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Bring life to the empty halls! - 94%

andreipianoman, January 23rd, 2019

"Queen of Time" was regarded by many as the best album released in 2018. And I have to admit I was quite skeptical about that for some time. This band really isn't my thing. It's just a bit too easy and uses quite a lot of formula oriented songwriting. I've been living under the impression that they're just another one of those very appreciated bands that I just won't get into. However, as the praise for this album kept flowing from multiple directions, I decided to give it a chance and soon learned that I couldn't have been more wrong about them!

From the very beginning this album draws you in with the mighty chanting and glorious melodies of "The Bee". This is not only the first song I heard from this album but from the band altogether. And it's a force of nature! As the very promising first track sets the bar really high, the band then goes to develop that epic atmosphere with slightly straightforward yet very interesting and unusual songwriting that strikes a surprising amount of diversity and elevates a good idea to massive proportions, giving it a very unique DNA that will set their personality apart from everyone else! I am getting a lot of the epic and Nordic style that I'd normally associate to bands like Wintersun and Insomnium, but with a lot more accent on melody than aggression and technicality, and a lot less darker atmosphere. They just have this amazingly uplifting drive that gets you up from your seat and sends a surge of energy up your spine. Everything they express seems to be pointing upwards and soar ever higher! All their songs feel like anthems! And a great deal of this effect is the result of Tomi Joutsen's invincible voice coming in waves of deep growls with softer sections of amazing clean singing, sometimes creating an up and down effect between verses of singing and choruses of growls or the other way around alternating between the two as if there are two people singing. And he's backed by a truly amazing soundscape. All the instruments play in sublime harmony as if they are one mighty entity, forming a wall of multiple layers. While I'm not particularly impressed with each band member on his own, they did a more than excellent job at putting the pieces together and still giving some moments for each one to shine on his own.

The keyboard melodies in "The Bee" as well as a few beautiful clean piano sections and some very well placed solos focusing on melody instead of speed bring justice to Santeri Kallio. The guitars compose most of the melodies that make the album so easy to enjoy and are also a very powerful driving force when needed. The guitar solos are also a good feature. As for the bass and drums, while staying mostly in the background, it is impossible for them to go unnoticed thanks to the very good mix that brings a lot of the album's depth forward without overpowering the melody, keys, vocals or various backing elements.

Upon all that fabulous execution, the band then sprinkled a frenzy of details, additional elements and guest performances that make each song stand out on its own and I feel I have to give all those a shout-out. The choir and orchestra are obviously a key to their glorious sound, resounding on most of the songs and pushing Tomi Joutsen's amazing power even further. The same can be said about Noa Gruman's backing vocals on Message in the Amber, The Golden Elk and especially on The Bee, where she actually opens the album and embodies a slightly eerie and mystical energy over which the band starts building the layers. I've actually become familiar with this singer quite recently and was very pleasantly surprised to find that she was on this album. Then there's different other guest performances and fill-ins like different folk elements, wind instruments, a saxophone solo and a verse of Finnish spoken word on Daughter of Hate and a vocoder effect on Message in the Amber.

But by far my favorite guest performance and probably the cherry on the top that got me completely sold on Queen of Time was Anneke van Giersbergen's vocals on Amongst Stars. As if this wasn't enough of an enjoyable and uplifting song, she comes and transforms it into a real gem. Between Tomi Joutsen's dynamic of clean and harsh and her unique and crystalline voice there's so much vocal diversity stuffed in five minutes that you don't even know when the song goes by.

However, my nerdy, prog-addicted, messed up self still prevents me from agreeing to this being album of the year for 2018. It is an amazing album, many might say a masterpiece, but for me the verse-chorus structures and the formula based on hooks is still a bit of a downer. This is one of those situations where I can say "It's not you. It's me". There is no real problem with the album and the ingenuity and creativity that enveloped that formula makes it one of the best (if not THE best) album of "easy music" that I've ever heard. But hearing one full hour of this music still gets a little redundant for me until the end and for that reason, Amorphis will have to live with a slightly stained yet humble and honest praise from me. I'm impressed and I think on some level pretty much anyone will be so I strongly urge you to spin this album more than once and I'm thoroughly confident that regardless of your musical taste, you will find something to enjoy here!

