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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Review: Amberian Dawn - Innuendo

Innuendo - A very good effort by Amberian Dawn but no classic... yet!

There is no lack of technical prowess on this new album of Amberian Dawn. Perhaps owing to the return of ex-members Joonas Pykälä-aho (drums) and Emil "Emppu" Pohjalainen (guitar), the pack of Finnish powermetallers sound like an oiled machine on the new album Innuendo. The undoubtedly fresh re-start is original at times, though sometimes staying rooted – maybe just a bit too much, even – in the classic traditions of the giants of Finnish power-metal like Nightwish and Sonata Arctica.

The obvious reference to the immortal Queen album is a bit misplaced however; apart from naming the album and the one song, there is no real reference throughout tipping the hat to the British rockers. This is unfortunate, especially because the song “Innuendo” by Amberian Dawn isn’t even necessarily a stand-out on the album. Not to say the song is bad, but there are definitely other songs that are fresher and more interesting on this album. Notably there is the song “The Court of Mirror Hall” which has an almost ABBA-esque refrain, in a major tone; a rare occurence in metal as it is.

Another very nice and interesting point to make about this album that certainly makes it a listenable album is the fact that but one of the songs actually passes the six minute mark, narrowly, and even the five minute mark is only passed once. It makes for dense songs, because the feel of the album as a whole is not really chopped up or simple. In the three or four minutes the songs take Amberian Dawn is able to set up a grand orchestra, intrinsic songwriting, beautiful arcs, and all within a short time, not drifting off into endless repetitions of the same musical theme. This alone is a feat worth mentioning, especially with songs in this genre sometimes dragging on for the sake of endless soloes or other traits of showing off.

When the songs actually traverse the five minute mark, like in “Angelique”, the singer Päivi “Capri“ Virkkunen really shows where she is good at. Her opera voice is very beautiful with an immense control. The song is very stripped down in comparison to the rest of the album, with just a string section supporting her voice, only occassionally being seduced to a louder and more bombastic sound. In other songs Virkkunen doesn’t regularly use the upper registers of her voice so much, though her normal voice is already pretty far-reaching, and it makes for a nice diversion; her singing is raw at times, rocking, while she uses her opera voice only when needed, with measure.

The downsides of this album are not too numerous. Here and there the soloes come out of nowhere a bit, and take just a tad too long – speaking for myself as well; like guitarists are wont to, of course – but one annoying thing I couldn’t shake off, even after a couple of listening sessions. The songs are all good, with one or two standing out, and the production is very high, there is not a blemish to be found on the playing or singing, all is clean and shiny. Just a tad too shiny, maybe. There is not really a moment on the album that surprises you, blows you away. It is a shame that there is not a single moment where Amberian Dawn really brings out the big guns but sticks to what works in the genre. They are very good at that though, so there is no shame in it at all.

Written by Frank van Drunen

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