the fjords of Finland comes Amorphis’
latest ‘melancholic rock’ effort, ‘Under
the Red Cloud’. Slated for an early September release, the new album (a
follow-up to 2013’s ‘Circle’) will
be the band’s twelfth studio effort, and will be released through Nuclear Blast Records.
elements of folk, rock, and metal music, Amorphis aren’t reinventing their
sound through the new album, but are trying to hone the mix they established in
‘Circle’. Not many bands can say
they’ve managed to continuously improve their sound over the years like
Amorphis can, and ‘Under the Red Cloud’ is
proof of that; as if more evidence was really needed.
striking features in this album are the gorgeous and anthem-like,
made-for-arena choruses that almost every song boasts of. Tomi Joutsen, with the ability to switch between hellish-sounding
growls and powerful cleans, is the catalyst that inspires these distinct
choruses. Tracks like “Dark Path”
and “Death of a King” show off
Joutsen’s vocal proficiency through the use of growled verses and
immaculately-sung clean choruses.
responsible for the interesting, groovy keyboard solos, especially on the title
track “Under the Red Cloud”, while
drummer Jan Rechberger pulls off smart,
flawless chops, doing just as much as needed, like always. Heavily layered
music like Amorphis’, with two guitars, a keyboard, bass, vocals, and drums,
cannot have too much going on at all times from each instrumentalist, and
Rechberger executes his role perfectly; a great example of his playing is the
track “The Skull”.
Guitarists Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari, with the frequent use of acoustic guitar lines and
simple electric leads over riffing, take the band’s sound to a whole new level.
The charm of the interplay between these two guitars is evident everywhere on
the album, but the song “Sacrifice”
is probably the epitome of this. The previously mentioned song “Death of a
King” also weighs in strongly in this aspect, with an acoustic guitar line that
sounds like it’s freshly purchased from somewhere in Egypt or the Middle East
(reminiscent of the band’s 1996 album ‘Elegy’). Also present here is a
flitting flute pattern which will, because of the way it’s panned in the mix,
haunt the right ears of many listeners.
playing isn’t heard too well in mix unfortunately, but this isn’t reason enough
to complain since there’s quite a bit going on with the other instruments, and
also because the bass is simply there and doing its job. The mix, on the whole,
is slightly better than on the album’s predecessor, as the rhythm guitars
manage to highlight lead-work more efficiently without sounding jarring. The
only criticism that can be given here is that Amorphis might be playing it safe
with their sound, but this argument isn’t completely justified because, no
matter what, the musicianship is top-notch and the sound polished.
cannot be labelled or categorized easily, with various elements of death metal,
progressive rock and folk rock fused with one another. The band calls it “melancholic
rock”, and perhaps there isn’t a better term that anybody can come up with.
Shifting mood swings and morphing emotions are somehow captured, in all their
beauty, in these songs, and it is difficult to describe this in quantitative
terms. One will have to give ‘Under the
Red Cloud’ a listen, not only to try and understand these emotions, but also
because the album is easily one of the best releases of the year, and is worth the listen.