Another near-perfect masterpiece by finnish pioneers - 90%

Svarec, December 30th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Nuclear Blast

Amorphis are one of the staples of European metal scene, having been around since early 90's. When you look at other bands this old, it's very unusual for them to produce truly ground-breaking records. In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, Moonspell, not to disparage their latest efforts, keep producing albums which may be just fine, but most people would agree they are nowhere near as innovative and exciting as their 90's records. It's understandable, when you're around this long and gain significant popularity, you may feel as if you accomplished everything you wanted and there's no need to further push the boundaries.

Now Amorphis... After Tomi Joutsen joined the band in 2005, the band produced several very similar albums, and while there was nothing wrong with them, many feared that Amorphis entered the same routine as many other bands. Circle in 2013 brought a scent of fresh air, as it sounded significantly heavier than its predecessors, but the basic formula remained the same. It wasn't until 2015, that the band proved they're not afraid to step out of their comfort zone even late in their career. Under the Red Cloud, produced by Jens Bogren, brought back the feeling of the band’s classic records like Tales of the Thousand Lakes, and mixed it with the experience they gained throughout the years. The songs were catchy, modern, but at the same time had an atmosphere many fans thought was long lost.

When the band announced new album for 2018, many were left wondering whether the band would just follow the same formula as on Under the Red Cloud, or if they would push the boundaries even further. They answer is... kind of.

Queen of Time isn’t just a mindless copy of its predecessor. It's darker, some songs (Daughter of Hate, Grain of Sand) are almost bordering on black metal. It's also more epic, as the band recruited real string orchestra and choir, and as a result, some songs bear significant resemblance to Epica (Heart of the Giant) or Nightwish (Amongst Stars).

One thing to really appreciate about Queen of Time is its variability. No two songs sound the same, some are more epic, other darker. Some are catchy, others have a more progressive structure. This album is truly an album, not just a collection of songs. Listening to Queen of Time is like listening to a story (even though it’s not a conception album). All songs like logically follow each other and there is no need to skip any of them.

Then again, it's still Amorphis. They took their previous album, build on it and created something special, but the underlying formula and sound are still there. Even then, it's remarkable that a band this old can sound so fresh and passionate on their 13th recording.

Two in a Row! - 100%

mjollnir, September 20th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak)

How does a band follow up perfection? Do they ride the wave of their predecessor by continuing the current course or do they move into a different direction? Amorphis achieved perfection with 2015’s Under the Red Cloud; an album that struck a chord with me from the very first listen. I literally listen to that album constantly for a month before reviewing it. That album still continues to fill me with awe. So, again, I must ask myself, how do they follow up perfection? The answer is quite simple, Queen of Time. Not only are they riding the wave of it’s predecessor but they’ve expanded on that sound to create another masterpiece.

To put this band in a box and try to give them a genre tag is absolutely impossible at this point. They play a folk inspired melodic death metal mixed with classic progressive rock, but even that description doesn’t cover it all. And although Queen of Time did not resonate with me the same way Under the Red Cloud did; there is no lack of incredible music on this album. To put it plainly, this is a musical journey that takes the best of what they’ve been leading up to ever since Eclipse in 2006. Tomi Joutsen’s vocals do play a huge part in their current sound with his killer death growls and his amazing baritone cleans. But it’s the songs behind the voice that make modern Amorphis such an incredible force.

“The Bee” kicks things off in a way only Amorphis can. Mystical sounding keyboards, male throat singing, and female vocals lead into this huge song. Joutsen’s death growls over an eastern folk sounding melody in the verse riff flows right into the bridge where his clean vocals immediately take you to another place. This song is a prime example of what makes this band so unique and incredible. The chorus is huge and melodic adding another layer to this already amazing song. Already I’m hooked. “Message in Amber” follows it up by being a slight contrast to the opener. Not as bombastic at first but starting things off more melodic, this song builds to the massive chorus. The bridge features female choir vocals adding another layer to this already amazing song.

