Amoral: Beneath

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Amoral: Beneath
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Amoral: Beneath
Alternative Metal, Alternative Rock, Power Metal
Spinefarm Records
February 14th, 2012
Release length: 1:03:22
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Amoral has gone through some pretty serious changes throughout their career, and yet still is not one of the most recognized groups outside of their Finland roots. The group started out as a Technical Death Metal group, but eventually found themselves writing Power Metal music in their most recent years. With the group’s last album, the shift in style was made, and it angered quite a number of fans, critics, and newcomers alike. This was also the year that the group parted ways with then vocalist Niko Kalliojärvi, continuing the line-up changes fo that time set in motion by their second bassist Erkki Silvennoinen, which also led to the departure of Silver Ots in 2010. With the new line-up in place featuring Ari Koivunen on vocals, winner of Finland’s version of American Idol called Idols, the band sets forward with their latest effort in hopes to regain the group lost in the outrage of the style shift. However, Beneath may only serve to further agitate the masses.

First of all, Beneath sounds great as far as the quality goes. There’s no denying that no expense was spared to try to make this album sound as crisp as possible, yet retain a slight Power Metal edge to many of the songs in hopes to not completely alienate what little fan base still exists. But, the moment you put it in, you can’t help but feel like you’re listening to a mainstream Rock recording. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it does end up suiting some of the later tracks, and not all the Metal edge has been completely removed thanks to it. The guitars still have a nice amount of distortion to them that gives it a slight edge common to any variation of Rock throughout the years, and the bass is pretty loud in the mix so that it does back up the guitars, but can be easily picked out amid the crowd. The drums are about the same level as well which is nice, giving the cymbals a less than dominating sound, the bass kicks a nice click that isn’t too loud and can often be mistaken as a bassier thud, and snares that manage to fill out the song nicely with a tighter sound to them that feels natural to whatever mood is being set by the chords and vocals. Of course, the latter of those two really seem to establish about the same mood in the long run, having a more nasal approach to the clean singing that does offer some variety, but in the end just sounds the same and simply is not impressive, playing it safe for the most part and never taking any chances to really exhilarate the music outside the stereotypical concepts of how a modern Rock/Pop Rock vocalist should sound.

Beneath actually starts out pretty well, clearly catering to any fans that happened to enjoy the more Power Metal approach taken on their last album, Show Your Colors. The introduction sounds beautiful, having an orchestral-driven sound (whether an actual orchestration score or keyboards) that sounds very rich and benefits greatly from the cleaner audio quality. Shortly after, we’re granted some edgier chords that come off like something to expect from modern Trivium or even Bullet for My Valentine, which goes into a more atmospheric slower paced section with soft singing and very little music, just simple chords from the guitar as toned down as possible. This all eats up quite a bit of the eight minute and forty-six second song, and when it picks up again the song does actually become rather catchy with some more melody-driven hooks you could chock up to even a Melodic Death Metal imprint, largely during the chorus. Some additional variations do appear, including what sounds like a mid-pitch guttural vocal approach, a style tackled at various times on the album such as on “Things Left Unsaid” but rarely executed as well as in this track, which hits prior to a breakdown that feeds more into some of the melodic riffs in a Metalcore sense without really crossing that line. In the end, for the length of time the track has, it does keep the listener on his/her toes, and ultimately is not a bad track at all.

