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I don't know what happened, but "Battle For Light" didn't do anything to hook me into the album. "Sampo" on Skyforger and "Two Moons" on Eclipse were just fine in accomplishing this feat and were even followed by two singles that were downright awesome. "Mermaid" sort of does the same here, with twisting leads and hooks that sink in. "A Servant" even did it for Silent Waters, which itself opened up with the meandering "Weaving The Incantation". In my opinion, Amorphis only got it right every other album with Joutsen. What The Beginning Of Times ultimately is... well, it's really long and really unchanging, and this far in the band really could have used something else to rekindle the their waning spirits.
The Beginning Of Times has very little to say. There’s a large absence of that epic fervor which an album like Skyforger was ripe with. There’s catchiness to varying degrees of success, but not of the inspired kind that draws you into each song. Even with those that do have inspiration, not one song on here hits that same eclectic stride that created such energetic, memorable Joutsen-era standouts like “Silver Bride” or “Empty Opening.” This makes for an album that sort of glides unremarkably. Add on the fact that there are too many songs on this and it ends up being an album that goes on for too long and with no purpose. A couple of the longer songs get boring, clean / growled sections don’t often match, and it seems the band felt the need to write an album without the same thoughtfulness. Other times the problem is having the right mindset, but then fluffing it unnecessarily. Examples are in “Soothsayer” with the female vocals derailing the song or the jolly / folky section in “Song Of The Sage” pulling a handbrake on Esa’s hearty leads.
Take the opener again, which has all the characteristics that would make an Amorphis opener great: strong production, chaste melodies, vocal hooks, and some embodiment of rhythm that’s defined in immense movements. “Sampo” off Skyforger did this brilliantly, but “Battle For Light” on here feels uneventful, lacking direction and climax (not to mention just being an unimpressive song). Joutsen’s growls are more prominent (I’d still consider the album dainty), but as I stated there addition is only useful if it’s applied well. That’s the rest of the band’s situation – I don’t mind their input, but as to what it creates? That’s what I’m not convinced on. From the meandering chorus of “Battle For Light” dressed in Esa’s determined harmonies and Kallio’s bright keys to the downright duds “On A Stranded Shore”. The riffs are tight and hardened, bass substantial, and drumming typical, but where’s the personality? This is an album not characterized by the strength of individual songs and certainly not of a complete body of work.
Asking me, I prefer the darker or more atmospheric songs by the band. Songs like “Three Words” is close with bellicose riffing that builds up really well to its clean chorus. Esa’s echoing guitar is a signature of this band, and with Kallio’s keys they make for that expansive sound. The three-in-a-row of good songs, “Mermaid,” “My Enemy,” and “You I Need” doesn’t really reach this preference of mine, but these three have that gripping component that the others don’t. These are the songs that should have set the bar in terms of being the album’s average. They instead are the better songs that find a compelling hook and compatible arrangements to build up to and execute that hook. Others like the title track (with beefy bass) sound like a modern day Elegy, reminding me that the band isn’t too far removed from that formula.
Speaking as a fan, I still consider this an ok album. It's not blind love, but genuine appreciation for Amorphis still wanting to use this sound as a voice for their music. It's similar to the rest of what the band has done in recent years up to this point, but with less zest and a more predictable delivery. Nonetheless, it's got some good editions that, while not heaps above recent hits like "Silver Bride" and "House Of Sleep," make this album barely appreciable. Missing out on listening to this would be a mistake, as hearing more Amorphis in general wouldn't be something I myself would hold back from.
Amorphis is one of the most beautiful and interesting bands I have ever had the privilege to encounter. I remember, I wasn't all that interested in their music at first. Finding the themes of mysticism and tales from the Finnish epic, "The Kalevala" to be too melodramatic. However, the moment I gave them a chance, I was filled with regret. Not for giving them a chance, but for waiting so long to experience the perfection of their music. The Beginning of Time is their newest album, and 4th album with "new" singer Tomi Joutsen. I feel as though I am in the minority that believes that Amorphis has not only become much more mature since Tomi has arrived, but that Tomi is also the much superior singer. The overall theme of this album is about the creation of the Earth and all life, and the travels of the Finnish hero "Väinämöinen"
The album opens up to a sweet, and epic piano introduction. Setting the scene, and developing the theme for what will be Väinämöinen's, and by association, the listener's journey through this epic. "Battle for Light" is remniscent of previous Amorphis openers, a singular theme, a way to set the stage for the different story lines that build behind our protagonist. If the tracks for Amorphis, especially with Tomi, do one thing, they have an inate ability to be a perfect mix between the previous generation of Amorphis's more heavy and violent style, effortlessly weaving Tomi's harsh vocals as a way of creating conflict within the song's story, while easily soothing things over with the clean and melodious vocals.
