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Amorphis elitists have been complaining for eons on how this band has been progressively changing its sound to the point of no longer even being heavy metal. The truth of the matter is that ever since their departure from the world of death metal, their music, though obviously lighter in its flavor, has improved in the realm of songwriting, but above everything else that makes this album so astounding is the mood that it creates when listening.
Skyforger is one of those albums that you have to listen to through its entirety, because without every song lined up in its according fashion, it just sounds like a bunch of great songs. When linked together, though, you find yourself able to immerse yourself in the music, to travel into the realm of the Skyforger himself, to imagine yourself inside the album cover and the grandiose spectacles therein (the cover is amazing, by the way). Amorphis gives you no time to second-guess listening to the album when it kicks things right off the bat with the intro to Sampo, a beautiful piano progression which continues as a main element throughout the rest of the album (the piano, not the progression).
The guitars are quite special on this album, as they contain parts that constitute to a very unique sound overall, which again adds to the whole flavor of the album. The cleaner guitars are evident in some of the more peaceful parts of the album, such as at the very beginning of Sampo alongside the piano, Course of Fate, and contribute to being the iconic focal point of remembrance in the song Sky is Mine. In My Sun and From Earth I Rose, the cleaner guitars substitute for Tomi during the non-vocalized parts, and in My Sun they even sometimes layer on top of the vocals. Acoustic guitars are used throughout as well, on the beautiful piece From the Heaven of My Heart with a sort of Celtic vibe, again along with the piano, playing a simple but ingenious melody that will be unforgettable and nostalgic in proper context. In the title track, Skyforger, the acoustic guitars have a sort of Latin sound to them which weirdly complements the high-pitched electric whistle or whatever instrument plays in response to it in that particular song. In Silver Bride and Highest Star, the clean guitars have a sort of condensed/muffled sound to them, which in the grand scheme works to the benefit of each of those songs. In Silver Bride, it leads right out of the epic conclusion of Sampo straight into the next song, toning things down a bit for only about 30 seconds before dropping the whole condensed sound and face-slamming you with full-on overdrive with solo guitars in the foreground. In Highest Star, the condensed sound serves as a background little ditty for the flute which presents the main melody until the vocalist comes in.
This occurs multiple times throughout the song and is timed exceedingly well. However, the most important guitars, of course, are the ones that constitute to whatever fragment of this album could still be considered heavy metal. These heavy guitars are more of the guiding star for the whole album, leading it along through its low and high points, in volume and intensity. But on numerous occasions, the crunchy and well thought-out riffs come through, like in the bridge of Sampo, where the vocals get hard and the solo guitars get real funky. Heck, almost all of the album has its fair share of the heavy guitars at the forefront: Silver Bride with the headbanging conclusion, From Earth I Rose in its epic intro roar, Course of Fate in basically all of it, Highest Star in the key-changing post-chorus, and let us not forget the rocking track Majestic Beast. Unlike some of their other less melodic albums, Skyforger's only song with almost all hard vocals is Majestic Beast, which includes nothing but riffs of either eerie slams of steady chugging.
One of the more interesting parts of this album is its usage of a variety of instrumentation. Piano, as mentioned before, is a common element throughout Skyforger, as well as the various types of guitars. A flute is used in Highest Star, an awesome addition to the song and the album, and the symphonic instruments really have a lot to offer in Majestic Beast in the non-melodic parts, interestingly enough.
Tomi Joutsen is without flaw. His voice fits into the album as if it were a puzzle piece, both in clean and hard vocals. He has is own iconic way of presenting himself, making himself both passionate and aggressive, emotional and ruthless, all at the same time, regardless of what style he happens to be in. In many cases, his vocals define themselves as the perfecting element of each individual song, even in areas where it may not seem to be the cases. Such occasions are in his first introduction into From the Heaven of My Heart, the chorus of Sampo, and the post-chorus of Highest Star.
One of my favorite parts of this album is the incessant key changes in unconventional areas, like in the bridge of Sampo, after the chorus of Highest Star, almost everywhere in My Sun, and perfectly placed in the intro to From Earth I Rose. A band may attempt to change keys to make a song longer without boring the listener, but is obviously not the intention of Amorphis in Skyforger. The drums are the only thing which have something left to be desired. They're kind of average, just keeping the beat of the music, though sometimes in weird time signatures, which should be recognized.
