Released By: Napalm Records
Release Date: June 27, 2014
Genre: Symphonic Power Metal
Capri – Vocals
Tuomas Seppälä – Guitar, Keyboards
Emil Pohjalainen – Guitar
Kimmo Korhonen – Guitar
Joonas Pykälä-aho – Drums
1. Cherish My Memory
2. Dance of Life
3. Magic Forest
4. Agonizing Night
6. Son of Rainbow
7. I’m Still Here
9. Endless Silence
Finnish symphonic band Amberian Dawn has been one of the most consistently entertaining female fronted metal bands since 2008, and despite some major lineup changes over the years, they show no signs of slowing down, both in terms of quality and quantity. After releasing four excellent albums with lead singer Heidi Parviainen, the two parties surprisingly split up in 2013, leading the way for new singer Capri to come in and instantly earn her place in the band on the surprisingly strong compilation album Re-Evolution. Almost exactly one year later, they’re back with their fifth official full length album Magic Forest, and while I wouldn’t call it revolutionary, it delivers everything a longtime fan could hope for, while having a slightly different feel.
Anyone who has heard Re-Evolution should know what to expect from this album, as it continues with the new sound displayed throughout those re-recordings. Compared to their first four albums, Magic Forest has a much lighter tone, and if anything it seems even more similar to Nightwish than anything they’ve done before. The orchestras are featured even more prominently this time around, and the circus vibe from Circus Black is back in full effect. In fact, the orchestras and keyboards dominate the majority of the album, making this easily their most epic sounding and most flavorful album to date. The music often reaches an epic scale that almost rivals their more famous countrymen, while still having more power metal elements than the likes of Imaginaerum.
With that being said, it does seem like they’re slowly toning down the power metal side of their music, and compared to previous albums Magic Forest doesn’t have as many overly speedy songs as normal. Many songs start off slow, emphasizing the vocals and symphonic elements, only speeding up in quick bursts. What this album doesn’t lack, though, are catchy choruses. Those are every bit as prominent as usual, and overall the songwriting is as straight-forward and consistently satisfying as it was on their career highlights Circus Black and The Clouds of Northland Thunder. As with those albums, Magic Forest is one that’s easy to listen to several times in one sitting, with a play time of under 40 minutes, making it their shortest to date.
After making an impressive debut on Re-Evolution, Capri sounds like she has really come into her element on this album. While the songs are often slower and more melodic than past works, her powerful voice always gives the songs an extra level of energy, and whether she sings normally or during the quick burst where she shows off her classical training (most notably on the closing ballad “Green-Eyed”,) she stands out as the biggest highlight of the album.
As far as highlights are concerned, there are quite a few to pick from. In fact, the songwriting is nearly flawless overall. The opening track “Cherish My Memory” is an extremely accessible and catchy, somewhat pop-ish symphonic track that sounds eerily similar to newer Nightwish, but the chorus is so good I can’t let the similarities bother me. “Dance of Life” and “Endless Silence” are my two favorite of the power metal songs, though they both start out a bit slow before speeding up during the chorus, while the title track is fairly fast-paced throughout. Other highlights include the aforementioned “Green-Eyed”, where Capri sounds absolutely stunning, and “Memorial” which features a guest appearance by opera singer Markus Nieminen. Fans may recognize him as the guest on “Virvatulen Laulu” from End of Eden, which was always one of my personal favorites. While his voice doesn’t match up as well with Capri, the two still work well together, and as before he sounds absolutely incredible. The song itself is much more dynamic and more metal sounding than the previous song with him, and it’s probably my favorite song on the album.
As much as I love the songs on Magic Forest, there is one minor flaw which holds it back from reaching the levels of Circus Black, and that is the production. The keyboards, vocals and orchestra all sound as epic and as strong as ever, but for some reason everything else sounds a bit weak. The guitars in particular are barely audible at times, and I really only notice them during intros to songs and solo sections, for the most part. Considering that the band has three guitarists in their lineup, the lack of guitar I’m hearing on this album is quite alarming, to be honest, especially since I never had this problem with their previous albums. Even the drums seem to sound a little flat compared to normal.
But aside from a disappointing production, Magic Forest is everything I was hoping it would be, and is sure to please longtime Amberian Dawn fans. It’s their most symphonic album to date, though fans of their power metal elements should find plenty to enjoy as well. Because of the aforementioned flaws I can’t quite rank it as high as Circus Black, but I’d still say it matches The Clouds of Northland Thunder, and I’d highly recommend it to any fans of female fronted symphonic metal, especially those who like the more cinematic direction Nightwish has taken with their last two albums, as this sounds fairly similar at times.
Written by Travis