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Esa Holopainen - Silver Lake Award winner

Esa Holopanen
Silver Lake
by Emily Schneider at 28 June 2021, 12:20 PM

"Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen" is the first solo album from ESA HOLOPAINEN, founding member and ongoing lead guitarist of Melodic Heavy Metal band AMORPHIS. He decided to create a solo album during the pandemic, since touring was off the table for an unknown amount of time. According to the artist information page on the album's label Nuclear Blast, Esa initially planned on creating an album of instrumental music, but quickly changed his mind once the composing began. He began reaching out to some of his favorite singers and so became "Silver Lake".

The title track “Silver Lake” is a beautiful acoustic instrumental to start the album off right. The melody feels like a clear evening with a full moon rising over a crystal lake. It creates the setting for the entire album so nicely. “Sentiment” features Jonas Renkse and this song feels like a b-side from his band KATATONIA. This song is a stony beach on a gloomy day, the tide is low and slow. There's a bittersweet reverie feeling to the guitar melody that makes it easy to imagine tossing pebbles into the soft flowing ocean. The next track “Storm” has a building rolling rhythm to it, like you're on a cliffside, looking down at the lake from above. The vocals from Håkan Hemlin are warm and comforting, like a summer breeze. “Ray of Light” features one of my all time favorite vocalists, Einar Solberg (LEPROUS). There is such a vibrancy to this track with the whimsical synths, some organs and the pacing. Plus, Einar's euphoric high notes makes the 'sunbeams peeking through the clouds' feeling become an audible experience.

Alkusointu” is mainly spoken word from beloved Finnish actor Vesa-Matti Loiri.  The song goes super Prog with some awesome synths and a great guitar solo in between verses; it's definitely an unexpected track in the heart of this album. “In Her Solitude” is one of the heavier tracks on the album. It's like the high tide, the waves crashing into the rocks when a storm is blowing in. This song has Tomi Joutsen doing both his iconic screamed and clean vocal combination and Esa goes all out with a gorgeous guitar solo near the end. This felt like an AMORPHIS track and I loved it.

Promising Sun” has this mesmerizing building feeling, like pouring rain on the water. The powerful vocals from Bjorn Strid (SOILWORK) was a force in this track, the thunder and lightning, the wind blowing the waves and through the long beach grasses. The storm eases by the end and leads into “Fading Moon. Another track with a favorite singer, this one being the wonderful Anneke Van Giersbergen. This song is the clouds dispersing with some vibrant melodies on piano and in the guitar hooks as well. The album closes with another song with Jonas called "Apprentice”.  This gloomy final track is the darkness just before dawn. When you can only see faint shadows on your path and the moon is out of sight, behind the rocky cliffs surrounding the water. The bright guitar solo brings in the soft warm sunrise, just as the song ends.

Overall, this first solo album from Esa is quite a treat. He did try out a variety of music styles from Prog to a bit of 80s Rock, while still showing his authentic style he's known for from his decades of playing with AMORPHIS. While an instrumental album would have been interesting, I'm glad he decided on featuring a handful of singers instead. Melodic Metal truly works the best with a voice to blend into it honestly and the singers he collaborated with were truly perfect. You can tell many of them were involved with writing the songs they sang, that honestly added to the fun as a vocals fanatic like myself. It made it feel like I was getting a bonus song from whichever band or project every vocalist was from, yet all the songs still flowed together so nicely with Esa's music stylings. This is a purely enjoyable album that leaves the listener feeling so content and satisfied, what more can you ask for?

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Silver Lake
2. Sentiment
3. Storm
4. Ray of Light
5. Alkusointu
6. In Her Solitude
7. Promising Sun
8. Fading Moon
9. Apprentice
Esa Holopainen – Guitars
Record Label: Nuclear Blast


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