So far, word on the street regarding Am Universum is pretty evenly divided. One camp maintains that Amorphis’ fifth and latest album is yet another sellout (the first being 1999’s Tuonela or, in the minds of some ignorant dolts, the preceding Elegy) for the once-mighty band, the Finnish sextet hollowly looking to appeal to Kenny G and Chicago fans alike • due to the never-shy use of saxophone here, go figure • as one smarmy critic was quick to observe (believe it was someone in Eclipse); the other, that it’s a heartily rockin’ slab of accessible epicness for the still-mighty Amorphis. Me, I’m with the latter camp • namely, because Amorphis have pushed their sterling sound further in the past decade than anyone would’ve imagined. How far, you ask? Basically, from doom-ended death metal (their The Karelian Isthmus debut) to now this, a pristinely swirling panorama that’s somewhere’s between Deep Purple and Kansas in the most flattering of senses, yet somehow more modernized, and above all, still Amorphis (the salient point here, folks). Consequently, they’ve inspired many a previously death-entrenched band (Cemetary, Katatonia, and Samael quickly spring to mind) to sail on into vastly cleaner waters • for better or worse, such is the eternal debate, and one equally too vast to tackle here. But for as slack as dwelling on these past advances may seem, that’s precisely the point with Am Universum and why it makes the album such a great • or, at the very least, enjoyable • listen. Any way you cut it, at nearly 50 penetrating minutes, Am Universum is a dry-iced stadium-goth gallop (truly, it is • dig those roiling tribal rhythms, especially on album standout “Goddess [of the Sad Man]”) into tear-stained dusk, frontman Pasi Koskinen delivering his most engaging, poignant, just plain tone-perfect performance yet, altogether making this latest opus the logical follow-through of Tuonela’s loftily epic goals, and actually bettering it in most cases. Difficult to fathom? Hardly: These Finns’ track record thus far is unbeatable, and most likely will remain that way regardless of future directions taken. A majestic future ahead for Amorphis, then? A resounding yes, and then some.
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