"Mermaid," and "My Enemy" are further examples of how different styles of singing and different signatures of time, and different intensities of the vocals can radically change the setting and continuously weave either a dark or brilliant story. "My Enemy" is stunning in that it finds a way to blend both melodic death metal with folk elements and weave beautiful harmonies with an almost "anthemic" feel to the chorus. Another thing thats easy to notice with these songs is just how brilliantly the instruments are able to craft a certain melody and that Tomi and even Esa and Niclas are able to follow the melody with their singing to leave a song stuck in your head for, not just hours, but for days!
Perhaps the one detail that has avoided my detail is how brilliantly the musicianship and the use of a cornucopia of different instruments and melodies can make a listener feel transferred not to just different time periods but different regions of the young Earth. From synthesizers leaving an almost middle-eastern feel in Crack in a Stone. To feeling as though you are sitting atop a mountain gazing at a newly born Earth, to feeling the rage of the Earth cracking around you from Väinämöinen's wrath.
Tomi Joutsen has often struggled in the past, especially in Eclipse, pronouncing English words. Often times using some words as a crutch to get past more difficult phrases, but on this album, especially, he has better command of the English language. Powerfully enunciating every syllable and making all the lyrics actually decipherable. Of course this is important as the epic story of Väinämöinen is brilliantly exposed and told through different emotions and melodies creating more than just a music album but an epic poem that actually enthralls the listener beyond simply the aesthetic pleasure of listening to the music.
There are more than a dozen songs on this CD and each are as memorable as the last. Each song portrays sorrow, happiness, anger, fear, and every emotion that you can summon to describe a hero and their valiant struggles as a demi-god in the brand new world.
Progressive themes, violent, and primal tones, calming and peaceful interludes, solemn tones that indicate failure of our hero Väinämöinen, excitable and even panicked songs like "Escape." All of these themes combine to make one of the best albums of 2011, and an absolutely fantastic listen from front to back. If there is at all a criticism for this album. It is that it may not be as good as their prior release in "Skyforger," and definitely not close to the masterpiece that is "Eclipse" But truly, if those are the problems you have to deal with as an artist, then you are trending in the right direction.
The Beginning of Times is a brilliant album that is close to perfection, but only slightly falls short of their other brilliant work.
(Also posted on blog: http://existentialreverberations.blogspot.com/)
After three very good releases with the charismatic new singer Tomi Joutsen, Amorphis release their opus magnum of this new era in form of this record. This record doesn't introduce many new elements but it is able to catalyze the forces of the band in one single magnificent record without one single filler. This record features another impressive cover artwork, more fantastic lyrics about Finnish culture, and dozens of amazing and intense melodies somewhere between the emotions of freedom, melancholy and mystery. The few new elements, as many little folk passages that lighten up the record and some grounded and yet magic female background vocals fit perfect to the sound and feel like the two missing elements to make Amorphis sound perfect. If you liked the last three outputs, you will adore this one.
