Release Date: 11th February 2022
Label: Atomic Fire Records
Finnish Metal masterminds AMORPHIS have out a new album February 11th 2022 via Atomic Fire Records and when I had given ‘Halo’ a first spin, I knew that this review would not become an easy one to write. How to find adequate words for an album that comes with beautiful songs and a large variety of music, both consisting of what can be best described as layers that form a wonderful painting of each story being told by the lyrics and the instruments. Let’s say, if the Ateneum in Helsinki ever needs a modern soundtrack for the Kalevala themed paintings they have on display, they should consult AMORPHIS’ back catalogue.
No worries! I won’t bore you with art or history lessons, the stories AMOPRHIS told with many of their songs often refer to characters and stories of the Kalevala, the Finnish national epos. Start your own journey through ‘Halo’ and try to find out what kind of story all the different songs will tell. The album starts with ‘Northwards’ and somehow it’s a strange coincidence that many events in the Kalevala start by someone going to the North for the first time or going there again, a very good choice for an opener. The intro starts really atmospheric and is quite long, taking almost a full minute. Then AMORPHIS make it clear, that they are a Metal band and push straight forward, while Tomi Joutsen makes use of his dark voice and his signature deep and heavy growls to emphasize the mood and drama of the story. The changes in rhythm and attitude are quite unpredictable, and the clear vocal parts seem to be “emptier” as the background instrumentation is reduced, a news side to AMORPHIS approach to music, while the chorus part is symphonic as usual.
It seems that Tomi Joutsen used the break to further improve his voice and so the clear singing parts sound smoother and seem to cost him less effort, while he presents wonderful and clear vocals. A passage you want to listen to several times might be the Hammond solo, that balances out the dark and heavy atmosphere. AMORPHIS have teamed up with producer Jens Bogren again and it seems they have found the perfect producer for their vision of music, for the quality of the albums is always high and increased release by release. The lyrics once more were delivered by Pekka Kainulainen in Finnish and translated and adapted by Tomi Joutsen. “The lyrics tell of an ancient time when man wandered to these abandoned boreal frontiers after the ice age. While describing the revival of a seminal culture in a world of new opportunities, I also try to reach the sempiternal forces of the human mind.” reveals Pekka Kainulainen, who is renowned Kalevala expert.
From land and air the story carries on to ‘On The Dark Waters’ that are often being associated with Tuonela, the Underworld or realm of the dead. The introductory part starts with Jazz and Prog elements and the song would have suited the album ‘Queen of Time’ perfectly, so if the opener confused you a bit, you can rest assured that you are listening to AMORPHIS. The song was released as the second single with a video that was shot and produced in Finland. AMORPHIS make it very clear that they are a Metal band with this song that comes with beautiful and intense Metal riffing while Tomi Joutsen unleashes his darkest growls to haunt your darkest fears. The chorus part is a great one for a love concert and AMORPHIS know, where and when they ask the crowd to participate in the live performance, so ‘On The Dark Waters’ will have a safe spot on the new setlist. Again, Tomi Joutsen shows his even more refined voice in the clear singing parts and so this song makes you curious for more.
‘The Moon’ has been released as a first single of the new album back in December with a wonderful video. To be honest, it surprised me quite a lot. When I heard it for the first time I thought “Welcome to the 80s!”. It sounded more like a Rock song than signature AMORPHIS Metal. You will find an interesting arrangement of sounds that consist of synths, some orchestral elements are used to emphasize certain passages of the lyrics (quite an interesting pattern), the bass has a very dominant part by pushing straight forward, while lead and rhythm guitars are trotting behind in a rather slow tempo. The title might indicate that the song will be a dark one, but it’s quite the opposite. This is a great one for the live performances as well, because keyboard and bass player get the opportunity to show their skills and the melodic chorus will be joined by the fans for sure.
AMORPHIS usually have one song on their albums, that really surprised me, when listening to the album for the first time. This time I thought, this would be ‘The Moon’, but ‘Wind mane’ hit me like a hammer. This song is son “non-AMORPHIS” and still you find every character in the band in the music. It almost seems that the band look at you with a twinkle in the eye. It seems that everybody contributed some “I always wanted to do this” and then they sat together weaving all the sound, rhythm and vocal elements into one song. It starts with and atmospheric organ and keyboard intro, then Prog Rock guitar and drum elements take over just to change suddenly into a slower pace and different soundscape… just to change to a new tempo again after a few notes. The vocals are one of a kind on a AMORPHIS album, if you think Tomi Joutsen can only do “regular” singing and growls, you are mistaken, he gives this song such a psychedelic touch in the “clearer” vocal parts, that I had to listen over and over again, to be sure that it’s Tomi Joutsen on vocals.
