These Finns have been slowly, incrementally softening over time, like a melting glacier. At the dawn of the 1990s, they started out as a fairly blasting black metal outfit, though they always hinted at a proggy, semi-commercial side. And sure enough, each of their five Relapse albums turned out to be a little softer, a little more melodic and ambitious than the one that preceded it. That's fine; lots of other acts, from Dark Tranquility to In Flames, have started rough and slowly polished themselves into gleaming metal machines. The trick is to remain interesting, and that's where lots of bands fail.
But not this bunch. Amorphis's latest album, Far From the Sun (Nuclear Blast), doesn't find the band undergoing a big change in direction. All the songs are stripped-down, rocking semi-anthems in the stately Euro-metal style. Amorphis's music may not be as aggressive or as over-the-top as American death metal -- or even the works of fellow Scandinavians like Grave or Bloodbath -- but the band has a beauty all its own and is well worth checking out. Who needs to spend their whole life madly headbanging, anyhow?