HardReviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Amorphis - Far From The Sun
(Nuclear Blast)

There's a pall cast over this long-delayed North American issue of Far From The Sun, originally issued in Europe, on Virgin, in early '03, that pall being the departure of the band's enigmatic lead singer Pasi Koskinen, in this case, in my opinion, Amorphis' most important guy. Pasi made the band a magical live experience - his replacement has big mukluks to fill. In any event, Pasi's swansong is an interesting, not altogether successful, return to heaviness, although it's more like a trip to a new kind of heaviness. There's a unifying vibe to the many rockers on here, this idea of surging, washing loud chordings, as moody, mystical and important sounding as in the past, but also a bit marred by an ever so slightly muddy and treble-diminished recording. My appreciation for the record has grown though, especially in the new light of it being the last of a very special band chemistry. Now, fans who bought the original should still pony up to the ice bar for this reissue. Why? 'Cos there are fully six bonus tracks, one being the video to Evil inside, one being a dreamy acoustic (but not lazy) version of the title track, and the last four being total bonafide finished and high quality bonus tracks, best of which are Shining Turns To Grey and Darkrooms - now my friggin' two faves on the whole album - with Follow Me Into The Fire being epic and doomy, Dreams Of The Damned being a surrendered and miserable and involved and hopeless power ballad in the fine, fine Amorphis tradition. Conclusion? A problematic album just got way better, part because of these extras, part by Pasi's passing (I'll be first in line for the solo album). Forgot to mention, that so-cool album cover gets a faithful reinterpretation for an elegant foil-stamped and embossed cardboard oversleeve.
Rating 8.5

Iommi With Glenn Hughes - The 1996 DEP Sessions

I'll continue to see this as a 50/50 collaboration called Iommi Hughes (it really never had a name), and I do believe that title doesn't do justice to what really is a good, solid, finished album, albeit in this format, a short one, at eight tracks and 37 minutes. Nice stuff - Glenn's singing swings between soaring, cat-like and blues-drenched. His bass is fat and warm, and his throbbing lines belie a lost old school tradition of not just following the riffs. The production is perfect; granted, the drums were re-recorded, but still, this is a finished, professional album. Tony shows new dimensions. The third rate doom riffs of the last 15 sporadic years from the man nowhere to be seen, and his balladeering (Don't Drag The River), his psych (Fine), and even the bit o' doom (lead track'Gone and behemoth Time Is The Healer), are highly musical and not dragged by the baggage of having to be spooky and Sabbatherian - if anything this is an unselfconscious and sincere general rock record with an enticing Zeppelin-esque or Badlands-like quiet professionalism. I friggin' love this thing - all of it, the heavy stuff, the ballads, the variety, and mostly because of the solid songs, Hughes' multi-hued vocals, and the warm, perfect production. Not one duff track.
Rating 9

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