Amorphis - Tuonela

Rating - 3/5

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By Greg Northrup

            It must be me.   Everyone else seems to be enjoying the hell out of this album, but I just can't get into it.  Sure, there's some awesome progressive keyboard/guitar melodies swirling underneath everything, but has anyone noticed that the vocals are severly lacking?  I love their previous album, Elegy, so I know this guy can sing, but to my ears many of the vocal melodies on Tuonela just sound wrong.  There are significant portions of the album where the vocals sound painfully out of tune and awkward.  It seems like the melodies don't resolve properly, nor match up with the music in a satisfying way.   The strange thing is that no other review I've read has even acknowledged this deficieny, so like I said, it must be me.

            The absence of death vocals is an enormous loss.  It takes a huge edge off of the band's band's music, expecially in the heavy/soft dynamics.  Amorphis, to my knowledge, was one of the first bands to employ both growls and clean vocals so it kind of became, in my mind, a trademark of theirs.  It's tough to see them go. 

            The way I see it, the first half of the album sucks, except for the leadoff track "The Way", which is decent.  The vocals on these tracks are very awkward sounding.  One would think that the only track to feature death vocals, "Greed", would be a turning point, but sadly, the clean cut chorus ruins the song.  From there on out, the rest of the tracks are quite good, especially "Destiny" and "Withered".  It's not that the guy is a bad vocalist, it's just a question of the melody that they ask him to sing.  For whatever reason, the latter half of the album seems more palatable and natural sounding.

            I think everyone should hear this album before the buy it.  Don't expect another progressive death metal masterpiece like Tales From The Thousand Lakes or Elegy, Tuonela is much more subdued and understated.  If the vocals grate on you, you're basically screwed as far as enjoying this album goes.  If, however, you're like a lot of people and the vocals sound fine to you, you'll wonder what the hell I'm talking about, and probably end up enjoying the album.

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