Amberian Dawn - Looking for You

Amberian Dawn Looking for You cover
Amberian Dawn
Looking for You
Napalm Records
I guess, I sort of have a weird ambivalent relationship with Amberian Dawn’s music. One of almost like love/hate proportions. I did like their debut, which came some twelve years ago with another singer, which was more pompous and early Nightwish like, with clearly cut operatic vocals, antagonizing clear symphonic tendencies. Members from a variety of Finnish bands came and went and this Heidi Parviainen era of the band produced some four albums in a more neoclassical inspired mode, they tried to evolve, rather unspectacularly.
Enter their second vocalist Capri Virkkunen, who’s coming was the most pivotal change as with her the style of the music shifted, more akin to music theater and later embracing different aspects of what might or might not have been a trend at the time. A rerecording of older tunes came and then the band kept putting out material, without slowing down, initially I thought it didn’t work, but 2015’s “Innuendo” seemed to succeed in going for what Nightwish failed to do with “Imaginaerum” with even more aplomb and grandiosity. They tried to repeat that feat, with their next album and still seem to be trying with this one, but while the got the style and the chops – compositions don’t seem to hold out, that well…
The bands main wig, Tuomas Seppälä, is such a big fan of ABBA that seemingly covered one of their bigger hits, “Lay All Your Love on Me”. A little heavier, with more pronounced percussion but fairly faithful to the original. But why would one not release, some original material…
Well, the entire album tries to come up with sleek, danceable pop-rockers, a feat they managed pretty well a few years ago, but it always marginally fails to deliver, all the while bands like Beast In Black have roared in, with a similar style and made a killing.
The album opens with the thumping “United”, which tries to be anthemic, but it’s slower breaks and flowery verses fail to propel consistently. The chorus is what makes it work, with its Hammerfall like naiveté, but the rest of the song seems to be going in different directions that are not altogether compatible… for instance neoclassical solo, but poppy slower, verses…
“Eternal Fire Building” swings around with a neat chorus and bridge, and builds nicely, but it’s so keyboard swamped that if a guitar is buried somewhere in there, it could have easily been omitted without much issue; oh other than depriving TS of a chance at a solo, which is actually not bad at all.
“Looking for You”, the title track, is very spartan, with percussion, keys and wimpy guitars, a smooth and sultry pop ditto. The chorus offers some release, with its 80s disco-rock pretentiousness, but trying the same thing for a third time in a row, seems to lessen the effect.
On “Two Blades” tries to go a little more staccato and heavier, but those gains are marginal and it feels just like a song that has recycled melodies. Retreading the same road too many times, doesn’t get you closer to where you want to go. At this point I had almost as much of pompous Abba-eque pop-rock (metal) as I would and could tolerate…
So, the band decides to go all in with “Symphony Nr. 1 Part 3 – Awakening”, a continuation of a series that started on “Innuendo”. Think bad “Phantom of The Opera” gone metal, with Fabio Lione (of some Rhapsody or other). The performances are fine, I mean, but the material other than a few vocal lines and a couple of ideas, is pretty stale. Plus the speed up, going into the third minute, while offering a momentarily wow, but just feels too pretentious. It’s not the most terrible thing ever, but it just doesn’t know when enough is enough.
“Go for a Ride” goes back to the disco pop-rock in such a template like way, that along with its weaker melodies, it didn’t even manage to wrestle some momentary euphoric moment from me, as even the solo’s tone, I found to be quite annoying.
“Butterfly” pits and unlikely heavy riff, against the rest of this typical Abba-tribute, but the extra flower power and lack of convincing hooks, turns it into a letdown.
“Universe” is a dreamy ballad, with soft keys and strings that isn’t bad at all, until it decides to introduce a heavy riff, which gives it some substance, but overall it feels like a disjointed effort to move away from the album’s main scope. It just doesn’t quite work that well. I could envision it as a closer.
The aforementioned cover of “Lay All Your Love on Me” comes next and while it offers a slightly edgier take on the original; it also contrasts with the band’s own material in a quite telling way. It fits, but also stands head and shoulders above anything the band has on offer.
“Au Revoir” is an epic sounding instrumental outro… not quite the “Arrival”, which is also an Abba intro, but you get the idea.
A remastered version of “Cherish My Memory” from “Magic Forest” is offered as a bonus and I can’t quite figure out why, as it’s quite different sounding than the rest of the songs and not exactly some-amazing peak moment that’s worth the inclusion. It feels completely out of place here.
A too pompous, for its own good, effort, which lacks the power and the energy of previous efforts and feels just too weak in comparison. Especially after the fifth track or so, the band seems to just drop the ball, with the latter half of the album, relying on a cover and less than stellar tunes that border on filler material to reach the desired length. A change would do them good. Direction? Singer? Releasing EPs, instead of albums?
Dunno. I’d say they should just try to reinvent themselves as they are, since you can’t go changing vocalists every few albums, unless you absolutely have to, but the band seems to be on a creative slump and it’s only up to them to manage to break away.