Already the opener "Battle For Light" is more intense and detailed than some other bands' entire records. You have beautiful clean parts, energizing harsh death growls and male choirs just to talk about the vocals. Add some great folk sounds, a few symphonic elements created by the inoffensive keyboards and many changes of flow and rhythm directed by the strong drums and great vibrating bass sounds. After such an amazing opener how can you get any better? Well, Amorphis can. "Mermaid" starts with a dreamy melody and soft female chants that make the listener feel free and light. These sounds create images of harmony in your mind. The soft but intense clean vocals by Tomi Joutsen add the missing degree of perfection to this track. The exotic folk sounds in the middle part give me additional goose bumps. The song is enchanting and catchy and should have had a single release to top the charts. Instead, the band chose "You I Need" which is another highlight of this record and maybe even a better song. It has the catchiest keyboard sounds and probably the best chorus on the entire album. The lyrics are beautiful, inspiring and poetic. The male and short female vocals harmonize perfectly. The guitar solo is beautiful but doesn't take too much space in the song. Every instrument has the same range or position and its very special place in this song. It sound all very balanced. This song is a well thought masterpiece and still catchy and commercial. It's the perfect fusion of everything Amorphis is about nowadays. The greatness of the record doesn't stop there. Already the next track "Song Of The Sage" is maybe even slightly better if this is possible. The acoustic folk parts with flutes and guitars are haunting as well as the highly diversified vocals. This song really has a soul that lives and breathes.
I could continue to describe many other tracks on this record. Some convince immediately such as "Mermaid" or "You I Need", other tracks take some more time as there are more progressive but not less amazing such as the very atmospheric "Three Words" or the epic gothic anthem and album highlight "Crack In The Stone" that could have also fit on the more experimental records of the band that have been released one decade ago. The album finished on a very amazing note with the latter song and the amazing title track that shows us once again the whole spectre of genius that this band incarnates. The bonus track "Heart's Song" is more than just an additional gimmick and as great as the other tracks. I even think that this song would have been another perfect single choice along with "Mermaid" and "You I Need". Be sure to get the special edition of the record with this excellent bonus song.
The only little flaw I can detect on this record is the fact that the songs sometimes sound quite alike and are not always easy to distinguish. That's why I would put the masterpieces "Tales From The Thousand Lakes" and "Am Universum" slightly in front of this unforgettable record. Nevertheless, this album is definitely the best metal album of the year 2011. It really takes some time to discover each one of the songs and find out about their unique sides but this record is definitely worth your time and attention. I want to thank the band for their stunning creation once again. It only took them two years to create this kind of masterpiece while other bands take more than twice the time to release some disappointing pseudo-progressive garbage. Right now, Amorphis are the best metal band in the whole wide world in my opinion and I can't wait to see if they can defend their throne with a new release in two years or so. Anyway, the band has never released any weak album but this one is definitely in their top three so be sure to get and hear it if you haven't done this so far as this album didn't hit as hard commercially as it should in my humble opinion.
Here we have Amorphis’ tenth full length album, The Beginning of Times, and fourth with the consistent line up since 2006’s Eclipse. This line up is by far the steadiest in the band’s career, seeing as before Eclipse, not a single album had the same line up as the one before. This is undoubtedly the result of the similar sound between the four albums since ’06, which some people have a problem with. Amorphis have never been a band to stagnate, but I can’t bring myself to call this stagnation. Sure it’s certainly not the jump we saw from Tales from the Thousand Lakes to Elegy, or Elegy to Tuonela, but the simple fact is that’s not what Amorphis are going for at this point in their career. To drastically change styles now would be doing so just for the sake of doing so. The music on this album is every bit as authentic as on those earlier works, and is still wildly diverse in its own right.
Perhaps worth mentioning is the fact that this is the longest album they’ve ever done, and the only Amorphis album not to feature ten songs. Remarkably, it doesn’t come off as bloated in the slightest, though it’s definitely a lot to digest during the first few listens. I’ll openly admit that it took me a while to fully warm to this album. It’s one of the biggest “growers” in their whole catalogue. I can’t really put my finger on why, but I think it’s just safe to say this is a more complex album than what we’ve become accustomed to over the past few years.
Amorphis kick this motherfucker off with Battle for Light, which is definitely one of the best songs from this line up. Such a great introduction for newcomers to the band to get a clear picture of what Amorphis is all about and where they’re at in 2011. Opening with a tranquil piano melody, it isn’t long before the rest of the band burst in to flesh it out and expand upon it. Joutsen comes in to complete the picture with (as always) a completely outstanding vocal performance; weaving between soothing cleans, crushing growls, and one helluva powerful chorus. This track is also interesting for fanboys such as myself because it retells the same story as On Rich and Poor from Elegy back in 1996; a Finnish tale from the Kalevala about the sun and moon being stolen from the sky and the people trying to cope without them.
