Amorphis continue to blaze a trail on the road marked ‘heavy and melodic’. Halo is another exceptional album.
Release Date: 11th February 2022
Label: Atomic Fire Records
Formats: CD / digital / vinyl
Finland’s Amorphis have only popped their heads above our/my parapet of late. It was an encounter with Under The Red Cloud in 2015 that provided the spark to start backpedalling almost thirty years (whilst also moving forward with 2018’s Queen Of Time) with this most dramatic of Metal bands.
With a hugely impressive live album under their belt (last year’s Live At Helsinki Ice Hall that celebrated their recent triumphs with a smattering of their early material), one might think, as is often the case, the live album provides a punctuation point in a band’s career. One that often heralds the end of one era and the start of a grand new adventure.
Despite being spoken of as: “a little more stripped-down compared to Queen Of Time and Under The Red Cloud,” by singer Tomi Joutsen, Halo is another tsunami of grandiose Metal. Amorphis still sound like they’re providing the soundtrack to marauding eighth and ninth Century Viking invaders crossing the North Sea in their longboats. Any sort of stripped-back indulgence, restraint if you will, only go to emphasise those grander gestures; ones which come sonically via the magic ears of producer Jens Bogren along with their long-standing lyrical consciousness, Pekka Kainulainen. The latter being responsible for providing the stirring lyrics that match the might of the music.
That balance in Amorphis comes most obviously via the Joutsen vocal where the ominous gruffness and at times, frankly scary growls are tempered with some sweeter passages and verses. Hard to believe how it’s the same singer. Musically, the ethnic twists and choral sections that pepper the opening songs suggest that there’s some evidence to back up the claims that Halo offers something in a new direction. The likes of the magnificent The Moon deliver what we know and love about Amorphis. Widescreen, dramatic, atmospheric travelogues and The Moon is up there with the finest of them; the clarion call as they sail into the eye of the storm while reminding us that within all the bluster lies a top-notch song with a swirling guitar line. Melody and hooks might be less of a consideration in many branches of Metal, but with Amorphis, they’re high priority.
While talking of high priority, so is the constant theme/thread/threat of aggression (The Wolf and War do what it says on the tin) that alternates with the Metal version of Celtic swing that carries the grand mythology purpose in the excellent When The Gods Came. And while the likes of Nightwish Within Temptation fly the flag for the more symphonic versions of the metal genre, no one does it quite as Amorphis does. Having said that, they sign off with an exquisite acoustic ballad with Petronella Nettermalm providing the contrast of a female voice as she duets in a restrained and soothing conclusion. One that leads to the thought of Amorphis orchestral. All mood lighting and candles – …this one certainly fits the bill.
We’ll leave it to guitarist Esa Holopainen (we loved his Silver Lake project btw) to rather humbly come up with the understatement of 2022, expressing his pride at still being able to deliver “decent music.” If he won’t blow his own trumpet, then we must – suffice to say that with Halo, Amorphis blast most other bands out of the water.
Watch the official video for On The Dark Waters (also available as an exclusive 7″ vinyl) from the album here: