May 28, 2021 Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen (Album Review)
Being one half of the founding duo of Melodic Death Metal legends Amorphis, Esa Holopainen knows what it means to function within the creative unit of a band. The guitarist has been collaborating, writing, and touring with the Finnish troupe non-stop since 1990. When COVID-19 put a halt to the usual activity cycles of a touring band, the guitarist decided it was time to share with the world his first solo album. Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen comes to us on May 28, 2021 via Nuclear Blast Records, giving fans an opportunity to gaze into the man’s heart and see what music has been abiding there.
One of the great things that Holopainen took advantage of for his album was the availability of guest singers. At no point in recorded history have more people been home with more idle time, and if there is anything positive to be gleaned from more than a year of anti-human lockdowns, it is circumstances allowing for one of the most unique conflation of voices on an album in recent memory. On Silver Lake, “Sentiment” opens the record and “Apprentice” closes it with the hurting but soulful croon of Jonas Renkse of Katatonia. Soft Rock with undertones of keys and acoustic guitar, they are dulcet bookends to a wide and profound assortment of sounds.
The video for “Storm” has been circulating for a while now. It is a bracing anthem, an ode to the majesty of old Karelia, with Holopainen’s guitar melodies on full display. Earworm chorus, building and crashing, courtesy of Håkan Hemlin and his clear yet pleasantly raspy voice will keep fans ticking that repeat button. Next up the vibe shifts again, this time at the behest of Einar Solberg of Leprous. Anyone who pays attention to Norwegian prog and metal luminary Ihsahn will have heard Solberg’s voice on the cover of “Manhattan Skyline” by Pop icons a-ha. The man has a beautiful and unusual style, and it transforms “Ray of Light” into one of the strongest songs on the whole album. Pop sensibilities, more akin to classic New Wave than any bubblegum modern radio fare, sit atop some meaty keys and an upbeat pace. This is, simply put, a gorgeous listen.
Ethnic homage is paid in the form of poetry spoken by Finnish notable Vesa-Matti Loiri on “Alkusointu,” before the heaviness kicks up several notches on “In Her Solitude.” The familiar growl of Tomi Joutsen, massaged by half-speed staccato riffs paints something Amorphis fans will identify with immediately. “Promising Sun” portrays the more melodious aspect of Bjorn “Speed” Strid, the song a straightforward rock number which precedes the more elegant “Fading Moon.” Anneke Van Giersbergen’s layered vocal lines make for a power ballad featuring some proggy keyboard lines. Her penchant for poppy and catchy foot-stompers (see her work with Amorphis and Devin Townsend) translates well to Holopainen’s vision.
Silver Lake marries the Prog, the Rock and the Pop from Holopainen’s worlds beyond Death metal, and it does so with emotion and feeling. Most likely a moment in time, this glimpse into Holopainen’s musical inner library should be cherished by fans of all walks within the wider spectrum of Heavy Metal. It is without doubt a major success, and Cryptic Rock gives Silver Lake 4.5 out of 5 stars.