From Battle for Light:
The sun no longer shines on us,
No silver moon reflects.
The stars no longer give their light
To help us find our path.
From On Rich and Poor:
Without the sun people lived,
Groped about without the moon.
With candles sowing was done,
Planting performed with torches
Cool shit, bro!
Before we leave the subject of vocals, this album has the most growls since Elegy, and I guess I’d call it a bit heavier overall than the past three albums. It doesn’t really have “that heavy song” like Skyforger and Eclipse did, but most of the songs (all but four, in fact) have at least a growled verse or two. Songs like My Enemy, Soothsayer, and Crack in a Stone are dominated by them, while others, such as the Elegy throwback, Song of the Sage, and the ballad, Three Words, have some harsher vocals thrown in for some nice variety. The softer songs are as catchy as ever. I’m utterly bewildered as to why Mermaid wasn’t chosen as the lead single since it’s approximately three hundred times better than You I Need (which is a good track with a great chorus, but probably the least interesting this album has to offer) and just as catchy as Skyforger’s Silver Bride, which turned out to be one of their biggest singles to date. I think I should apply to be Amorphis’ manager or something. Actually my favourite softer song is probably the bonus track, Heart’s Song, which is straight out of the Tuonela mold, and is simply sheer memorability; infectious guitar rhythms, amazing chorus, very interesting lyrics, and one of the nicest solos on the album.
Once again, Amorphis borrow a concept from the Kalevala, and this time it’s about, you guessed it, the beginning of time itself. Talk about ambitious, but the lyrics here are some of the best yet. Once again handled by acclaimed Finnish poet, Pekka Kainulainen, each song deals with a story about the main figure of the Kalevala, Väinämöinen, who you might already be familiar with if you’re up to snuff on your Finnish mythology or if you’re a fan of Ensiferum’s debut. I could fill this review up with more passages of my favourite lyrics, but instead I’ll just implore you to read along as you listen to the album, because it’s totally worth it. Songs such as Soothsayer, or the hugely epic title track, evoke some especially potent images.
So there you have it, Amorphis are 20+ years deep into their career and are still in top form. Maybe we’ll see them branch out a bit in future releases, but I personally have no problem with them continuing in this style, so long as the songs remain this fresh. The Beginning of Times is a great starting point for newcomers, or if you’ve been following Amorphis for a while, I’d be surprised if this disappoints you.
Ever since their origins in 1990, Amorphis have been true to their namesake; shifting genre styles from an all-out death metal on The Karelian Isthmus through melodic death on Tales From The Thousand Lakes into a more synth-driven melodic metal on their recent releases. Under the helm of latest vocalist Tomi Joutsen, they have released 3 stellar albums (Skyforger is one of my top 10 ever), and now have graced us with The Beginning Of Times, a natural continuation of the previous sound but, as always, adding new elements.
Almost paradoxically, the band have hardened and softened their style. Tomi J’s low and powerful growl is more fully utilized, doubling its presence from three songs on Skyforger to seven on this release, and dominating second single “My Enemy”. At the same time, the band feels more restrained on each song; most open with a keyboard-based riff, and only occasionally dips into heavier territory (“Three Words” and “My Enemy”). Guitar and synth solos float about, especially on the infectious “Mermaid”, and “You I Need” has hints of “Sky Is Mine” from the previous release. Tomi’s mid-ranged cleans make many strong appearances, even carrying “Mermaid”, and the duet with Netta Dahlberg on “Soothsayer” is particularly effective. The folk element also returns to a large extent, as seen on the interludes “Song Of The Sage” and “Brother Moon”-esque riff of “Escape”. Also notably, Jan’s drums have been kicked up a notch as on “Crack In A Stone”, and even the bass makes some appearances such as in the epic closer “Beginning Of Time”. All in all, the band feel an incredibly cohesive unit, while each are also given their chance to stand out.