And when you think that Amorphis has done all that they can to stand out, they add a really tasteful saxophone solo in the middle of “Daughter of Hate.” Now some people might be turned off by adding this element to a metal song but Amorphis transcends just being a metal band. Yes this album has metal riffs aplenty, but adding these outside elements to their sound is done so in a way that only adds to the musical journey that this band takes you on. In fact, I find it a challenge to find a favorite song on this album because each song is just as strong as the others. “Wrong Direction” is a melodic from beginning to end with little use of death growls. “Grain of Sand” is heavy in it’s riffing and death growls but allows melody to enter into the song. “Heart of the Giant” is one of those huge songs that just screams epic. “The Golden Elk” is almost as good as “Bad Blood,” which happens to be my favorite song from Under the Red Cloud.

I would love for Amorphis to continue on this current course. This album surprised me because I really did not think they could release an album as good their previous album, but they did. I know there will be some out there that think they reached their peak with Tales from the Thousand Lakes and even some who thinks their debut is their only good album, etc. I say to those people to open up their minds and listen to this album. You will find elements from every era of this incredible band’s existence in each of these songs. To create perfection twice in a row is something to be said.

The Elitist Metalhead

Flirting with perfection - 100%

kluseba, June 3rd, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak)

Each time one expects Amorphis to release a weaker record, the band easily manages to defend the metal thrown and equal or surpass its previous masterpiece. Queen of Time is such an extraordinary example. The direction of the record isn't much different from the melodic predecessor Under the Red Cloud but the band somehow managed to improve the different elements that made said album such a success two and a half years ago.

The band's more and more progressive songwriting has become even more intellectual as can be perceived in the detailed opener ''The Bee'' and yet the band still manages to make its most complex tracks sound accessible, catchy and memorable. The track features unique transitions, throat singing, additional female backing vocals and a second keyboardist in five and a half compact minutes and Tomi Joutsen's soulful vocals keep this stunning mixture together.

The symphonic elements and choirs have become even more majestic, mythic and sacral than before as can be heard in the varied ''Message in the Amber'' that also comes around with a few minor electronic effects that give the song a mysterious touch.

The band's flirt with its death metal roots and even black metal elements has been intensified in certain songs such as the dramatic ''Daughter of Hate'' that convinces with cold yet emotional riffs, dynamic rhythm sections, highly skilled and variable vocals, brilliantly haunting saxophone sounds by Shining's Jørgen Munkeby and Finnish spoken word passages by lyricist Pekka Kainulainen which make this song one of the very best the band has written in its stunning career. This masterpiece alone includes more ideas than some bands have in their entire careers and I'm not even exaggerating.

''The Golden Elk'' comes around with incredibly harmonious vocals, additional backing vocals by Israeli singer Noa Gruman of symphonic progressive metal band Scardust, haunting piano sounds and folk elements thanks to a stunning oud performance by Affif Merhej. This song would make an extraordinary single and should have its righteous place in the band's concert setlists for years to come.

''Wrong Direction'' is cinematic, epic and uprising symphonic metal with majestic keyboard sounds, relaxing folk sounds and a solid dose of oomph in form of harsh death metal vocals intertwined with melodic lead vocals. Even the mystic video clip for this record's lead single is colorful, immersive and truly inspiring. Everything Amorphis tries out seems to be working perfectly.

Each and every single song comes around with very surprising but highly appropriate ideas, including the different bonus tracks. I could write a master thesis about each of the thirteen songs recorded during the Queen of Time sessions but even this wouldn't do the record justice and would be missing the point as I simply want you to listen to this extraordinary new record and everything the band has done in the past. Everything is hold together by the band's melancholic and melodic soundscapes, the lyrical references to Finnish mythology and culture and Tomi Joutsen's incredibly distinctive vocals that make him the best vocalist in the metal genre, no matter if he sings, growls, shrieks or speaks.

If you're looking for a weakness, you won't find any. Every single song is relevant. The production is crisp and rich. Even the cover artwork and booklet are absolutely stunning.