Some may claim that Amorphis has become wussy in its sound, or even that they're not even heavy metal anymore. Regardless, this is still on of Amorphis' best albums yet.
Every other Amorphis album since Eclipse has impressed me more than the one that came before it. Silent Waters and The Beginning Of Times don't stack up to Skyforger and Circle. The cohesion, flow, and zest on here signifies a re-rejuvenated band. Many times on here am I reminded of Insomnium in terms of that immense lead guitar angle, gracefully executed here by Esa Holopainen. His (at times) spacey, colossal delivery maintains the band's vast scope and Skyforger's larger-than-life appeal. Put him up with the album's beefy, rich production and that means a heavier, chunkier offering (the bass support on this is weighty like globs of sludge).
To get the bad out of the way, "My Sun" is disjointed with its verses and choruses. It doesn't have the same impact or structure to make it sound like one unforgettable, organized song. Other than that one dip, Skyforger is a remarkable album. It's got the humbleness of Amorphis' clean, modern sound and the uplifting, lighter tone that keeps it from getting too coarse. It's got maybe one song that adopts of death metal influence, "Majestic Beast". This one's (Ghost Reveries) Opeth-heavy with the proggy keys, riff-style, and deep, demonic growling while still maintaining its own identity. Joutsen's growling is throughout the album, but it's at its most authoritative and intimidating on this one song. Joutsen's affectionate, plush, profound cleans are much more prominent.
Going with the fatter production, the bass and drums are powerful. Hear a song like "Course Of Fate" slam at the start with its meaty bass lines, crashing drums, and the colossal riffs. Others like "Sampo" take their time to build up to a climax, unleashing wave after wave of carefully interwoven clean vocals, guitar harmonies, and lurid keys. "From The Heaven Of My Heart" is the same with its memorable keyboard melody and Joutsen's far-reaching cleans profuse with passion. Other times it's the straightforward style that maintains supremacy, like with "Sky Is Mine" (Esa's echoing harmony reminds me of the one in “Under A Soil And Black Stone" off Eclipse) and my album-favorite, "Silver Bride". Both of these songs are hit-material, with "Silver Bride" being Skyforger's peak in terms of intensity, emotion, and tremendous leads, verses, and choruses.
Amorphis is one of my favorite bands because of albums just like this one. It's got professional presentation and carries itself glowingly. Performances from everyone in the band are highlighted and it's got appropriate production to back it up. It can be a grower at first, but that means it's worth will also grow with it. For a somewhat lighter, elevating Amorphis, Skyforger's definitely the thing that'll capture your attention.
Amorphis is a strange band that I have enjoyed immensely. Yes, I love the "new Amorphis" much more than the previous full blown death metal Amorphis such as The Karelian Isthmus, etc. Why? One reason: Tomi Jousten. This man has some of the most wondrous pipes I have ever heard. His work on Eclipse and Silent Waters is impressive and I became a huge fan due to him. Skyforger takes Silent Waters to a consistent pattern with catchy hooks, catchy vocals, catchy solos...you get the idea, hopefully.
As soon as "Sampo" started off, I knew I was in for a treat. Being a huge fan of classical music, I was entranced by the beginning piano section. And then it ended.... and in it came, THE SAME CATCHY RIFFS THAT MADE ME A FAN IN THE BEGINNING. Amorphis have never failed to disappoint when it comes to sticking songs in your head and never leaving it. From the majestic chorus of "Course Of Fate" to the simple, yet enchanting solo of "Silver Bride", and of course to the stomper that we call "Majestic Beast", a beast of a song, quite literally due to Joustens diverse vocal stylings. He has a good amount of talent when it comes to growls and this song shows it off. The keyboard melodies are glorious and are able to match up quite nicely with that of the lead and rhythm guitars, which by themselves are quite godlike (go watch their live album.
Koivusaari and Holopainen are as amazing as they are in the albums)
Jousten and Co. are in top shape and form, forging top notch melodic metal that is amazing every step of the way. Consistency is key, and they, like other fantastic and consistent bands (hi Bolt Thrower, can we get a new album yet?), are able to surpass many in their genre. Thank you, Amorphis, for giving me this music of the gods.