A masterpiece is the combination of solo parts, Esa Holopainen’s guitar solo literally flaws over into Santeri Kallio’s keyboard solo. Never before the band used so many Prog elements, headbangers and fist raisers will find it a big challenge to adapt to the correct rhythm and the psychedelic touch the song come with, is just amazing. “Horses are for girls…” you might think… Then listen to this amazing story, listen to it over and over again, to find all the details in the music, the twists and turns and then rate the song again. AMORPHIS now take us to ‘A New Land’ that starts with a typical AMORPHIS guitar intro, very fast drums and a typical change of clear singing and growls. The chorus once more is a very catchy one and very powerful. The song has a strong rhythm and great riffing, a song for the fans for sure and prone to become the new ‘Silver Bride’, which is a song the fans always demand.
Keyboarder Santeri Kallio has lots of work on ‘When The Gods Came’ with the keyboard intro and all the synth elements that swirl around the guitar melodies, same goes for drummer Jan Rechberger who delivers very pointed, clear and heavy drums. Singer Tomi Joutsen will find this song one that challenges his vocals strands a lot as there are plenty of changes between growls and clear singing. The heavy, reduced riffing that accompany the main vocal lines give the song a wonderful Metal feeling and is one for the headbangers while the chorus parts mean lots of work for those who love to have their fists in the air. The intro of ‘Seven Roads Come Together’ is really catchy and spheric, then you have to pay attention to get through the layers of the song, the guitars have a fast-galloping pace that is interrupted by heavy Doom prone riffing underlining Tomi Joutsens growls. Welcome to the dark side. The bright side is referred to in the clear singing parts, that are underlined with broad orchestral elements. A song that is dominated by the permanent changes and definitely the one that inspired the album cover.
In the Kalevala ‘War’ takes place several times, listen close which one AMORPHIS report about here and pay attention how the instruments illustrate the different stages and emotions. The track starts harmlessly with oriental vibes, that somehow reminded me a bit of the sounds of their bonus CD ‘An Evening With Friends At Huvila’. ‘Halo’ is the album’s title track and is the first one on this album, that comes with an additional, female vocal line. The vocals are mainly delivered in clear voice, while the soundscape is almost Pop prone and very loud with only occasional heavy guitar riffing. The bridge part comes with orchestral elements and a short guitar solo before it leads over to the clean vocal line that is underlined by keyboards, before a short but heavy vocal and guitar passage takes over and the song ends abruptly. Not my favourite song for sure, but one that will get radio play.
After the abrupt end, the heavy guitar riffs are picked up again, immediately and growls take you to an animal that you will often find in mythology. ‘The Wolf’ is a heavy one, dark and dangerous with heavy riffing and a stomping beat. The growls in the leading vocals parts are slow, so are the guitars, while the drum slash heavily. Once more AMORPHIS used the stylistic element of contrasts and so the chorus is upbeat and full of harmony, the bridge part in the last third is dominated by a slow and longing guitar melody until a choir takes over, to interrupted by Thrash probe guitar riffing, some heavy growls and intense drums that take over, before the song ends.
‘My Name is Night’ is the closing track of the regular album and trust me, at this point you want to own the special edition to get more music. The song opens orchestration and acoustic guitars and indicates that this is going to be a ballade. The female vocals then take over and the instruments move into the background to make space for Petronella Nettermalm’s clear and still almost dreamy vocals. Tomi Joutsen proves once more how much more versatile his clear singing voice became and delivers wonderful burlesque vocals in the male part of the male vocal lines. A clear and dream guitar line picks up the melody and style of the previous vocal parts before the vocalists start a short duet part that leads over into Tomi’s solo vocal part. Now changes of solo vocals and duets take over telling the story. This melancholic song might remind you of ‘Under the Red Cloud’ sound wise a bit and you are not mistaken. It did not find space on the 2015 released album. It’s a wonderful and calm song that leaves you in a calm and peaceful mood after this heavy ride with twists and turn and plenty of surprises.
‘Halo’ is the album I’ve been waiting for ever since Corona put the whole music world on hold. AMORPHIS used the time off and the very open schedule to write a masterpiece of music. The stories the lyrics tell are embedded in a very cinematic landscape of music and if the stories of the Kalevala will ever be put into a full-length movie, AMORPHIS already have the soundtrack for it, packed into fourteen full-length albums. Everyone gave their best and especially the clear singing of Tomi Joutsen made it to an ever-higher level than before. The music is often stripped down to the essentials but the soundscape gets big and fully orchestrated, if necessary.
The band's 14th album is full of amazing and “liveable” songs, give it several spins to discover all the layers of this beautiful combination of lyrics and vocals, who both have very interesting stories to tell. Choose your favourite song and try how far you can push the limits of your belltower. AMORPHIS will have to choose carefully to do the album justice and put fan favourites on the live setlist as well, the band always wrote and performed on a high level, but with ‘Halo’ the defined a new and higher one.
02. On The Dark Waters
03. The Moon
04. Wind mane
05. A New Land
06. When The Gods Came
07. Seven Roads Come Together
10. The Wolf
11. My Name Is Night
Tomi Joutsen – Vocals
Esa Holopainen – Guitars
Tomi Koivusaari – Guitars
Santeri Kallio – Keyboards
Olli-Pekka Laine – Bass
Jan Rechberger – Drums
https://amorphis.net / https://www.facebook.com/amorphis
Total: 10 / 10