If we focus primarily on the non-bastardized jazz elements, like keyboards, rhythm section, or especially the guitar, then the album is Amorphis' crown jewel for creative composition. The album kicks off with the gentle keys and happy harmonics we've come to expect from the band with "Alone." The song meanders through thick interchanges of sound and tasty vocal lines before hitting a wall of warm, overdone pop sax. Fear not, as "Goddess" blasts the listener with Pasi's endearing vocal harmonies and their most memorable wall of keyboard sound in recent memory, while "The Night Is Over" recalls memories of the twin guitar/keyboard leads of "Against Widows" from Elegy. Speaking of that album, "Forever More" is the most folk jam fun these guys have had since "Weeper on the Shore," with its acoustic, upbeat feel and rhythmic propulsion. The nucleus of this album lies in the heart with "Crimson Wave" and "Drifting Memories," as both show the greatest strengths and weaknesses of the "brand new" Amorphis. The first moves with a wistful, driving, relaxed motion recalling the heydays of the '70s before exploding into a loud catchy chorus, bringing the band to near-perfection before it spirals down the drain with the Kenny G ending solo. The sax sounds a bit sweeter on "Drifting Memories," as the soprano sax warmly glides into pseudo-Middle Eastern sounds. Luckily, the keyboards and guitars sound effortless, saving the song from porno sax land. Here Esa and Tomi's patient performance pay off, as the textured guitars have never sounded better. This album is phenomenal, yet, as others have mentioned, sometimes unbearable. To go from the gut-wrenching sax solo, which begins "Veil of Sin," to the gorgeous U2-infused guitar of "Captured State" is misguided and irresponsible. Amorphis has abused its creative edge and pushed on untrained ears tactless jazz elements to try to improve their status as a creative band. Stick to what you know fellas, the flutes from Tuonela's "Rusty Moon" showed strength and promise -- use them. If each saxophone was replaced with a flute, or better yet African and Middle Eastern wood instruments, the album would probably be a near masterpiece of the rock genre. Few rock bands have ever mastered the saxophone with precision -- only King Crimson, Patto, MC5, and the Stooges come to mind. Even then, these bands were ingenious, using it sparingly and only in a hard bop or wild free jazz style. Please, Amorphis, spare those listeners who have experienced real jazz, and turn the creative wheels in another direction on the next album. You are oh, so close to your masterpiece, and Am Universum is proof of that.
AllMusic Review by Jason Hundey