Tomi K said in an interview that the lyrics are written last in the recording process, and this ends up with a fairly mixed bag of results, despite the concept theme surrounding part-human/part-god and central Kalevala character Väinämoinen. “Mermaid” and “On A Stranded Shore” deal with the discovery of a man’s wife being a mermaid, “my maiden’s hair/Grass on the waters’ edge, now willows on the shore”, while “My Enemy” ends up with slightly more amusing lyrics: “Your legs turn to sludge from my ire”. Fortunately, Tomi J’s ability to craft vocal melodies that suit and enhance the words leads to some strong and memorable choruses, if not as many as on Skyforger.
To call The Beginning Of Times a dip in quality seems unfair, but it is true that there is something intangible lacking here, which was present in each of the previous Tomi Joutsen outings. However, I have every faith that the band will return with a more potent offering in the near future, and reclaim their spot as one of the top Finnish metal bands of the past 20 years.
Originally posted on www.mostlymetal.wordpress.com
Amorphis might just have had their strongest run ever the last few years, beginning with Tomi Joutsen's baptism on Eclipse. That eclectic splurge of crunchy catchiness, followed by the dark and wooded travails of Silent Waters, left some space for a rather more epic and life-affirming piece with the rich sound of Skyforger. The band has managed to develop their sound with more focus than ever before, and with expectations of similiar excellence I was awaiting yet more pleasant surprises from The Beginning of Times.
After spending what must have been considerable time musing over cuts from their early material to re-record for Magic & Mayhem, Amorphis made the decision not to bring the feral trudge of Tales From the Thousand Lakes with them into 2011, continuing to channel the atmospheric sound born of 'Against Widows' and further brilliances recorded for albums such as Tuonela. With a noticeable dearth of progression compared to the small but satisfying leaps I've grown comfortable with. Now I wouldn't call it a disappointment. It's just that this record doesn't feature the same meticulous progression of sound as its predecessors.
I have to be honest, everything about the record sounds good. From the tender opening piano strains of 'Battle for Light' (no thunderous growl ala Silent Waters opens this album) and its exultant guitar melodies, it's all magic, and a bit less mayhem. The production is just fine with a good bassy sound and a noble guitar tone, even if the vocals aren't quite as strikingly front-and-centre as on other recent efforts.
The whole band sounds tight alongside the obligatory, wistful folk instruments. Melodies straight out of the wilderness sound awesome over the chugging riffs of 'Three Words', and 'Reformation' is just plain lovely. The melody for 'My Enemy' is one of those you can go 'whoah-oaaah!!' to at concerts, while also including some thumping, slow death metal portions. Esa's work on The Beginning of Times is bristling with thick, rocking rhythms and guitars awash with delay, as on Skyforger.
Tomi Joutsen sounds incredible of course. For me he's easily the best thing that's happened to Amorphis since the first 3 records and no joke. Totally strident in the chorus for 'You I Need', utterly compelling in the heroic wails of 'Song of the Sage', I can barely say a word against him. He still lets off awesome, throaty growls here on tracks like 'Crack in a Stone' - for me he occupies a throne amongst melodic bands as a vocalist who sounds bestial as fuck when he wants to, carrying a little bit of the early '90s Finnish death metal zeitgeist with him onto albums bereft of any other trace of that era.
The songwriting is arguably perfect, if not exactly startling or striking. 'Mermaid', 'You I Need' and 'Song of the Sage' (the latter two filling the roles of 'Silver Bride' and 'Sky is Mine' respectively it seems) are unbelievably catchy and defy the skip button from falling beneath my tobacco-yellowed forefinger. If there's one criticism that can't be leveled at these Finnish chart-toppers, it's that they haven't put their decades of songwriting experience to excellent use here. It isn't quite as memorable in a couple of places - the epic, pounding, atmospheric, catchy, powerful closing title track is all those things, but you won't remember it like the thudding meisterwerk 'Sampo'. That said, I can't pick tracks I'd like struck from the album, even if it does feel long at nearly an hour (including the bonus song).
Amorphis suffer a little from diminishing returns in the less marked developments in their songwriting, and the lengthiness of the album, and holding this up against its immediate predecessor will cast something of a shadow on it. But so ends another pointless review. If you like this band as much as me, you want this record. It is another favourite album from a band that carry their pedigree confidently.
