It is funny how Amorphis gets all this negative feedback from their so-called fans. Most of them are unfortunately close-minded folks who won't accept anything different from the band's earlier melodic doom-death driven Tales from the Thousand Lakes. I don't see it. Contrary to bands like Paradise Lost, Moonspell, Tiamat or Ulver who also started out as extreme metal bands, Amorphis never went on to become a lousy electronic/goth act completely stripped off their integrity. It is hard to take any comment that says they have 'sold out' seriously when the music on Am Universum is deeply rooted in jazz harmonies and develops into powerful and Floydian psychedelic expression. It's one thing to dislike a band's change of musical direction, but it's a completely different matter to call them sell-outs just because they are actually exploring with deeper musical ideas.
I happen to like some of Tiamat and Ulver's newer material but think their earlier work is much better. As for Amorphis, while the Tales and Elegy era will probably appeal to me the best, I think their current style which is a culmination of a wide variety of genres is really successful. It is understandable that the fans on the extreme end of the equation may not like this, but the ones who appreciate musical growth and change combined with more powerful artistic expression and slightly progressive ingredients are bound to -- at least -- appreciate this CD, if not dig it completely.
Am Universum may be my favourite Amorphis album from the post-Elegy era of the band which signalled the change of their direction. While Tuonela was heavily folk-tinged, their last one, Far from the Sun displays their more modern and guitar-driven updated sound. Am Universum falls somewhere in between but is very heavily influenced by the 70's and particularly the keyboard work is reminiscent of Pink Floyd's psychedelic era. The song arrangements are strengthened with jazzy elements particularly in tracks such as "Crimson Wave", "Drifting Memories" and "Captured State". The addition of saxophone seems to have put so many fans off, but don't get it the wrong way. It is delicately placed in the mix and it never overpowers any other instrument. The keyboard work and guitar riffing is much more on jazz ground than the saxophone.
"Alone" is my personal favourite off this album and also one of the best Amorphis tunes ever penned in my opinion. The keyboard work that is thrown in the middle is a great homage to the 70's and puts a smile on my face whenever I hear it and the structure of the song refuses to give in and builds up with another beautiful chorus delivered flawlessly by Pasi and the tune closes with a soothing guitar solo that fades into layers of white noise. Simply brilliant. "Crimson Wave" is another perfect tune that brings the band's creative approach to the focus of the album displaying the rich harmonies buried within the composition which we can hear on any King Crimson release of the early 70's. The sometimes overlooked "Veil of Sin" is the secret gem of Am Universum. The emotional singing is central here with subtle keyboard and guitar work dancing around the vocals. Songs like "Goddes (of the Sad Man)" and "Forever More" are more straightforward tunes we heard on Far from the Sun with their direct approach, repetitive choruses and more updated guitar sound.
Overall Am Universum has a lot of substance. The guys have created a very full album without depending on any filler tracks. This is perhaps the most complex disc of their last three outputs and this may be one of the factors why it gets bashed so badly by some. I enjoy every single Amorphis album to one degree or another but Am Universum ranks a bit higher than most of their other CDs.
- Goddess (of the Sad Man)
- Night Is Over
- Shattered Within
- Crimson Wave
- Drifting Memories
- Forever More
- Veil of Sin
- Captured State
- Grieve Stricken Heart Am Universum