Silver Lake - Silver Lake By Esa Holopainen review
|Album:||Silver Lake By Esa Holopainen|
|Release date:||May 2021|
01. Silver Lake
02. Sentiment [feat. Jonas Renkse]
03. Storm [feat. Håkan Hemlin]
04. Ray Of Light [feat. Einar Solberg]
05. Alkusointu [feat. Vesa-Matti Loiri]
06. In Her Solitude [feat. Tomi Joutsen]
07. Promising Sun [feat. Björn 'Speed' Strid]
08. Fading Moon [feat. Anneke Van Giersbergen]
09. Apprentice [feat. Jonas Renkse]
Amorphis is one of my favourite bands, particularly due to the guitar work. I find few musical concepts less interesting than a guitarist's solo album with an array of guest vocalists. So what happens when the guitarist of Amorphis releases a solo album with an array of guest vocalists?
After 30 years as the lead guitarist in Amorphis, Esa Holopainen has realized a long-standing ambition and made his first mark as a solo musician, operating under the moniker Silver Lake. I've always enjoyed the lush and distinctive guitar melodies that have defined Amorphis's resurgence since Tomi Joutsen joined the band in the mid-2000s, so I was intrigued by the prospect of hearing Holopainen's work outside of the constraints of Amorphis. However, whether it's Iommi, Slash, Probot, Mark Morton or anyone else, I've typically found the 'famous guitarist with a different famous vocalist on each song' album to be reliably underwhelming. Still, it's not a universal truth; Earthside had a fair bit of success with some of their guest features on A Dream Of Static, and if anyone is going to deliver on the instrumental side in terms of conjuring charming and evocative compositions, I would have more faith in Holopainen than most.
Probably the first question that arises when encountering this kind of album concerns the guest roster, and on this front, I feel that Silver Lake By Esa Holopainen is more intriguing than most. Perhaps that's because most albums of this kind have been by British or American guitarists and thus drawn mainly from these countries' pools of talent; in contrast, Holopainen has recruited a very Nordic-centric bunch of singers. You've got Einar Solberg (Leprous), Björn Strid (Soilwork) and two features from Jonas Renkse (Katatonia). Additionally, there's space for one collaboration with Amorphis bandmate Joutsen, as well as regular collaborator Anneke Van Giersbergen. Rounding things off you have a couple of wildcards in Nordman frontman Håkan Hemlin and comedian/actor Vesa-Matti Loiri, who has dabbled once before in metal with a spoken word cameo on Ensiferum's Unsung Heroes. It's a promising collection of musicians, and it's one that for the most part successfully translates into an enjoyable record.
As far as Holopainen's songwriting approach goes, it has the variety to match the range offered by the vocalists. The opening instrumental title track is a soothing acoustic piece, a track that really matches the mystical natural vibe one might hope for from this album, and one that is nicely capped off with a trademark Holopainen guitar lead. Beyond that point, there's a few songs that are instantly recognizable as coming from the creative force of Amorphis.
Most obviously, "In Her Solitude", featuring Joutsen, could easily be a lost track from a recent Amorphis record. It's the only one that features growls, neatly matching the dark vibe of the verses, but the song has enough to rise above just being a forgotten song from Holopainen's main band; the keyboards take over the latter minutes of the song to deliver something quite epic, with Holopainen delivering a lush solo to match their intensity. "Alkusointu" feels more like a 2000s Amorphis track, with Loiri's spoken word and a saxophone cameo fitting nicely with the tone of the track. The last song that feels most strongly connected to Holopainen's existing work is "Fading Moon", a song that also curiously enough reminds me of namesake Tuomas Holopainen's The Life And Times Of Scrooge album at times, particularly due to the delicate instrumentation and Van Giersbergen's vocal melodies.
Beyond these songs, there's a few more that offer more surprises. The AOR vibes of "Storm", Hemlin's track, sound like if Holopainen had to write a track for Scarecrow-era Avantasia, whilst "Ray Of Light" gives Solberg a platform to show off his dynamic vocal range, although the song as a whole is one of the less enjoyable for me on the record. In contrast, Renkse's two features, "Sentiment" and "Apprentice", only cement the opinion I've developed whilst listening to the Phanerozoic albums by The Ocean that his talents are currently best served outside of Katatonia. The most enjoyable of the less Amorphis-centric songs for me, however, is Strid's impressive cameo on "Promising Sun", and I think Strid can take a lot of the credit for that (much like how his feature on Earthside's album was my highlight of that record). "Promising Sun" is a pleasant if otherwise unremarkable soft metal track, but his tone and range takes it to another level.
I've been very complimentary in this review so far, so does that mean that Silver Lake By Esa Holopainen is the album that breaks my cynicism towards these types of project? Honestly, maybe. I wouldn't say it's at the level of a regular Amorphis album, but it's not all that far off, and the song that features Joutsen highlights the fact that Holopainen brought his A game to Silver Lake. It's not a hugely remarkable album, but it's a very pleasant one that features some rather enjoyable peaks throughout. Whilst I wouldn't recommend that Holopainen quits his day job to focus on Silver Lake, I would be keen to hear more from this project.
||Written on 27.05.2021 by|
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