Amorphis has never really failed me. At least not since I rediscovered them on their Silent Waters album. They continue to put out amazing albums about every two years. This one is a little different at times, but it is no exception. It remains a truly beautiful and captivating album that is bound to go down as a classic.
The album starts with the amazing "Battle for Light" which shows the band utilizing a little more keyboard melodies and some folk material than in their recent output. It also includes a lot more death metal vocals from Tomi Joutsen than previously. This appears to be more of a concept album and Joutsen makes a distinction with his vocal style on darker parts. These changes continue throughout the album with virtually every song introduced by a hauntingly melodic keyboard line.
Though Joutsen is not an original member of the band, this album really serves as a showcase to his tremendous abilities as a vocalist. He is amazing from a technical standpoint and his vocals really drive this album. Joutsen has really come into his own as a singer for this band and he truly fits in here, taking a lot of the spotlight with him.
None of this is to say that the music is any less impressive. Amorphis has always managed to produce highly skilled and engrossing compositions and this album is no exception. Though the band no longer resembles the death metal group with folk tendencies that they were on their earliest releases, this version never fails to impress.
This is yet another classic for Amorphis. Every time I hear that the band is releasing a new album, I get excited. This album once again shows why.
First off, let me say that I have never been as impatient for an album to come out as I was for this one. A fan since 1992, I have never loved Amorphis quite as much as I do now. Their resurrection since Eclipse and recruiting Tomi Joutsen has been astounding, and the last LP (Skyforger) is my favorite Amorphis album alongside Tales From The Thousand Lakes. Expectations were sky high this time around.
The first thing I want to mention about the album is this: It sounds like re-recording songs from their early days on "Magic & Mayhem" has rubbed off on the band, particularly vocalist Tomi Joutsen and drummer Jan Rechberger. On Skyforger, we had death vocals appear on 5 of the 10 tracks, but their appearance on Silver Bride and Skyforger was so brief and only at the very end of those songs that it felt like we only had growls on 3 of the 10 songs. That has changed drastically with The Beginning Of Times. Death vocals take the lead in 8 the 13 songs this time around, and it is probably the first time since Joutsen joined the band that his incredible roar has not been underutilized. As for Rechberger, you will find his best performance on an Amorphis LP here, and a huge increase in the amount (and volume in the mix) of the double bass drumming. Awesome!
The best songs on this LP would be Battle For Light (epic, folky, heavy, a nice early 90's Amorphis feel, plenty of growls, along with a superb chorus), Mermaid (perhaps the finest song on the LP: atmospheric, up-tempo, some great delayed guitar lines from Esa, and a PERFECT chorus to boot), My Enemy (heavy as hell, dominated by growls with a modern Amorphis chorus), You I Need (the main keyboard melody sticks in your head for days), Song of the Sage (very folky/progressive at times, and a wonderful chorus splitting cleans/growls over a chord pattern and melody lifted straight from Tales or Elegy), Soothsayer (melodic death metal meets doom with a memorable, haunting chorus in tandem with female vocals), Crack In A Stone (fucking EPIC, incredible sections with keyboard and a choir, with another section (the verses) lifted straight from the Tales era), and the Beginning of Times (Let's say Tuonela meets Tales meets modern Amorphis with one of the best choruses I've heard from the band). The remaining songs are all good as well, not a bad tune on the album!
So we've got some pretty big differences from Skyforger here. Much more growling and double bass drumming, a generally higher tempo to the songs, a bit more progressive, and the use of female vocals on a handful of the songs. Don't worry when you hear that female vocals are on the album, the vocalist is excellent and only appears on the nearly hour long LP for about 3 1/2 minutes total.
So, this all sounds great, right? You might wonder why I rate this album lower than Skyforger then.
Despite the fact that Joutsen's formidable growl was not under used for the first time since he has joined the band, the increase in heaviness, and the other positive changes (all things I had hoped for on the album), the one area that The Beginning of TImes cannot match Skyforger is the choruses. To my ears, half of Skyforger contained songs that were simply perfect from beginning to end (Sampo, Majestic Beast, My Sun, Course Of Fate, and From Earth I Rose), with choruses that could not be topped: perfect vocal melodies/harmonies backed by perfect chord patterns and guitar leads. Even though we have 13 songs on this LP versus 10 on Skyforger, I can only give 2, possibly 3 of the songs on TBOT a perfect 5 star rating. Even though I'm giving this LP 87 out of 100, the minor difference between the quality of the choruses is why Skyforger got a 95 from me.
