REVIEW: AMBERIAN DAWN – “Innuendo”
Female-fronted bands get a lot of attention, especially in heavy metal, since the genre is often stereotyped as a male-dominated genre. As a result, these bands often tend to place the vocals, which are usually cleans, at the forefront of their sound, since they are the group’s “Unique Selling Proposition”. Finnish metal band Amberian Dawn buy into that notion on their new album ‘Innuendo’, and while this formula works in several places, there are many instances where it doesn’t.
Now, the reason most female vocals sound great in a metal band is because they’re higher-pitched and more soothing than their male counterparts’, and this creates a sort of juxtaposition between the necessarily intense, aggressive nature of heavy metal and the vocals. Frontwoman Päivi “Capri” Virkkunen is the hero in ‘Innuendo’, delivering pleasing yet intense clean vocals throughout, but the rest of the band seems to back off slightly whenever she’s singing.
However, this isn’t very noticeable, and by no means does it hold true for all songs, but it is still a problem. “The Court of Mirror Hall” is one of the exceptions, as the guitar riffs seem to follow Virkkunen’s vocals, especially in the chorus. This guitar-work, courtesy of Tuomas Seppälä and Emil “Emppu” Pohjalainen, is power metal-esque in parts and features some technical, quick guitar solos, like those on “Fame and Gloria” and “Chamber of Dreadful Dreams”. The riffing takes a hit, though, for it is often toned down and simplified when there are vocals at the same time.
The track “Rise of the Evil” is a welcome change from this, as it allows the instruments to enhance the singing and not just give it a wide berth. The aggressive drumming is probably one of the more important reasons for it, as drummer Joonas Pykälä-aho also manages to sneak in a timely blast-beat section towards the end of the song. Not too much can be said about the drums in other songs though, as Pykälä-aho’s playing is restricted to supporting the other instruments –he even sits out the song “Angelique”.
Jukka Hoffren on bass guitar doesn’t stop playing his intricate lines even when the guitars and drums are simplified to highlight Virkkunen’s singing. ‘Innuendo’ sounds like a pop album sometimes, as if the instrumentalists are hired session players to simply allow Virkkunen’s voice to shine. There are exceptions to this, as stated before, but it leaves one wanting more of these exceptions. The track “Innuendo” is another example of this, as it allows the band’s sound to feel complete.
Tuomas Seppälä also plays the keyboard on the album, and this is another prominent aspect of Amberian Dawn (the bass is one of them) that doesn’t take a backseat when Virkkunen is singing.
Still, it’s fair to say that ‘Innuendo’ a commendable effort by the band at putting out a symphonic/power metal album, since the guitar-work and drumming are refreshing when they’re allowed to flourish, but which is simply not often enough.