So what to do as a band when your previous record is hailed as a modern classic? You could try to emulate that record or you could see it as an end of an era and try something radically different. Amorphis did exactly that on their Am Universum album. They took the experimental angle of Tuonela and took it to the next level. Their traditional fan base didn’t like it, but the band decided to push ahead with Am Universum nonetheless. Let’s see whether Amorphis succeeded in delivering something just as good as Tuonela.
Despite all the experimentation Am Universum can be viewed as a logical follow-up to Tuonela. The stoner/prog rock course set on the previous record is taken to the next level by adding lots of psychedelic effects, bluesy guitar licks, increased keyboard parts and lots of saxophone. This gives Am Universum an unexpected jazzy atmosphere, especially on Goddess (Of The Sad Man), Crimson Wave and Veil Of Sin.
What has remained is the band’s uncanny ability to write memorable songs with incredible hooks. This is demonstrated with dramatic effect on Alone, Grieve Stricken Heart, Shatters Within and the proggy Drifting Memories. Another improvement is that the individual songs have more character and depth whereas the songs on Tuonela were very much from the same mould. The signature vocals by Pasi Koskinen are much more in the forefront and give Am Universum the familiar Amorphis melancholic touch.
Tuonela was a very constant record in terms of quality, great songs and overall atmosphere. Diversity, individuality and experimentation are the key words for Am Universum. This album features some of the very best songs written by Amorphis. This is certainly the case with Alone, Goddess (Of The Sad Man), Drifting Memories, Forever More and Grief Stricken Heart. The warm and organic production by Simon Efemy (Paradise Lost, Napalm Death) gives Am Universum a distinct vintage feel.
Am Universum by Amorphis is one of the most underrated albums in their extensive discography. It takes an open mind to appreciate the experimental/progressive nature of this album. This record offers quality and some of the very best songs Amorphis have ever written. Recommended!
written by Raymond Westland