To sum it up: another great, consistent, epic, diverse, and wonderful album from Amorphis. 4 excellent albums in a row, something many bands simply cannot accomplish! However, on their next LP I would like to see a return to the perfect choruses from Skyforger alongside the increased aggression of The Beginning of Times. I also think it may be time for the band to start experimenting a bit more with their song structures. Almost every song has only 3 main riffs/themes (sometimes only 2, like Crack In A Stone), just like their last 6 albums or so. In my opinion, making those 2 adjustments could lead to the first Amorphis album that could topple Tales From The Thousand Lakes or Skyforger, at which point I could die a happy man!
The first Amorphis album I ever heard, 2006's Eclipse, blew me away. I mean... Wow. You know when you hear something and have a visceral reaction to it almost immediately, and you feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand, and you can't help but think, "This is special"?
Well, to me, Amorphis are special. They're one of the two best metal bands of the past 20 years (the other being Opeth) and they're probably the most melodic. They're also a very interesting group because over the course of their career, they have undergone no less than three paradigm shifts in style: first, after their 1994 melo death masterwork Tales from the Thousand Lakes; second, after their 1996 watershed epic Elegy; and third, after their 2003 disappointment Far from the Sun.
Basically, if there's one thing these guys are known for, it's change. That's why, when I first heard The Beginning of Times, I was a little disappointed. Their musical style used to change drastically every album or two; now, it has remained pretty much the same for the past four albums since the introduction of vocalist Tomi Joutsen. Eventually, I was forced to confront myself with... You know... Logic, and ask, "Why am I so disappointed they are no longer one of the most capricious bands in metal? After over 20 years in the business, why aren't they allowed to finally carve out a niche? It's not like I listen to music for the style. I do it for the music!"
And so, almost as if I merely snapped my fingers and wished it were true, I started to enjoy the thing. It's very similar to the previous three albums, but it's got some subtle changes; most notably, lots of female vocals and drummer Jan Rechberger sounds like he's on steroids. Everything else is grafted from the Eclipse blueprint, with short, simple songs that are catchier than most pop singles and as beautiful as Brooklyn Decker.
The only real problem I have with it is that it's a little too long. With a band like Amorphis, because they are always in fifth gear and everything is EPIC HEAVY EPIC HEAVY, I can only take so much. 12 songs and a bonus is pushing it - if they dropped a couple of songs the album would be much tighter. Of course the length wouldn't be a problem if every song was a killer, but so far, the only killers I hear are "Battle for Light" and "Mermaid", which are two of the best songs the band have ever done, especially the latter.
The rest of the album is good, but not Eclipse, Elegy, Silent Waters or Tuonela good, and honestly, I'm just fine with that. Amorphis have done so many incredible things over the course of their career that from here on out, everything is just gravy anyway.
There have been a wealth of Amorphis releases in recent years with Skyforger seeing the light of day in 2009 and both a live CD/DVD and an album of re-recordings hitting the shelves in 2010. This year, Amorphis returns with its latest full-length, The Beginning of Times, an album which sees the band once again returning to Finnish mythology for the lyrical concept of the album.
Amorphis may be looking to its past for the concept for The Beginning of Times, but the band is looking forward with its sound via experimentation. The album has a generally simpler and softer feel than usual and features female vocals on nearly every song. Sometimes the female singing plays a prominent role ("You I Need" and "Soothsayer"), and sometimes it is relegated to background harmonies (almost everything else). Choir-like vocals rear their heads several times, such as in "Reformation." There is also an abundant use of flute during most of "Song of the Sage." These concepts may not be entirely new for Amorphis, but they are much more noticeable on The Beginning of Times.
