Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Amorphis - Far from the Sun (2003)

Going into the release of Far from the Sun, the 6th album from Finland's favored sons Amorphis, I had nothing but jubilant expectations, having enjoyed their past two albums (and worshiped everything before that). It was with great disappointment that the album I purchased was essentially an Amorphis stripped of all its better qualities. The style may feel quite the same as you heard on Am Universum, hard driving folk rock with clean vocals and swerving, psychedelic guitars, but there is barely a damn lick here worth its weight in sadness or hallucinogenic bliss. This album sounds almost as if the band had given up and phoned in an effort which bore enough surface similarities to its predecessor that the label would shovel it out with nary an edit or complaint.

I kid you not, I can think of only track song on this album that I actually enjoy, and only because it evokes memories of prior songs. The riffs here are so basic and familiar that the band could not have taken more than a few minutes to compose them, layer in just enough atmosphere that they become Amorphis by default, and head down for a round of drinks as the next tour was planned, or whatever else they were busy with rather than writing good music. If someone told me this was a session of outtakes that were considered too boring to include on Am Universum, I would believe it (with the single exception). Jan Rechberger returned to the drum kit here, and it was also noticeable for being the last album with Pasi Koskinen on vocals (and though the split was amicable, you can hear why Pasi would lose a little motivation).

Reaching back to describe the music here is the pinnacle of torment, because while I can't really say anything here is terrible, or 'sucks', it's mediocre enough that I can summon only venom. What's worse, the album has become even less interesting in the years since, as the spark and novelty of simply having a new Amorphis album has rubbed off in the weather of a billion better albums (including everything this band has released since). Far from the Sun is the 'pits' of Amorphis, the album I simply don't ever want to spin in my stereo again, stealing its sole positive number and smacking it on the Am Universum instead. I remember a lack of worldwide distribution this album suffered for its released, but in retrospect that only helped fan the inevitable flames that were headed in its direction.

"Day of Your Beliefs" was the first single to the album, a dull track which squanders its chance at lavish folk atmosphere through an unmemorable notation. The primary melody plays out like a slowed shanty melody with all the vital roguish energy leeched from it. "Planetary Misfortune" is the sole quality song here that I had mentioned, a charger that functions fully because of its mystic folk rhythm (reminds me of "Greed", but faster) and the somber doom riff in the sing song chorus at 1:00 is a nice line. But after this song, I warn you...it's a fucking desert. "Evil Inside" is a plodding, downtrodden blues rock song with nothing going for it. "Mourning Soil" tries to grasp at the mystique of the prior album's somber sojourns, falling flat. "Far from the Sun" is gentle enough for gathering firewood for your mountain cabin, and watching a leaf flow by on the stream, but nothing more. The latter half is even more boring, with moody forgettables ala "Ethereal Solitude" and "Smithereens", or the half-assed stoner boogie shuffle of "Killing Goodness".

Despite the drawn out agony of its lackluster composition, Far from the Sun did mark a pretty critical turning point for the band. When Pasi left, they got a decent replacement and began to steer slowly back towards their roots. While they still haven't gotten that far, at least the band has made the decision to abandon the barren grazing grounds that Far from the Sun represents; a creative wasteland which desperately craves 'the icy water' of better days.

Highlights: Planetary Misfortune

Verdict: Indifference [5/10]
(let go of the life that haunts you tonight)


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