There is no doubt this is the best metal album of the year. Where does it rank compared to the band's numerous other masterpieces? Only time will tell but right now, I would put it right on top. I have never given a record one hundred percent because no album is fully perfect and I could always find a minor element that kept a record from perfection. I sincerely can't find that here, objectively and subjectively. I'm grateful to be living in a time when a band like Amorphis is on the peak of its career. Go listen to this masterpiece and support this outstanding band!

A Royalty deserving of royalties - 92%

autothrall, May 25th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak)

Queen of Time might not ingratiate itself upon listeners who tuned out to Amorphis after their death and doom roots, but if you've been following the band ever since the mid-90s with enthusiasm, or had a later entry point into their catalog, then I can't imagine you'll be disappointed by how absolutely massive this thing sounds. Like it's damn fine predecessor, Under the Red Cloud, this is another album that calls upon various eras of the bands musical growth and fuses them all into a vessel worthy of sailing off into the future. The growling of their earliest years; the soaring, serious cleans of their prior vocalist Pasi Koskinen; the progressive rock influences that are cultivated through the keyboard tones; the spritely, atmospheric guitars patterns that dominated efforts like Am Universum or its predecessor Tuonela; and the sheer balancing act of grafting all those disparate ingredients into a seamless, unified structure, which they've been doing all throughout the Tomi Joutsen era to much success...

But Queen of Time offers even more than that, with lush passages of orchestration, grand pianos, church organs, dual-sex vocal choirs, saxophone, whistles, and male strippers. Perhaps these are not all entirely novel ideas for Amorphis, certainly not among the symphonic, folk or Gothic metal throngs at large; but there are clearly moments littered throughout this album when I feel like I've entered some slightly new territory, whether it's just the sound design and production values or the fact that they're testing out some new hooks here, or drugs there, or arrangements everywhere. In truth, this is possibly the most accessible of the band's albums...a truth that could likely turn out some longtime subscribers and turn in a broader audience, but that's not to say the Finns have stepped far outside of their normal comfort zone. No, most of the embellishments here, whether you'd equate them with some other big Euro symphonic Goth metal brand or not, are actually delivered with taste and elegance, molding themselves fluidly into the band's contrasts between emotional chorus swells and the divide between stomping and ethereal verse rhythms and lyrics. So the end result is really only to ADD to that formula they've been refining for the last 20+ years, and it's appreciated.

Every single song on this album is great, from the powered-up Tuonela flexing of "The Bee", through the funereal, chugging, growling drama of "Pyres on the Coast", and on into the bonus tracks, which as usual for Amorphis are just about as good as all the content on the album proper, to the point that they really seem like they're just fucking with us by even calling them 'bonus tracks'. It's hard to even choose favorites...."Golden Edge" and "Heart of the Giant" might get a slight edge, especially when Santeri and Esa trade off those synth and axe leads in the latter. Or that intro to "We Accursed", when it briefly feels like the Kalevala meets the Wild West. The lyrics rule. Tomi Joutsen is at the top of his game throughout, capable of delivering a sincere enough guttural or rasp that you can take it seriously alongside the much airier, brighter music, or those unanimously captivating cleaner lines...these guys have their 'Beauty & the Beast' down so pat that it's almost unthinkable to imagine that there are so many bands out their who make it all sound so goofy. The drums sound fantastic, even at their calmest they thunder off across the album's horizon with determination, and along with so many of the moody if traditional chord progressions, there is just never a moment on Queen of Time in which I feel that I haven't been carried off somewhere. And not dropped, thankfully. Because that would hurt.

Now, it might not attain perfection. It might not resonate with me over the next few decades like a Tales from the Thousand Lakes or an Elegy has. I might not incorporate its singles into my own pole-dancing routine (weekends in the city). But judging by the fact I've already spun this thing ten times this past week, when I've got so many life priorities in the way, or other records to check out, I have no problem hailing this as my favorite Amorphis release since that highly formative, evolutionary era. Color me absorbed.