The problem with The Beginning of Times isn't that the band has chosen to experiment - a few new additions to their sound would be welcome - it's that the songs just aren't that strong. I would use words like "epic," "powerful," and "unforgettable" to describe most of Amorphis' back catalog. It's rare that those words would apply here. Much of the music feels too bland and average. It just doesn't get the blood pumping. The band may have chosen to experiment with some new ideas, but they also over-simplified the songs and in effect, sucked out a lot of the album's potential energy. In fact, most of these tracks seem pretty "radio-friendly," though I'm certain U.S. radio would never play Amorphis anyhow.
The Beginning of Times is not without it's strengths however. "Battle for Light" and "My Enemy" are pretty strong songs even if they are a bit repetitive. "You I Need" is actually quite catchy once you get past the initial reaction to its "softness." "Mermaid" features a cool signature delay-soaked Amorphis riff while "Soothsayer" catches attention with some middle-eastern flavored riffing. There's actually something to like about every one of the album's tracks. Unfortunately the moments that are on-par with Amorphis' last few full-lengths don't dominate The Beginning of Times.
I've been pleasantly surprised with Amorphis' output since Tomi Joutsen joined the band in 2006. He has proven to be a more than suitable replacement for Pasi Koskinen, and the band has kept releasing solid albums...until now. The Beginning of Times is not Amorphis' worst album by any means. That (dis)honor still belongs to Far From the Sun. The Beginning of Times has it's moments, but overall it's below Amorphis' previous standards. The Beginning of Times is like a watered-down drink. You can taste a hint of what it should be, but it's really too weak to enjoy fully. Buy this if you happen to find it for a low price. Despite it's bright spots, I know I won't be returning to The Beginning of Times too often when there are plenty of stronger Amorphis albums already on my shelf.
Originally written for http://www.metalpsalter.com
After shaking free their impulse to produce forgettable renditions of their classic material (dragging it forth unto the 'now') with newer vocalist Tomi Joutsen, Amorphis have returned to what actually matters: composing new songs that best suits the current lineup of the band. Having been well in favor of the last three albums (Eclipse, Silent Waters, and Skyforger), I found myself anticipating this much as I looked forward to each of their new releases in the 90s, but the streak seems to have hit a bump in the road with The Beginning of Times, their latest conceptual piece, and tenth studio full-length. It's hard to believe Amorphis have entered double digit albums and that it's been 15 years since I was salivating over Elegy and Tales from the Thousand Lakes, but the band has come a long way, both evolutionarily and de-evolutionarily.
To be clear, The Beginning of Times is not a disappointment of the caliber that Pasi Koskinen's swansong Far From the Sun was in 2003. The general ingredients of Skyforger are firm in place, between Joutsen's balanced singing and growling and the heightened sense for melody that the band have embarked on since the mid-90s. Unfortunately, where albums like Elegy and Skyforger wrought such melodies into glorious, potent compositions, those of this album seem to simply sail along, never offensive or well structured enough to glean the ear's affection beyond a handful of spins. Often the songs become a little too fruity or happy, like "Song of the Sage" or the vapid "Mermaid", in which both Tomi's cleans and the female guest vocals seem rather lame, and the music returns to the Tuonela era with less than astounding results. There are a few too many 'soothing' songs, like "You I Need" and "Reformation" which don't really add up to the engrossing experiences the band were churning out in the past ("My Kantele" and so forth).
On the other hand, there are some goodies lurking in the album's depths. "Beginning of Time" feels like an Elegy natural, with loads of melodic bombast in the backing vocal arches and the general thrust of the thundering rhythms into the glorious, growled chorus above the organs. "Escape" and "Crack in a Stone" are two of the most catchy songs amidst the 54+ minute length, and I only wish they'd been thrust up towards the fore in place of "Battle for Light", which isn't as compelling. The production here is on par with the past few efforts, wonderfully capturing the varied instrumentation and dynamics of crushing aggression and blissful, accessible melody so beloved in the band's current audience. Lots of synthesizer, piano, clean guitar passages, and multiple vocal styles provide for an appreciable, kinetic backdrop, and they treat their lyrics and history with the love of natural born sons, looking backward to propel forward. Ultimately, this is least impressive album with Joutsen at the helm, but it's nothing to scoff at, and earns a few needed points late in the game to squeak by.