"Skyforger" is the third record of the new Amorphis era and it surely won't disappoint those who liked the two previous outputs. In comparison to the diversified and energizing comeback "Eclipse" and the melancholic masterpiece "Silent Waters", "Skyforger" is a littlle bit calmer and more folk orientated. While the album contains many great songs such as "Sampo", "Silver Bride" or "Sky Is Mine" which I would all put in my all time top ten list of the band, the record falls off the edge in the second half and lacks of innovation and surprises towards the end.
The album contains many addicting and catchy choruses, especially in the first half of the record. "Silver Bride" is a very engaging single and will convince you soon while "From The Heaven Of My Heart" is a little bit too calm, conventional and commercial. The best track on the record is the dreamy and intense "Sky Is Mine", an absolute highlight and maybe the best track the band has written since "Alone".
For fans of the heavier side of Amorphis, there are still some rougher tracks like the great "Majestic Beast" even if the track feels a little bit lost in the middle of the record and doesn't quite fit to the rest. Another highlight that fits more the album and resumes everything you might like about the new face and style of the Finnish masters of metal is the slightly progressive opener "Sampo" that mixes soft, harsh and progressive passages that are all hold together by enchanting melodies.
But if the first half of the album announces another masterpiece of the band, there are too many tracks in the second part that sound alike. These songs still have some beautiful melodies but they are not very catchy and don't offer anything we haven't heard before. They focus more on folk melodies than on commercial hooks and remind me of a softer and less progressive version of "Tuonela". The songs have interesting approaches but lack energy and don't have the same kind of magic as the old classics. With a little bit more focus, a track like "Highest Star" could have become an enchanting folk track but as it is on the record it sounds quite redundant. The title track "Skyforger" also sounds a little bit overlong and has a rather mediocre introduction that fails to kick this song off early enough.
These are the reasons why we have a quite good but not an excellent record. It's your average Amorphis record that is nice to listen to but nothing outstanding and can't mess up with the two previous releases. Any fan of folk metal and catchy melodic metal with beautiful melodies and a lot of atmosphere should though check this record out and any true fan of Amorphis shouldn't hesitate to buy this album. The first half is easily worth ninety-five percent and the second one still slightly below eighty percent which leads me to my final verdict that turns out to be still above most of the other metal releases of the year. Amorphis defend their throne and remain the Finnish masters of metal and the best and most profound and progressive melodic metal band in the world with this output.
AMORPHIS, what is happening to you people? That question aside for later revise, let's take a closer look at the short history of one of Finland's best, when it comes to great atmosphere and competent musicianship. AMORPHIS started out in 1990 as one of the first wave of the so called "doom/death hybrid" bands, but still had their own thing going on. Their unique Scandinavian touch created unique song structures and were a fresh breath of air at the time, using melodic progression and catchy tunes, instead of pure aggressiveness and misanthropy, to obtain the listener's attention. Not only that they were the first band added to the metal-archives.com, but also one of the first from far north to create an almost perfect symbiotic coexistence between the downtuned, haunting guitar heaviness of late 80s doom metal and the ever-growing folk influence on heavy metal of the time, which has still persisted onto this day. Albums such as 1992's "The Karelian Isthmus" or their best known "Tales from the Thousand Lakes" in 1994 have paved the way for AMORPHIS' becoming and career.
After a very rickety ride through various experimentation with other genres in their mid-era and two vocalist changes, AMORPHIS have seemingly reached rock bottom by the begin of the new millennium. 2006's "Eclipse" was a new beginning and the rise from the ashes for the band, with a fresh new vocalist, a rather unknown Tomi Joutsen, who still delivers the band's vocal duties up to this date. While every fan of the band was eager and anxious to see how the band will prove themselves in their new commencement, with a new vocalist and a new label, Nuclear Blast, AMORPHIS was catapulted to greater heights in commercial success and fame.
Now every skeptic would have second thoughts at this point, as big labels often mean that a band will change their style and imagery completely, their primary goal being to achieve more and more commercial success, to seemingly earn enough money out of their music, so that they can cover a great deal of costs, coming out of their way of living or preforming. Not most of the time, within this process, the essence of the previous music volatilizes, the band remaining only a shadow of its former self. That of course doesn't bother labels or promotion groups, because they make their money out of it and there are always enough people who buy merchandise, only because it's on the front page of some magazine. At this point it's interesting where we are getting and how this appeals to a great band such as AMORPHIS.
