Beyond Abilities

The opening of Warmen’s second full-length album, Beyond Abilities, is an excerpt from some movie that ends with an old codger stating, “Too many notes.” Truthfully, I couldn’t agree more. Warmen, a project featuring Children Of Bodom’s blazing keyboardist Janne Warmen, Tunnelvision guitarist Sami Virtanen and a slew of sparkling Finnish metal celebrities, is basically a homage to Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen and other shredders who enjoy hearing the sound of their instrument to that of a proper band.

It’s difficult to fault Warmen, when at every corner each musician involved displays an impressive talent on their respective instruments, but Beyond Abilities is musically stifling and feels more like Mozart exercises stacked on top of one another than a band, or in this case Janne, really striving to use his virtuosic fingers for the greater good of heavy metal. Perhaps it’s better not to expect a heavy metal band to forward the genre. In any case, the first track, “Beyond Abilities,” is everything a Stratovarius/Children Of Bodom fan could ever want in an instrumental, where Janne and his brother Antti (guitarist) and Virtanen (guitars) burn through arpeggios and variations thereof as if they’re power chords to form what essentially is a sophisticated but traditional heavy metal number sans vocals. “Spark,” featuring Strato vocalist Timo Kotipelto, could very well be a lukewarm Stratovarius tune off either Destiny or Infinite, indicating Janne, despite his talent, still appropriates from his elders (notably Timo Tolkki) for material. “Singer’s Choice,” also with Kotipelto, isn’t much different. The song’s formidable heavy progressive foundation isn’t, however, strong enough to save it from the same fate that befell “Spark.” It’s simply the same musical formula with extra frills and trills.

The other non-instrumental tracks are fronted by Sinergy’s Kimberly Goss (“Hidden” and “Alone”) and Pasi Nykanen (“Dawn”), respectively. “Hidden” could very well be a high-octane Sinergy lift with a nasal synth solo while “Alone” is unexpectedly a Heart cover from 1987’s Bad Animals record. The Finns just yearn to be rock stars, don’t they? Ugh. Seriously, if Warmen is aiming for acclaim, a Heart cover isn’t going to win over fans or those seeking enlightenment from his prowess. It’s just bad taste.

Out of all the tracks here, “Dawn” is the most developed with its expansive Queensryche landscape, Faith No More slap bass and drum fisticuffs and Nykanen’s Layne Staley impersonation. A prog-metallers dream, “Dawn” successfully puts Warmen and bassist Lauri Porra’s songwriting talents to the test, effectively ending the predictable course of the first section of the album.

Elsewhere, Warmen is instrumentally awe-inspiring. “Trip To…” “Salieri Strikes Back” and “Finale” all magnify the fact that most of “Beyond Abilities” is filler, difficult yet soulless exercises in heavy metal cliche. “Trip To…” and “Finale” are clinical and atmospheric journeys to the world where progressive rock, metal and classical music converge while “Salieri Strikes Back” is obviously a metallized tribute to Austrian classical composer Antonia Salieri, a tutor of Beethoven and Schubert. Musically, it’s a song for only the stoutest of musicians, and sonically it works.

Going into Beyond Abilities, I knew what to expect from Janne and company. There are times of brilliance and ingenuity, but most of the album, if you’re seeking to be entertained by stellar musicianship, is floored by similarly talented Andromeda, whose Extension of the Wish album is song-oriented, technically proficient but devoid of the predictability.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chris Dick
February 5th, 2002


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