Amethystium: Evermind

[24 January 2005]

By Mike Schiller

The first thing you notice is your feet. They’re bare.

The thick, Crayola green grass is peeking through your toes, occasionally tickling the top of your feet. The two suns in the sky are peering over you, lending each feature of the vast landscape a pair of distinct, yet faint shadows. There’s a crystal blue waterfall in the distance, pouring over jagged rocks into a translucent lake. Unicorns graze to your east, as the silhouettes of wood nymphs flit through the branches in the forest to the west. The ruby robes of two figures walk conspicuously toward the waterfall, as you notice the flowing fabric of your own sapphire-hued robe shining in the bright sunlight.

A single dragonfly appears in the distance, hovering, beckoning you with its tiny eyes…“Come closer.”

This is the world of Evermind.

Amethystium is the brainchild of one Oystein Ramfjord, and the music herein falls squarely into the brand of atmospheric electronics popularized by such luminaries as Enigma and Delerium. Evermind is Ramfjord’s third album (part three of the “Dragonfly Trilogy”) under the Amethystium moniker, and his use of lush atmospherics with steady, relaxing beats appears to have been all but perfected in the time since his second album, Aphelion. The album overflows with pretty keyboard melodies, pretty string synths, and pretty whoosh noises as the wind blows in the listener’s headphones. Indeed, it’s all very, very pretty. ‘Pretty’ even seeps into ‘utterly beautiful’ in a few spots, as on album closer “Imaginatio”, which features dueling melodies from a restrained electric guitar and a breathy female vocalist over gently pulsing synths. “Shadowlands” is just as lovely, with a solid mid-tempo beat and more of those vocals.

So sure, it’s all rather nice, but it’s in that constant beauty that lies the album’s primary flaw. Where bands like Enigma and Delerium manage to succeed is in the integration of some darker elements, offsetting the lush landscape with some distant menace in the form of storm clouds. There’s none of that distant dread to be found within Evermind’s vast expanses, leaving it completely without conflict. It’s Eden without the allure of the poison apple, and really, how interesting is that?

Repeated listens make the absence of darkness painfully obvious, as song after song of the beauty that started so subtly begins to feel like a nail to the forehead. If the guitar on “Imaginatio” is restrained, the one on “Break of Dawn” is positively castrated, to the point of sounding like just another synth melody. “Lost” brings on a flood of Velveeta, highlighting record scratches that never should have seen the light of day, probably as some sort of movement toward a contemporary urban sound—a grave mistake when the predominant sound of the album is as far from urban as one could possibly get. Smattered throughout Evermind are a number ventures into “Sounds of the Rainforest”-style nature recordings, which are likely integral to Ramfjord’s artistic vision, but come off as pretentious and a little bit distracting. It’s all just a little bit too overt in its attempt to be pretty, calm, and relaxing.

The name ‘Amethystium’ itself evokes unknown lands, elves and epic clashes between good and evil on a grand scale. Unfortunately, Evermind is all good, a Middle Earth without a Sauron to antagonize it. Listening to the entirety of Evermind is enough to leave a listener headachy and a bit disoriented, a bit like eating four pounds of candy might—it’s nice enough as it’s happening, but does anyone really need that much all at once? At the very least, there should be a cool drink of water in there to cleanse the palette.

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