After 2006, AMORPHIS held surprisingly tight to their genre and imagery (more or less) and delivered solid and stable music, even if the direction they were heading to had more to do with modern and melodic rock than with heavy metal. The guitar work wasn't as heavy and ominous as it was erstwhile, the vocals were also becoming more and more compatible to other audiences beside the classic heavy metal cliché personnel. By 2007, at the latest, the scene was full of "emo" kids and popqueens, dancing between the evil black dressed vikings and long-haired creatures. OK, so what's wrong with that, just enjoy the music, right? Correct. As the mixing of various other subcultures other than the metal genre may be inevitable at this point, the least a band can do is stay true to its ideals and most important of all, authenticity.
2009 is yet again a year of mediocrity, where again more than 90% of all the albums published by heavy metal bands are bland, dull and simply put, boring. "Skyforger" is not only a very uninspired name for a record, since there also is a band that goes by that name, but also because it has no expressive force whatsoever, not in the theme and less in its music. The basic formula is not unlike pop bands of today, creating a Am F C G melody, repeating and permuting it into endless loops. Now that is not necessarily the cause of the terrible mediocrity this album emits, as there is no shame in repetition or simplicity for that matter, and some songs (i.e. the title song) really have something of previous greatness left. The cause of the battering boredom is simply that "Skyforger" is a clone of a clone and can be perceived as AMORPHIS current status. A clone. Or better yet, a cocoon, undergoing a metamorphosis (pun intended) to their comrades, NIGHTWISH. It is at this point very clear, that the bands have a lot in common, but mostly, that AMORPHIS are dropping a perpendiculal onto NIGHTWISH's music, evolving steadily into them. This album is almost the final product of this backwards evolution. The songs sound a lot like the mainstream pop metal music that is becoming more and more popular amongst the metal scene. They now sound like hammer blows, cushioned by soft bland tunes and smooth drumming accompanied by mellow riffing. The vocalist's aesthetics in rage have also become tired. So back to my question; AMORPHIS, what is happening to you people? You think you have created a beautiful symphony? Reaching your artistic peaks? You can do a lot better than this. Stop being a clone.
(written 8.8.2009 for metal-observer.com)
Amorphis’ ninth album, Skyforger, is undoubtedly one of my most eagerly awaited acquisitions of 2009. After an incredible two-album renewal of an already very good band (which was admittedly losing some steam here and there before 2005 and the entrance of Tomi Joutsen into the band) there was little that they could do wrong here, and I’m glad to say that Amorphis has delivered an album which is, at the very least, equal in quality to its two illustrious predecessors.
The unique and unmistakable “new Amorphis” sound which started on Eclipse and matured on Silent Waters is most definitely here in all its beauty. It’s rather hard to describe and even harder to pin down in any pre-existing metal genre, it’s just… metal, the Amorphis way. The sound is a mix of melodic riffs containing trace elements of death metal and progressive metal with a very slight shadow of doom metal that has by this stage in their career all but disappeared. The music is for the most part very melodic, with incredibly catchy choruses intermixed with the occasional death metal growls (the latter half of Sampo, the ending of Silver Bride, Majestic Beast) but consisting for the most part of clean vocal passages.
As for the individual strength of the album’s elements, the songs range from very good to excellent, perhaps even perfect. Opener Sampo is an interesting way to begin the album, having a certain catchy ring to it but turning into a more death metal-oriented song in its later stages, as mentioned above. The album’s lead single, Silver Bride, then follows and reveals itself as one of the best tracks here; boasting a very catchy chorus which repeats itself throughout, in a gradual crescendo accompanied by the addictively melodic riffs, it climaxes with a growled section at the end which ends the entire thing in an elevated feeling of, well, perfection. Its brilliance is however dwarfed by the sublime beauty that is From the Heaven of My Heart. Here, Amorphis drop all semblance of harshness and go on to perform into one of the most emotionally charged numbers of their career, quite possibly the most powerful in this regard. Its lyrical content is on par with its musical quality, especially during the chorus, and all this is enhanced by the presence of a perfectly positioned solo during the latter half of the song, just after the second repetition of the chorus and before the conclusion of the song, which is the chorus repeated one last time. While this solo is certainly of very little technical significance, it just feels so appropriate to the moment, to the completeness of the song.
