Amberian Dawn – Magic Forest
Reviewed By Kevin Hathaway
Amberian Dawn has never been a band to receive points for originality, but could always be depended upon for decent slabs of flashy, Finnish female-fronted (alliteration!) neoclassical power metal. Worry arose with Heidi Parviainen’s departure following 2012’s Circus Black. Amberian Dawn bounced back quickly though, recruiting the decidedly poppier-sounding Capri in her place, and even going so far as to re-record a whole album’s worth of their catalog with the new singer. I suppose this was an attempt to show how much of a “natural fit” she was for the band. Personally, I didn’t buy it, feeling that the original songs were better suited for Heidi’s more classically-inspired voice. However, I wasn’t ready to write off Capri completely. If Amberian Dawn wrote songs suitable for her range, things could have been all right.
Could have been.
Lo and behold, the boys in Amberian Dawn have written songs suitable for her range – they’re just not very interesting. In accommodating for Capri’s poppy vocals, the songs on Magic Forest come across as very simple. Granted, Amberian Dawn’s songs have never been that complex (save the blistering neoclassical solo sections), but Magic Forest takes the band’s music to new levels of simplicity. Opener “Cherish My Memory” skirts by on basic power chords and a barely memorable chorus. Following up is “Dance Of Life”, which is far and away the best track on the CD and reminds me of the band’s own “Lionheart” from The Clouds Of The Northland Thunder. It’s one of those songs that is fairly easy to dismiss until the chorus starts earworming its way into your head and addicts you. The bonus track – an instrumental version of the same song – is just as much, if not more of a delight to listen to.
Things don’t get much better from this point, however. I feel like the title track is trying to intimidate me with its Danny Elfman/Tim Burton score keyboard patch and an incessant warning to “Run for your lives” because “she’s getting closer” (she who?), but the song is just laughable at first…before it just gets annoying. Just about everything else is a blur of mediocrity. Again, Amberian Dawn has never really been all that riveting, but there’s usually a few more winners than this scattered throughout its albums. There are absolutely no riffs to be found here, and the keyboards (and songwriting, for that matter) aren’t engaging enough to distract from the lack of guitar work on Magic Forest. The songs just kind of drift on, completely directionless and with no catchy melodies to ground the songs or make them worth remembering.
New singer Capri does the best she can with the material presented here. She can hold a tune and doesn’t sound like so many of her Tarja-wannabe contemporaries, at the very least. I’m still slightly disappointed with her performance, but that’s probably because the music itself is so bland. The chorus of “Son Of Rainbow” is as annoying as Arven’s “Rainsong” from last year’s Black Is The Colour thanks to its constant usage of words that aren’t actually words. “Ayiyayiyayiya!” My personal hell is that in a loop with the “Dadadadadadadada” from “Rainsong.” Most everything else is forgettable mid-paced schlock like “Memorial,” which features a baritone male singer that might have worked well in a duet with Heidi (in fact, he previously guested on End Of Eden), but he sounds so out of place here that I just feel kind of sorry for the guy.
The Amberian Dawn gang has crafted a top contender for the most pedestrian power metal album of the year, and a prime example in creative stagnation. The band is playing to its new singer’s poppy strengths, but she keeps slipping in brief moments that say “Hey, I can do better than this crap!”, like the operatic wail before each chorus in the closing ballad “Green-Eyed” (and that frustrates me more than anything). Everyone here can do better, I know they can. And it ALMOST shows, like it has for the band’s entire career, but yet they insist on playing this simplistic brand of power metal. It’s not a complete clunker, but there are so many other albums I would suggest picking up before Magic Forest. Just download “Dance Of Life” from somewhere and be done with it.
2.25 // 5