Amberian Dawn are a Finnish neoclassical power metal stalwart that has been around for almost a decade, always lurking somewhere on the outskirts of mainstream popularity, but never quite reaching the status of bands such as Nightwish or Epica. After seeing their fair share of ups and down, lineup changes and vocalist exits, the band centered around mastermind and only continuous member Tuomas Seppälä, regained its footing, and, aided by a very capable new singer, Capri, released a solid record in last year’s Magic Forest. With Seppälä’s penchant for stylistic drifting in mind, it was curious to see in which phantasmagorical realm of power/symphonic metal their new release, Innuendo, would land.
For female-fronted power metal bands, transitions between vocalists can be quite brusk. Rarely are they well-received by a band’s fanbase. Luckily enough for Seppälä and his cohorts, Capri (real name Päivi Virkkunen) is a powerhouse, so since taking the place of her predecessor Heidi Parviainen in 2012, everything went quite smoothly for Amberian Dawn, whilst pitchforks and torches remained hidden under beds. It’s easy to see why Capri was warmly accepted: she possesses a very pleasant, warm singing tone and a specific enunciation complete with just a hint of raspiness and raw power which she uses to distance herself from the crop of generic “operatic” singers. It’s because of the surrounding circumstances that Innuendo ended up quite heavily vocal-centered. Building upon the style utilized on Magic Forest – a heavy mixture of neoclassical influences and typical Finnish power metal, Innuendo takes Amberian Dawn’s songwriting towards a more singer-oriented approach, affecting other elements of their aesthetic along the way. Thus, their music will often strike you as metallized pop sandwiched between symphonic and power metal. In this case, that’s not a bad thing at all.
Songs like “Fame & Gloria” and especially “The Court of Mirror Hall” will make you double check that you’re not actually listening to ɐqqɐ, the power metal band from a parallel dimension in which neon blue and gold are the average metalhead’s colors of choice [Heretical blasphemy! – Steel Druhm]. If you don’t think that sounds appealing or don’t like (this universe’s) ABBA, well, you probably don’t have a soul anyway. In short, Amberian Dawn tell fantasy stories to the soundtrack of Swedish pop-tinged metal. While bands borrowing profusely from Euro-pop isn’t a new phenomenon,1 Amberian Dawn feel relatively comfortable in this role. Indeed, the two aforementioned songs are easily standouts, with their big, earwormy choruses, power riffing, and joyous sing-along and jump-along melodies. But even if that’s the prevailing theme on some cuts, it’s definitely not the only one. Tunes such as “Ladyhawk,” “Chamber of Dreadful Dreams” and “Symphony Nr 1, Part 1” are embroidered with lavish orchestral backdrops, while traces of Ayreon (“Knock Knock Who’s There”) and Blackmore’s Night (“Angelique,” a pretty dreadful ballad) can be found scattered among the compositions.
Still, visiting and revisiting the material, it’s the simplistic, pop-heavy songs that will stay the longest with the listener, requiring, nay, demanding humming even in the most absurd, inappropriate, and embarrassing of situations (talking from a friend’s experience, of course). On the other hand, the tracks that are tuned towards a more traditional idea of power metal, for example “Innuendo,” “Rise of the Evil,” or the closing “Your Time – My Time,” while of appropriate duration and without superfluous sections or repetitions, place band in an arena filled with similar and generally more capable opponents. Obviously and expectedly, the twin guitars, drums, and bass take a step back, both in the mix and in the songwriting, to allow the light to shine bright on Capri, whose voice is often matched in prominence only by the keyboards [I assume you mean “cheeseboards.” – Steel Druhm].
It’s hard to dwell too much or for too long on Amberian Dawn’s shortcomings, and Jørn™ knows there are a few, when considering several of Innuendo’s smile inducing, energetic and energizing tunes that make this one of those musically “nothing special” records that might still hit more than one chord and resonate with listeners. It’s short, it’s sweet, and everyone needs a guilty pleasure.