Amazingly, nothing from the rest of the album can be considered weak or even filler material; each song has its place and, while certainly not all of them are immediately noticeable, all are highly enjoyable, if somewhat discreet in some cases. The two other significant highlights here are the melancholic ballad, My Sun, as well as the complex and varied title track. The former’s beauty and emotional depth, second only to that of From the Heaven of My Heart, and the latter’s intensity make for a very interesting listen throughout the album all the way to its end, providing useful bridges between the rest of the songs, which in turn form the body of the music.
Additional elements which make this all so successful include the production, which is flawless: everything is very well balanced and loud enough, without giving off any sort of an artificial feeling to the music. The lyrics are quite complex and metaphorical, again dealing with love, loneliness, loss, existence and the heavens. Everything is very well written in this regard and reading them while listening to the album is a pleasure. One last quality which adds to Skyforger’s quality is the artwork. Now, Amorphis are no slouches in this field, as they proved with their previous album, but here the artwork takes on a new level of beauty and significance. It’s not necessarily better than that of Silent Waters; simply different. The artwork has that great complexity and an abstract level to it which is very reminiscent of Negură Bunget’s artwork for their last album, Om.
Amorphis have achieved the great task of keeping their musical output interesting at this point in their career, which is no small feat. In keeping true with the high levels of quality exhibited on Eclipse and Silent Waters, they’ve evolved their sound even further. Skyforger is an excellent album as well as a good place to start for anyone wishing to enjoy Amorphis’ work.
2006 was a breath of fresh air for Amorphis when they released their seventh album, Eclipse, the first with new vocalist, Tomi Joutsen. Joutsen breathed new life into the band and his wide range of vocal capabilities, along with his bursting energy, gave Amorphis the boost they needed to reinvent themselves yet again and deliver fresh and innovative music. Skyforger is the third instalment of the trilogy that began with Eclipse, and shows each member of this line up pushing themselves to the absolute limit to deliver the beautifully crafted, third consecutive masterpiece.
In general, Skyforger is in the same stylistic vein as the previous two albums, but there is enough tweaking to avoid annoyance or repetition. In a sense, Skyforger borrows the best aspects from both Eclipse and Silent Waters to create the most diverse effort since 1996’s Elegy. The vibrant energy from Eclipse is present in songs such as Silver Bride, while the melancholic tendencies of Silent Waters also appear throughout the album, specifically in the slower, more melodic tracks such as From The Heaven Of My Heart and My Sun. The best moments of the album are when Amorphis successfully blend so many aspects and emotions into one song. There are several examples of this, but the most obvious ones are in the opener, Sampo and the title track. These songs both display a mixture of heavy and soft, fast and slow, epic and mellow atmospheres throughout.
It is interesting to note that each of the six members contribute to the song writing of the music, which is another way diversity is achieved. However, when it comes down to it, it’s the instrumentation, as always, that makes this album so captivating to listen to. It’s great to hear the piano/keyboards play a more prominent role as they really create some of the best melodies. Songs such as Sampo and From Earth I Rose have excellent keyboard sections which remind me of the bizarre structures of the Elegy days. Superb guitar work can be found throughout the entire album, although certainly the most memorable are the epic, crushing, doom-laden riffs of Majestic Beast. These riffs, coupled with Joutsen’s most punishing vocal performance, possibly ever, make this Amorphis` heaviest track in years. Although Majestic Beast is perhaps the only track that would satisfy the hunger of death metal fans, harsh vocals are present throughout the album, although are about as sparse as the previous two releases. Speaking of vocals, Tomi Joutsen shines the brightest on this record, and truly displays just how varied his capabilities are.
It pleases me to know that even though Amorphis are now nine albums deep into their career, they have not gotten lazy or relied on old tricks to please old fans. Amorphis continue to push forward with their music and achieve new goals. This album should not only appeal to Amorphis fans, but also fans of an array of metal sub-genres. I highly recommend this creative piece of work to everyone.
The second album of the Finnish Amorphis, Tales From The Thousand Lakes, from 1994, is recognized as the band’s most classical album, and it’s still one of the best creations of Doom / Death Metal in the Metal world. Nevertheless, this year this notion, until the next album of course, has ended.
