With the world lurching from one crisis to another on an almost hourly basis, it’s a relief to know that music can still offer some form of escapism. If you’re exhausted by politics or worried about global pandemics, then you could do a lot worse than embarking on a magical quest with symphonic metal act Dark Sarah. Continue reading
The Ghost Cult album round-up is back in town, for your vulgar delectation… Continue reading
While it may be harsh to put it so bluntly, Finnish metal act Amberian Dawn, to all intents and purposes, spent the first four albums of their recorded lives fannying around with varying levels of success playing pretty generic symphonic metal with all the requisite frippery. Though competent, they walked in Nightwish’s long shadow.
Yet last year, seeds of individuality began to truly blossom, as, with the induction of new vocalist, pop artist Capri, their enchanting fifth album Magic Forest (Napalm) brought together the symphonic, the musicale and the downright ABBA. An endearing album, it serves as the power metal equivalent of the Disney film Enchanted, a mix of fairy tales and mild peril interwoven with upbeat earworms that saw Amberian Dawn begin to truly define themselves for the first time.
Facing that all too prevalent a dilemma, to stick or twist, to super-size the formula, or take a darker turn on it, Amberian Dawn have chosen to return to their previous, more “serious”, musical theatre roots; leaving the joyful jigs and uplifting arias behind, symbolized on the album cover by the moon overlapping the sun. As they embrace the more considered approach of the likes of Kamelot it’s hard not to feel a sense of disappointment as they dive back once again into a pool filled with similar fish, no longer mermaid or something a little sparkly or different; baby, or at least childish individuality, particularly during drab synth-overloaded ballad ‘Angelique’, pretty much discarded along with the bathwater.
Innuendo (Napalm) is, though, expertly constructed “serious” power metal, with Dark Passion Play (Spinefarm/Nuclear Blast/Roadrunner), a strong reference point. But that sense of cheekiness, naïvety and fun has been replaced, like the child who acts much older than their years, by interring the one thing they should treasure most. The strong ABBA influences they’ve tried hard to bury are allowed only on track eight, ‘Knock Knock, Who’s There’, to escape the restraints of the rest of the albums cloying maturity to play freely.
Never growing up didn’t do Peter Pan any harm…
It would be fair to say Amberian Dawn is not necessarily the first, or possibly even the fifth or sixth name, you’d think of when throwing the term “Symphonic Power Metal” about (or powerful, melodic metal with classical female vocals, as the band prefer to be described). Their career has flown well and truly under the radar, releasing to date a solid if unspectacular back catalogue with former singer Heidi Parviainen, and the Finnish troupe have yet to have that breakthrough album, or step up in class. A shuffling of the pack has seen the band reunite with several of its former line-up, and bring in the classically trained Päivi “Capri” Virkkunen take over the vocals and lyric writing, and both moves have strengthened their hand significantly.
Magic Forest (Napalm) combines up-tempo guitar-driven melodic metal, a stage-musical bent with sweet, catchy, cherry-on-top choruses. Pulling out an unusual trio of Andrew Lloyd-Webber, particularly ‘Memorial’ replete with guest male opera vocals from Markus Nieminen, ABBA (‘Warning’ and ‘Cherish My Memory’) and Nightwish as core sounds, Amberian Dawn also combine classic Helloween and Metallica tinged riffs with a dramatic fantasy narrative feel to their songs.
Capri carries a strong, saccharine voice, reminiscent of Anette Olzen, and due to the Doctor Parnassus feel of some of their songs, the Nightwish comparisons that have plagued Amberian Dawn over the years are reinforced at times, both in excellent ‘Son of Rainbow’, and the title track with its dancing Labyrinth (the film) texture. Alongside this ‘Dance of Life’, with its memorable keyboard and guitar patterns, recalls Within Temptation.
Magic Forest in and of itself won’t catapult Amberian Dawn to stardom, but it should move them several rungs up the ladder to being a band worth paying some attention to what happens next. Now they’ve found a sound that combines Disney, Phantom of the Opera and symphonic power metal, they are finally finding their niche and developing the playful enchanted touches that give them a more distinctive and interesting sound. Push and develop their cinematic side and it might not be too late for Amberian Dawn to make a name for themselves.