Losing a longtime frontman whilst simultaneously having to deal with the torturous twists of a multiple-album recording contract can do funny things for a band. The latter is the reason why U.S. ears are only just able to wrap themselves around the Finns' sixth studio album, whereas Europe has had it for roughly a whole year. And within that timeframe, as mentioned, Pasi Koskinen fled the nest to be temporarily replaced by Juha-Pekka Leppäluoto of CHARON/POISONBLACK fame.
Which leaves us then with Koskinen's last hurrah — an album up to the usual AMORPHIS happy standards of joyless psychedelic rock. Shelved at the point of songwriting was any notion of outside producers and songwriters joining in (as has happened on previous occasions), to leave the band striving for a heavier cut this time around: more guitars, less ethereal tinkering. At least, in theory.
As it stands, you'd be pushed to really notice any increase in riff and grit. And unless you're a big devotee of that AMORPHIS knack of going nowhere in a hurry, you will find "Far From the Sun" hard work. This ranges from the mild level of patience required to get through the PARADISE LOST-esque chimes of "God of Deception" to the extreme endurance test that the swirling ambience of the title track forces upon the listener. There is a fine line between epic and dull, and despite the fact that AMORPHIS are loved by many, it has to be said that they plant a big boot in the wrong half on many occasions.
Nevertheless, if you can stay the distance, there are a few quirks that slap it back to life when you least expect it. "Ethereal Solitude", for one, carries curious hints of a laid-back reggae rhythm guitar, later washing the whole thing away with swathes of doomy piano work. Also, the acoustic version of the title track (included as a bonus track for the U.S., alongside four others which pretty much hit flat-line in the excitement stakes) is, rather ironically, a far more spine-tingling version than its rocked-up source.
So, another rainy day of an album then, with a few bright spots to break up the gloom. On the whole, almost as far from the sun as you can get atmospherically without taking up residence in a concrete bunker.