Having begun life as a ferocious death metal band, Finland’s Amorphis underwent a steady and seemingly natural progression into a more melodic, folky metal band over the last ten years and very much stamped their trademark sound all over their last two platters, “Skyforger” and “Beginning Of Times”. Having cemented their reputation as a live act too, the anticipation for their new one has been building and it arrives with fanfare and gusto aplenty.
‘Shades Of Gray’ kicks things off with suitable bombast and gruff vocals falling into an irresistible europop hook and anthemic chorus and then ‘Mission” lilts more gently with the Scandic-Celtic flavour that elevates their work beyond so many of their peers. The folk influence and clean vocals are present in greater measure than on previous albums, but when they get heavy they don’t mess around. ‘Nightbird’s Song’ belies its title with some icy riffs and percussive blasts and the indie-goth swagger of ‘Enchanted By The Moon’ also features some wonderfully Gaahl-esque vocals building the atmosphere towards a fine crescendo.
Closing salvo ‘A New Day’ is the only track that falls a little below par here, sticking to the formula but never really igniting like the rest of the album. That said, it is merely a decent track on an otherwise superb record, which is a minor quibble and one I almost feel guilty for raising. Having identified their key elements they have harnessed and amplified each one to beautiful effect. The folk-laden pipe and violin sections are catchier, the choruses soar with greater confidence than ever, and the vicious riffs and death metal vocals pack an ominous punch. With “Circle”, whether carefully planned or organically evolved, Amorphis have taken every ingredient of their sound and perfected it, distilling each part into a glorious very full-bodied brew. Cheers! Skol! Kippis!