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Am Universum

Finland Country of Origin: Finland

Am Universum
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Type: Full-Length
Release Date: April 3rd, 2001
Genre: Doom, Emo, Gothic, Melodic, Progressive, Rock
1. Alone
2. Goddess (Of The Sad Man)
3. The Night Is Over
4. Shatters Within
5. Crimson Wave
6. Drifting Memories
7. Forever More
8. Veil Of Sin
9. Captured State
10. Grieve Stricken Heart

Review by Stellarium on May 5, 2024.

This might be the first time I've dreaded writing an article on this site, in much the same way I have struggled with this album over the years many times. This is the first of two releases that showcase the groups move into pure progressive territory, way more than foreshadowed on previous release Tuonela.

The full gamut of instruments are used here as the band seek to bring their clear inspiration into never before reached plateaus. Starting off slowly with "Alone", Amorphis continue the trend of having the opener on every album either being hand-picked as a promotional single, or an outright fucking banger. This one nestles comfortably into both; with Pasi's vocals doing what only he can do - somehow. The cleans aren't the best vocals in the world, at times he sounds off-key, or strained. But the way they suit the unorthodox melody somehow works incredibly well.

We then get tracks like "Crimson Wave" which utilises progressive jazz techniques and has a saxophone section with an easy-listening verse, conjuring thoughts of a smoky room with the band playing in suits. For the first few listens, I absolutely hated this track, as I genuinely cannot stand jazz. I dislike the tone and sound of the instruments and they tend to make my ears rather displeased. Incredibly, this somehow grew on me to the point where I don't immediately skip it anymore. It's overall place on the album still teeters towards the edge of the cut, but it stands out for its uniqueness and ambition, and that's worth praising the band for if nothing else. The Jazz influences continue with "Veil of Sin" opening with a brass section.

The truth with this album is that it is the biggest headache for me to listen to, let alone discuss. It is somehow so deeply varied and morose, yet has the tendency to also be deeply repetitive. Every single track on here (excluding the opener) would be rated the same (3-3.5 out of 5) with no clear stand out tracks. It also has the annoying tendency to not have anything I can remember after I listen to it. Sure, I can recall the chorus to "Goddess (Of the Sad Man)", but that does not a good album make.

After six to seven listens, I'd expect to not have to look at the lyrics to at least remember a vague melody of the song structures, but it is what it is. I'll give the devil its due and praise the production and performance of the record. Very few bands would do this, and although I cannot single out any individual bassline, guitar riff, drum fill (they're all overshadowed by the random fucking trumpet blasts), I have to give accolades to the group for doing this as I am a music aficionado and would have bitched if they sounded the same on every record. *sigh*

Also, tell me you don't listen to this and hear Pink Floyd at least a dozen times. I dare you.

Rating: 7.1 out of 10


Review by Krys on April 25, 2001.

To tell you the truth I wasn’t impressed with their previous album "Tuonela" and to say the least I was a little worried about one of the greatest bands that ever played metal. And what a surprise! Prepare yourself for what might be one of the best albums of this year.

Before I tell you anything about this release I have to ask you for a definition of a music style called ‘metal.’ If it’s a style of music with heavy, distorted guitar, screaming vocals and blasting drums then this opus is certainly not, but please don’t leave yet. If you are a fan of Amorphis or music in general you’ll find the most passionate and complete work to date from these extraordinary talented guys.

As I expected, based on the previous release, the vocals are 99% clean now. The 1% stands for a rather emotional exclamation point rather than metal growls. Without going too deep into description of Pasi Koskinen’s voice I can easily say that I’ve never heard him so emotional and involved. You almost get the feeling that things he sings about are so close to him it almost hurts.

The music layer is just exceptional. The sound, harmony or overall atmosphere is extremely well composed and will stay for days in your head. Guitarists Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivussari treat us with an unlimited amount of great riffs which, combined with Santeri Kallio’s synth effects and his almost 70s classic sounding Hammond organs, create something such unique and beautiful to the human ear it’s almost scary. And that’s not all, session saxophonist Sakari Kukko, who, by the way, plays an almost leading role on this album, brings probably the best warm-sounding sax passages I’ve ever heard. And if we add to this mix a perfectly dark-grooving rhythm section of Amorphis’ new bassist Niclas Etelavouri and Pekka Kasari’s drums, I won’t even start picking best songs ‘cause I don’t hear any weak ones.

By saying all that some of you are probably thinking I smoke too much. Maybe I do, but if you are a real music lover and you don’t care about music style boundaries you will listen to "Am Universum" at least three times a day like I do.

Bottom Line: If you have at least a little appreciation for beauty you can’t miss this one, otherwise hide in your basement and pretend I’m a spider-loving-hate-breathing-shit-eating son of a devil.

Rating: 10 out of 10