Ever since the surging popularity of Therion, Nightwish and Within Temptation (and, from the darker end of the spectrum, Dimmu Borgir), a ridiculous number of acts have jumped onto the symphonic metal bandwagon, to the point where said subgenre has become oversaturated with a glut of generic sounding bands, with little to distinguish one from the other. Tried and tested motifs have been endlessly regurgitated with, all too often, bland and forgettable results which, at best, provide nothing more than an ephemeral fix of familiarity, no matter how competently composed, performed and produced the music is. Few truly stand out from the ever growing pack of mindless pastiche. Finland's Amberian Dawn are one such band. With their latest full-length release, they've succeeded in making an album that's not only another flawlessly crafted blend of metal and symphonic elements, but one that will, I predict, offer listening longevity, such is the emotional depth of the music they've created.
With 'Innuendo' being the second full-length platter of original material to feature the fine vocal talents of Päivi "Capri" Virkkunen, and something of a swift follow-up to last year's 'Magic Forest', I was a little concerned as to whether they'd be able to sustain the compositional quality in a relatively short time period. I needn't have worried as 'Innuendo' is every bit as majestically melodic and emotionally captivating as its predecessor. In fact, while I place this new one on a par with 'Magic Forest' in terms of compositional quality, the songwriting is actually more diverse. So, while there's the standard Amberian Dawn sympho-metal fare (executed ever so perfectly once again, I hasten to add), we're also treated to a sublime aria in the form of 'Angelique'; a piece with strong neo-classical flavours, ''Symphony Nr 1, Part 1 - The Witchcraft'; the pop/rock/metal fusion that is 'The Court of Mirror Hall'; and a distinct nod towards Eurovision cheese that sounds like ABBA propelled into the twenty first century. Yep, that's Abba, not Abbath. It seems they've turned towards the Swedish pop maestros for a degree of inspiration this time, for 'Knock Knock Who's There?'; a song that wouldn't sound out of place as Finland's entry into everyone's favourite fix of shameless annual cheese, the Eurovision Song Contest. Melodic structures, vocal harmonies and phrasing, and general composition are, to my ears, a blatant ABBA pastiche, but with an Amberian Dawn twist. And you know what? I adore this song. It's a masterful composition, as is every single track on the album.
Performances are top notch throughout, with some fine guitar work from Emil Pohjalainen; the ever-interesting keyboards of composer Tuomas Seppälä (who also performs guitar on the album); the solid bass playing by newcomer Jukka Hoffrén; Joonas Pykälä-aho's rhythmically and stylistically varied drums; and Capri's incredible voice. As with 'Magic Forest', she holds back on the soprano end of her range, with only occasional bursts of a more classical delivery shining through. Once again, her singing is all about organic pop/rock idioms that sees her focus on emphasising each song's raw, emotional essence, rather than riding above the music's emotions with the, by now, clichéd operatic delivery so many vocalists see fit to add to sympho-metal.
In terms of the album's production and mix, 'Innuendo' is also a winner. Slick and polished without ever losing its musically dynamic and organic edge, the songs have a phenomenal sound. Overall, this is another fine effort from Amberian Dawn that is sure to widen their fanbase. A support slot on Delain and The Gentle Storm's European tour this Autumn will undoubtedly provide them with the extra exposure they deserve. And if those responsible for selecting Finland's Eurovision Song Contest entries each year have any sense, they'll get Amberian Dawn right in there with 'Knock Knock Who's There?'. A surefire winner, it'd get my vote!
Review by Mark Holmes
23rd Oct 2015
1) Fame & Gloria
4) The Court of Mirror Hall
6) Rise of the Evil
7) Chamber of Dreadful Dreams
8) Knock Knock Who's There?
9) Symphony Nr 1, Part 1 - The Witchcraft
10) Your Time - My Time
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...an album that's not only another flawlessly crafted blend of metal and symphonic elements, but one that will, I predict, offer listening longevity, such is the emotional depth of the music they've created."