Amorphis – ‘The Beginning Of Time’, by Ann Sulaiman

After having explored popular characters from the national Finnish epic ‘Kalevala’ on their previous albums with current frontman Tomi Joutsen.

Amorphis have essentially repeated this pattern in their take on the central hero, poet Vainamoinen. Whereas this does bring the band’s use of the book to full circle, rehashing past formulas makes for a rushed release. It makes sense that Amorphis would reuse a similar brand of progressive metal that earned them success on ‘The Beginning of Times’ predecessors.

At the same time, not fully thinking through the album’s direction or even mood suggests it to be a generic, slapdash effort. The song ‘Mermaid’ for one, has the pitfall of not allowing the listener to settle down with the rest of the album. Its immediate blast of melody and high tempo would have been more in place around the middle of the record.

‘The Beginning…’ also carried other issues from start to finish, this time around. Amorphis’ recent works have seen them develop further into a band that play in large doses of melody, and to their credit there was a balance which kept it from cloying up each highly produced song. On ‘The Beginning…’ there is more than enough melody to occasionally drown out Joutsen – the same man said to have kickstarted Amorphis’ new career. ‘Three Words’ and ‘Soothsayer’ highlight this, as modern rock riffs and even clean female vocals cloud over his singing. It’s as if they want to compete for airspace, than join him in harmony.

Another issue, as trite as it is for some, comes from the aforementioned lack of mood to fully direct the story here. Compared to the bitterness, dejection and distress on their past Kalevala-centric albums, uneven musical flow and overuse of melody also make for a record without empathy for the hero. Any take on a fictional character is successful when the audience is allowed to see and feel where they’re coming from and why, yet ‘The Beginning…’s problems with being musically disjointed means that no sympathy is felt for Vainamoinen. His battles, his search for his betrothed and even his birth come without any sense of emotion or atmosphere to alert us to his troubles.

‘On a Stranded Shore’ may tell us about his heartache, but the lyrics are sung in the same way as any standard rock song. On its own, ‘The Beginning’ is in itself a generic melodic metal album. It doesn’t stray too much from what’s become expected of the style, even when its most “extreme” element are harsh growls.

As part of an unofficial “series” however, it ultimately lets itself down when compared to its much stronger cohorts in regards to performance and arrangement.