Amberian Dawn - Innuendo

Amberian Dawn Innuendo cover
Amberian Dawn
Napalm Records
Well seeing the Finns assume one of the titles of one of Queen’s most dramatic albums, actually their final, before the release of their posthumous piece of perfection that is known as “Made In Heaven” quite fouled my mood towards them. They were a band that had made quite a sensation with their early Nightwish like debut “River of Tuoni”, which was followed by a further three albums, before a rift with their singer, Heidi Parviainen, signal her exit from the ranks of the band along with the rhythm section, around the same time approximately. The singer who replaced her, Päivi Virkkunen, aka Capri, was hastily introduced via a re-recorded “Best of” compilation in which she did reinterpret some of the bands better songs from the first four albums.
A year later her,“true” debut “Magic Forest” showed a slight shift in the band’s sound in order to make the new vocalist sound more compatible with the material. One could consider the transition between Tarja to Annette in Nightwish, in terms of style, with the exception that Capri seems to be a really good singer, who by default might sing in a more traditional way and rarely will resort to classical style singing and high harmonies (only when the song seems to dictate such a way) but she is perfectly capable of delivering superbly in her fach.
“Innuendo” takes the style introduced in its predecessor several steps further, making it sound a lot more theatrical and melodic, but at the same time bombastic and metallic. Strong traces of Abba’s more epic moments intertwine with mid era Nightwish, Edenbridge and latter day Epica, but still manage to sound more down to earth, than any of those. In fact, while I thought Nightwish’s “Imaginaerum” to be one of their weakest efforts, probably trading catchiness for some patchy theatricality, this album seems to manage a fine balance between hooks and musicality to deliver a hard to resist amalgam of symphonic metal.
Opener “Fame & Gloria” is a bizarre tale of “piracy” by a female crew that would become the terror of the seas in some “high fantasy” setting/universe. It mixes symphonic metal with some really catchy poppier choruses and a pretty intricate chorus, managing to “enchant”. Impressive I must say…
“Ladyhawk” seems to continue with the “fantasy themes” – taking the well-known tale where two lovers are forced apart by a curse that transforms one to a hawk and the other to a wolf, only allowing them to meet at the dusk and dawn… and also manages to sound equally splendorous with its wholesome melodies, embracing each verse…as the song reaches its climaxing finale, Capri keeps ascending vocally and breaks away from her usual singing style to differentiate that part.
The title track, “Innuendo”, is indeed not a Queen cover, but a very ambitious composition with some really nice instrumentation and rich melodies that playfully gleam during its entirety, with its majestic chorus only crowning the whole “achievement”.
The mysteriously titled “The Court of Mirror Hall” allows for some more prominent use of “keyboard” melodies, since the band seems to always manage to keep their twin guitars from overlapping the keys, which manage to coexist in almost perfect harmony. One is to comment Tuomas Seppälä, who handles both for not over-loading the compositions as lots of his contemporaries tend to do.
And despite the fact that I was half expecting the band to run out of steam, “Angelique” proves to be a minor masterpiece, delicately exquisitely instrumented and dramatic as it could be, reminding me how beautiful songs the genre and form can produce, when one composes with the song as focus… imagine the best melodies that Kamelot composed during their peak (probably around “Karma”) when indulging into dramatic compositions and have them sung by a lady with a flair for the theatrical that hasn’t have to try to make things work.
Speaking of Kamelot, “Rise of the Evil” comes bursting out with some really prominent double bass drumming and Capri, quasi-triumphantly, singing over those a tale of woe.
“Chamber of Dreadful Dreams” again goes for a really “dramatic” and “barockue” blend and manages to deliver a really tremendous chorus that stands out from meandering verses that balance wisely on the changing rhythms.
I had to double check the fact that the next song was called “Knock Knock, Who’s There?” (really?) a tune that has a way more playful disco/roc(k)oco style, but feels a little too poppy, amongst the rest of the songs without having some real fault…
As furthest from the style of the song that precedes it “Symphony Nr. 1, Part 1 – The Witchcraft” is very symphonic, quite dark and led by some really masterful melodies… most excellent.
“Your Time – My Time” doesn’t stray too far away from the symphonic style, but sounds more introspective/prog if you wish, compared with most of the other songs on the album… and it’s a bit of an unofficial album closer, since an instrumental version of “Fame & Gloria” and a re-recording of “Sunrise” from the band’s debut are more or less here in a bonus capacity.
One of the best symphonic female-fronted but also quite metal albums this year, plain and simple. If Amberian Dawn can keep quality standards at this level, making it to the next level will not take much longer, I suppose. Thoroughly impressed when I least expected it and I don’t mind having my instincts being proven wrong at all, when the reward is so gratifying.