Amorphis presents their new piece, Skyforger, an album which overall tops every single release that has come before it. Many opinions will be expressed that the band’s sub-genre has changes along the years and today they play differently from their younger days as a Doom / Death Metal band. Therefore, to cancel the notion regarding Tales From The Thousand Lakes is a mistake. However, fans are still talking about the same band and their style since their 1996 album, Elegy , has turned into something unique and magnificent that only helped to elevate the band’s repertoire in Metal.
Skyforger is the best brainstorm these guys had since their formation almost 20 years ago. Maybe its defied their roots of origin a bit, but it's a sure nominee for album of the year!
Since Elegy, Amorphis concentrated on making their music more than just a mix between Death / Doom Metal. They added more melodies, made mostly by wah-wah and intense choruses, reverb effects, enchanting solos full of emotions performed with an amazing ability. Working above them are artistic clean harmonized vocals under packs of harsh low-end growls. Moreover, they began a more intense use of the keyboards and sitar that was used to create complex, yet beautiful, harmonies with the guitars along with chilly atmospheres of utter coldness. This main characteristic is one of their greatest accomplishments. With the musical development they began writing their material according to Finnish legends and Elegy is their official getaway from the war theme that ruled their first two albums.
Skyforger masters the same elements as its previous five albums, yet the material presented, in comparison to the others , just kicks the fan. Although the band’s previous album , Silent Waters , is an equal to their 1994 classic, every track on this new piece of music shows how Amorphis perfected themselves along the years.
2009 marks the joining of members’ entire artistic talents making a wonder of an album under a formula that has existed for 13 years. Tracks like the enchantingly melodic “Sampo” , the blistering “Silver Bride” and the ultra dreamy “Sky Is Mine” are just small examples of why Skyforger is awesome. Even if a track, lyrically or vocally, won’t get to you , just listen to the music that is swamped with melodies and loads of atmospheric elements. If you desire a bit of the roughness of Death Metal you have “Majestic Beast” and “From The Earth I Rose”, just remember that Death Metal is just one of many small elements in Amorphis’s music nowadays. If you wish for softness and emotions rubbed with power you have “My Sun” , “Highest Star” , “Course Of Fate” and “From The Heaven Of My Heart”. The self-tiled track encompasses everything the album offers, it’s a sort of a crossroad point of the album, although it was placed near the end of it.
Through Amorphis' current musical performance you can catch glimpses of their past, yet they chose to embrace their past with a much more artistic view. Their music holds a magic that not many bands possess, however complex and interesting they try to be. Amorphis has a lot of experience and now, after 20 years of creations they produce their best release. But don’t forget Metalheads that Amorphis isn’t done yet and they keep on working, so Skyforger isn’t their final word. What will be interesting is... how will they top this release in the future?
What Amorphis started in 2006 with Eclipse and followed in 2007 with Silent Waters has concluded with this year’s Skyforger. Their self-proclaimed trilogy of albums with new vocalist Tomi Joutsen has helped them to revive their career, all because they’ve gotten more in touch with their roots and settled into a comfort zone of crafting hooks like no other metal band on the planet. Unfortunately, the record isn’t as good as its predecessors in the series, but it ends it on a strong note regardless. It excels because it sticks to the formula they’ve mastered over the course of the past three years while adding subtle variations, and aiming only to please with overwhelming, unadulterated melodies.
Whereas Silent Waters took Eclipse and made it darker and heavier, Skyforger elects to do the opposite, stripping the Amorphis sound of most of its extreme elements. The only song on the album to feature mostly growls is “Majestic Beast”, the remainder of the disc electing to showcase them very sporadically. Because of this lack of contrast between the heavy and the light, the album can start to sound monotonous after awhile, and it becomes difficult to differentiate each track from one another. However, once you attain a better familiarity with the record as a whole, the compositions richen, and it becomes easy to appreciate it for the treasure it is.
It must be noted that, although Skyforger is a consistent album, there are, unfortunately, a handful of throw-aways on the disc that, even after repeat listens, don’t age well. “Highest Star” and “Skyforger” are the most egregious examples, featuring slow-churning vocals from Joutsen that sound as if they were yelled purely for the sake of being yelled. He, and the rest of the group for that matter, are at their best when they’re being active. Contrast the above works with “Sampo” or “From Earth I Rose” and the disparity in quality becomes apparent. There, the guitars churn out line after line of glorious melody, the vocals complimenting the instruments by soaring alongside them. They showcase the band at the height of their powers, not only in respect to their own discography but in comparison to what their contemporaries are doing as well.
