Amorphis have a career close to spanning 3 decades of beautifully crafted metal, from their earlier and raw death metal pieces – to evolve and mature into into a very distinct sound that is hard to pinpoint. Since the 2000’s, the band have evolved into a finely tuned machine that mixes melodic death metal, soaring rock stadium anthems, clean vocals, death metal vocals, you name it – Amorphis have it all, including the kitchen sink while they’re at it. Exactly as their namesake suggests, derived from the Greek word ‘amorphous’ – an apt name indeed.
Their latest offering, “Queen of Time”, opens with ‘The Bee’, that for the first few seconds has the listener thinking they’ve picked up some Euro dance album in error – then a huge wall of guitars come stomping through the speakers, sweeping through huge sonic dynamics that incorporate symphonic elements, clean vocals, and death metal growls. The whole thing has an enormous multi layered presence, that doesn’t so much come from the speakers but projects itself in a manner that is like a tangible sonic landscape you can almost feel and touch, such is their levels of musical prowess.
‘Message In The Amber’ is a track that has the trademark folk tainted Amorphis seasoned fans expect of their latter day material. Huge melodies abound throughout, with riffs that promptly slice through the air, while choral elements add to a huge, almost grandiose film soundtrack feel to it that is jaw dropping to behold. The darker and more brooding elements of the album are demonstrated in ‘Daughter of Hate’, with clean vocals adding a strong sense of narrated content sounding like a pages from a novel, giving the whole track a King Diamond-esque atmosphere. ‘The Golden Elk’ starts with an eerie horror film keyboard intro that leads of perhaps one of the best songs on the album, a mix of clean and death metal vocals and string instruments that swoops and ebbs, demonstrating the band at the peak of their power.
Tracks such as ‘Wrong Direction’, ‘Hear of the Damned’ and ‘We Are The Accused’ are text book latter day Amorphis, but crafted in such a manner that sounds fresh and full of vitality; it simply boggles the mind that a band spanning thirteen albums manages to sound just as fresh as they did almost two decades ago. Because by logical extension, many bands commit the act of repeating themselves and sticking rigidly to a methodically ploughed furrow, or performing a complete sea change that alienates large portions of an already healthy and well established fan base. ‘Grain of Sand’ is a curious dichotomy, as the song has an upbeat layer but with a harsh vocal delivery. It feels churlish to pick faults with the track, but in the greater context of the album as a whole it may integrate awkwardly in a manner that’s difficult to pin down.
Album closers ‘Amongst The Stars’ and ‘Pyres of the Coast’ feature guest appearances from Anneke Van Giersbergen (The Gathering), that are a superb way to close the album; her vocals integrate well with the sonic blueprint giving off a Nightwish vibe. With the complex and multi layered sound latter day Amorphis is well known for, on paper the descriptions of the closing tracks may sound a step too far – but yet again, Amorphis pull this act off with such panache the band members collectively would have you believe they could do this with their hands tied behinds their backs, such is the levels of rock solid confidence and song writing baked into this album. The superb mastering is the icing of a cake, and for the audiophiles out there – one can only conclude that the final product played back from physical media with be even more of a delight than mere digital files. An album to miss at your peril.