But, while the variety in “Beneath” is something worth paying attention to, the rest of the album is greatly hit or miss. “Wrapped in Barbwire” is easily one of the best tracks here, and that’s largely due to how it plays by the book of early NWOBHM and Hard Rock. The song has a good deal of energy behind it with plenty of heavier riffs coming at the listener and a good deal of attitude. The higher, nasal vocals work very well here, and a stronger performance here, and all around in the instruments can be felt. The leads against the somewhat chugging guitar riffs keep the catchy beat going, and the chorus immediately makes you want to start singing along thanks to how rich it ends up being, leaving this one of the songs to immediately make a strong impact on the listener. However, it’s immediately followed by the less rich “Silhouette.” This one carries a much stronger Alternative Rock vibe to it, while still trying to give that Power Metal edge to some of the material. There really isn’t anything too special about the track, and in the end it just comes off rather generic with some empty sounding material at times that simply doesn’t spark the same kind of connection that “Wrapped in Barbwire” has. The vocal performance even feels lacking horribly, as if he is simply terribly bored against music that comes off like the band is having some fun with the overly simple music and performance.

“Same Difference” shows off the group’s more Hard Rock side a little better, and even throws things off into a bit of a Glam Rock direction. The song’s mid-tempo pace features plenty of catchy chords that early eighties Rock bands would swoon for, and the overall performance has a good deal of energy behind it as well. The harmonized background singing nicely compliments the higher pitched clean singing that works so well for this track and it’s slightly dirty feel amid a stylish sound and production that does a nice job capturing the essence of the band’s this group is clearly inspired by. “Hours of Simplicity” makes for a nice follow-up to it, though a much more modern and upbeat song, feeding more into the melodic side of Power Metal with a very mainstream appeal that caters to a slight Rock edge. The vocal performance is good, but again feels a little bored, but still suiting to the fluidity of the music itself. But one of the more impressive songs here is “Sleeping with Strangers,” a bonus track that has a slight Southern Rock vibe while still having that sleeker, modern Rock approach and vocal performance.

Of all the songs here, there are a few that just simply are bad. “Things Left Unsaid” ends up being a really boring track trying to create a sad environment, but simply doesn’t get there. The vocals, again, sound bland and boring with the music’s enthusiasm completely drained as well, making it all just come off more insanely grating and whiny than anything else. There’s really nothing else to call it but just a bad song that lasts one second under five minutes. There’s also the partly acoustic piece “Closure,” which isn’t too bad, and far from as boring as “Things Left Unsaid,” and it even comes off more like it was influenced by Guns ‘n Roses. The acoustic start is rather enjoyable in a closer kind of setting, though the chords played do kind of lose some impact from the higher production quality, and when the electric instruments kick in, it proves to be nothing too special outside your local modern Rock station, but it’s still a good song for what it is, works well with the vocals, and the solo is suiting to the material though ends up leaving a bit of an empty sound behind. Tack on the issues with “Silhouette,” and you get some of the less than appealing tracks of the recording.

Beneath is an album that really isn’t going to win back any new fans at all. In fact, it may alienate more that stuck around and hoped the band might find a common thread between the two styles. Sadly, Amoral didn’t, and while the Rock influence is pretty obvious here, this album seems to go in and out of many different musical styles and performances that it begins to get a little insane. There are moments where the music is simply dull and generic, while there are times where the band takes on the NWOBHM revival sound of classic acts from that time perfectly. Between that, the shifting of atmospheres, and some tracks that even the band members seem to be bored or ashamed of, Beneath comes off as a mixed bag that may be over an hour of music, but it’s far from all quality. There’s no denying that, from a Hard Rock and Alternative Rock aspect, this is an album worth taking a look into, but it’s definitely one you should sample first under any circumstances, even if you are a fan of their new sound.

01. Beneath – 8:46
02. Wrapped in Barbwire – 3:01
03. Silhouette – 3:59
04. Things Left Unsaid – 4:59
05. (Won’t Go) Home – 4:22
06. Closure – 5:38
07. Same Difference – 4:39
08. Hours of Simplicity – 3:47
09. Wastelands – 3:39
10. This Ever Ending Game – 3:56
11. No Future – 4:00
12. Of Silent Stares and Fire Lost – 7:07
13. Sleeping with Stranged (Bonus Track) – 5:39
Overall Score: 5.5/10


Digital review copy of this release provided by Spinefarm Records via Tell All Your Friends PR.