Of all the criticisms I’ve read of the band, one of the most unfounded is that their music is simple, and therefore it is boring. They aren’t Atheist or Cynic, but where those bands aim to impress with chaotic technicality, Amorphis aims to impress with only melody in mind. Skyforger is, as lead guitarist Esa Holopainen put it, their most musical album in awhile, but not in the sense there are more solos or that the songs are longer. It’s musical in that it fills ups space with bass, drums, guitars and keyboards like only the best of prog bands do, even if it isn’t all that progressive. It tries to occupy you with hooks so original they ingrain themselves on your brain, but that don’t feel cheap or forced.
It’s undeniable that, by now, Amorphis has gotten a little too comfortable. The positive reception their recent works have garnered has built hype around the band for the first time in years, and their complacency has started to creep into their writing. For their next effort, I wouldn’t be surprised if they wrote something that harkened back to their death-doom metal days, but for now, I will sit comfortably knowing they’re at a glorious point in their career they might never return to again. Now that they’ve completed their trilogy, there’s no telling where they’ll go next, but something tells me they’ll be alright. If an album like Skyforger, with all its minuscule blemishes and faults, can be so good, then who’s to say something legendary isn’t lurking around the corner?
Amorphis have been on quite the tear since acquiring Tomi Joutsen; it is now the third album with this new singer, yet another quality effort which aspires to (but doesn't quite reach) the level of some of their classics ('Tales from the Thousand Lakes', 'Elegy'). At the same time, it leaves behind none of the melodic progressive folk/rock aesthetic which the band has been pushing since Tuonela. 'Skyforger' is a happy medium between all walks of the band's career with the exception of their early death & doom.
Joutsen has always had the range to fill the shoes of Pasi Koskinen, but it does seem the band is intent to focus on his clean style, to which he adheres the Finnish gothic radio rock influence of his other band (Sinisthra). He meshes well with the compositions of 'Skyforger' as he did Eclipse and Silent Waters, but I do wish the band would use more growls. I realize they've long sinced moved on from that as their modus operandi, but some of the melodies on this album would have sounded superior with drawn out gutturals over them (think the title track of Elegy). At any rate, the rest of the band is in fine form. The guitars conjure folkish melodies over simple chord patterns and the pianos & acoustics are tastefully implemented. It's Amorphis.
The 10 tracks here are fairly consistent in quality. "Sampo" initiates the album with a stream of twisting, catchy guitars while Joutsen cants some soothing melodies. There are a few breaks in the song with orchestration/flute, but they create a tasteful counterpart to the rocking. It's actually a pretty complex tune and Joutsen does break out the growls later in the track. "Silver Bride" uses a pretty safe melodic structure, and the verses feel 'meh' but the bridge and chorus become quite fetching. "From the Heaven of My Heart" (ugh) begins with some piano balladry, but picks up into a familiar rocking territory. The opening to "Sky is Mine" is very reminiscent of some of the band's Tuonela material, but it's the catchiest track (thus far) on this album, with a memorable chorus. "Majestic Beast" is a heavier track, with growls used as the primary vocals...man WHAT A DIFFERENCE! If only the band has gone this route on more of the tunes. Needless to say, this one brings you right back to their glory days, before they return to safe mode with "My Sun". "Highest Star" is another of those tracks teasing ballad status before it begins to rage, some of the middle segments are quite excellent. "Skyforger" and "Course of Fate" are likewise heavier tracks, emotionally powerful even with the cleans. The album ends on a great note with "From Here I Rose", one of its strongest pieces, again the growl vocals really kick ass.
'Skyforger' is certainly a strong effort. I really enjoyed its predecessor, 'Silent Waters', but I think once this gets past the first few tracks, it is every bit the equal. The production is top notch and the performances are superb all around. I can imagine this will be a great album for the autumn when I'm doing scenic drives in New Hampshire and Maine; like many of their previous works, it creates a harmonic confluence with the natural world, and the folklore of Finland's history. The lyrics are poetic and true to the band's past. A few of the early tracks could have used some more growling, it would have created a beautiful atmosphere to counter and enrich the melodies. At least we get this in "Majestic Beast" and a few of the others. Growls are not a bad thing. If someone so much as suggests that they are, shoot them. Either way, I am far from disappointed with the 9th full-length from Finland's sons.