtelÃ¤vuori, keyboardist Santeri Kallio and drummer Jan Rechberger began the audition process for finding Koskinen's replacement and after listening to hundreds of demo tapes, it would be word of mouth that lead to the band hiring Tomi Joutsen from Finnish goth metal act Sinisthra. With line-up and label issues now behind them, Amorphis have returned with their ninth album Eclipse.
The synths that kick off the opening cut, Two Moons, are soon backed by a wall of distortion that lays the foundation for this up tempo rocker with its contrasting slower, melodic choruses. Instantly noticeable is the goth influenced vocals of newcomer Joutsen, and it's the first of many tracks in which Joutsen asserts his vocal prowess. Picture a mix somewhere between Sentenced and Poisonblack and you're right on the money for House of Sleep (as well as the later track Under A Soil And Black Stone) with its powerful chorus, piano laced verses and the haunting keyboard interlude that leads to a key change on the way to the song's climax. The soft, innocent folk sounds of Leaves Scar soon takes on an Opeth like turn as Joutsen finally delivers the first taste of his death metal growl and although not quite as complex or textured as Opeth's recorded output, the music is perfectly compliments the vocals.
The mid tempo rocker Born From Fire is solid highlight as Joutsen truly shines through on such a melodic track. Perkele (The God of Fire) and The Smoke both unleash more of those Opeth qualities and the music steps up to match it as well with the latter of the two sounding a little more dynamic thanks to the epic feel created by the effortless switching between clean and growled vocals. There's little doubt that both tracks are right up there alongside the distinctly opposite sounding House of Sleep as the album's highlights. Further exploring some of the progressive feel that pops up from time to time on Eclipse is the brooding Same Flesh before faint Celtic strains occasionally appear in Brother Moon. Joutsen again asserts himself as a more than worthy replacement for Koskinen on Brother Moon and even more so on the powerful and atmospheric closer Empty Opening.
There will always be those who will struggle with Amorphis now that Koskinen is no longer behind the mic but after listening to Eclipse, there is little doubt that Joutsen is a more than worthy replacement. Eclipse is layered with all the emotion, inspiration and dynamics that clearly show the versatility of Amorphis. This will be in many people's Top 10 albums of 2006!
(Nuclear Blast Records/Riot! Distribution)