Released: 2009, Ascendance Records
Amberian Dawn are a female-fronted “symphonic power metal” band from Finland. They’ve made several forays onto English soil in the past months (supporting Kamelot among others), probably due to their being under the English label Ascendance Records. THE CLOUDS OF NORTHLAND THUNDER is their second album, after 2008’s RIVER OF TUONI.
I was shocked to hear the blatant Rhapsody/Luca Turilli worship on this album. Don’t get me wrong, back in my power metal phase about seven years ago, I spun Luca’s KING OF THE NORDIC TWILIGHT until the cassette tape almost snapped. I just didn’t to expect to hear it again, practically untouched and unchanged, in the form of Amberian Dawn. There's also a shitload of Nightwish worship on here that is barely hidden as well.
The female soprano Heidi Parviainen undoubtedly holds court when she’s singing. Her vocals soar over everything else, and at times she does fall into what I like to call the Tarja trap. It seems like hitting top C is more important to her than exercising a little restraint. I’d like to see her take it down a register or two, just to show us what she’s capable of both range- and variation-wise. Nit-picking aside, the girl can definitely sing, and her voice, while not especially unique, both complements and enhances what Amberian Dawn are doing. Heidi also writes all the lyrics, which range from individual stories to retellings of various Finnish myths and epic folk stories – pretty impressive I think you’ll agree.
The guitar-work is lifted straight from the Luca Turilli/Emppu Vuorinen school, with a tinge of some of the excellent Blind Guardian duo Andre Olbrich/Marcus Siepen. Think driving rhythm guitar that is both epic and yet unabashedly uplifting, with the slightest hint of some indeterminate folkish mediaeval widdling so beloved by Luca and Siepen/Olbrich. For the leads, you can’t go very far wrong if your main influences are Yngwie Malmsteen and Michael Romeo. All this is rounded out by some very strong keyboard work (courtesy of main songwriter Tuomas Seppälä – the Tuomas Holopainen of Amberian Dawn) that re-emphasises the epic feel of the entire venture, and some solid if unspectacular double-bass drumming. Again, I hate to harp on this but just think Alex Staropoli and Alex Holzwarth…
Despite being a confirmed death metalhead, I still retain a soft spot for this kind of melodic stuff, which is especially welcome after blasting your ears with Pestilence’s and Blood Red Throne’s latest. The blatant Rhapsody worship doesn’t bother me, not when it’s as well-done and well-performed as Amberian Dawn have done (although I was sorely disappointed at the lack of a harpsichord-driven ballad). Highly recommended for fans of Rhapsody, Luca Turilli, Blind Guardian, Symphony X, Epica and Nightwish.