Consistency is a term that is given to many bands these days, but one which perhaps categorizes a band like Amorphis the best, as there are few other bands that have delivered well-constructed albums for almost three decades. You might be forgiven for thinking that following the release of their last album, the critically well-received ‘Queen Of Time’ that a band like Amorphis might have decided to rest on their laurels. Enter their upcoming 14th album ‘Halo’, an album that once again proves that the band isn’t showing any signs of slowing down and that they aren’t afraid of embracing new and creative elements into their music.
I got an opportunity to listen to the album in its entirety during an online press event in November. The event was really well organized by our friends at Atomic Fire records. Most of the European press was available for this event along with Amorphis & producer Jens Bogren. Let’s give you a slight insight into how the album sounds and what you can expect from the album once it releases in February 2022.
The album starts with ‘Northwards’, a beautiful song with traditional Amorphis signature sound. There’s an interesting mix of the choir in the background. It works so well and definitely creates a very vivid impression of the album as a whole right out of the gates. As heard in the past few albums, Amorphis have been diversifying & mixing some traditional instruments in the overall mix, which can be heard on this album as well. In songs like ‘On The Dark Waters’ & ‘A New Land’. Especially the former, which has this beautiful sitar solo towards the middle of the song with some amazing vocal transitions from clean to growls by Tomi Joutsen. Both the songs see a stronger prevalence of the band’s folksier side, sporting a choral riff that would seamlessly slot into any folk metal track. However, the bold contrast between the verses and chorus is what really provides the strength on these tracks.
On ‘The Moon’, Amorphis delivers a groovy hit with a nice atmospheric vibe throughout the song. What makes it even better is the presence of female background vocals. The verses enhance each chorus by giving them that bit more of an extra punch when the heaviness comes around, and when fused with the accompaniment of a background voice to complete a bridge you are given a starkly beautiful track which is one of the shining beacons on the album.
‘Windmane’ is a standard Amorphis track, complete with a catchy riff and standard melodic faire – so much so that it seemed like the band might have been reverting to their usual ways and playing it safe from there on out, but then the band follows that up with ‘A New Land’ & ‘Seven Roads Come Together’, a mystifying atmospheric tonal piece that is a beautiful curveball which showcases the band lifting their game to the maximum. While the dichotomy between the clean and harsh singing is again on display in such a refined manner, it’s the use of real string instruments in these songs that works beautifully and creates an enthralling wall of sound effect. This coupled with the middle-eastern sounding vibes, which are beautifully led into and used in such a way that it adds character to an already exuberant song, make this a stand-out song on the album.
From this point, the album sets into a tier of consistency with ‘War’, ‘Halo’ & ‘Wolf’. These songs embody everything you have come to expect from Amorphis but are structured in such a way that they keep everything sounding fresh and inspired, rather than reverting to past influences. While there might not be anything overly identifiable from them as opposed to the other tracks, each song bears its own distinct mark on the story of ‘Halo’ as a whole.
The album closes out with ‘My Name Is Night’ which seems like a fitting enough song to be the album closer, featuring a beautiful guest vocal appearance that is a surprising, yet welcomed addition to the overall flow of the album. The song acts as a wonderful contrast to previous songs & truly encapsulates the spirit of the album.
The production value on this album is second to none, but and being that the band has opted again to work with Jens Bogren for the third time, that’s not really that surprising. The use of real string instruments and other elements not normally utilized by the band helps accentuate the individual sounds present in each song and provides a very transformative and progressive side to the band’s music, one which will hopefully translate well into a live setting.
While this album won’t be for everyone, anybody that has any sort of adoration or love of the melodic death, progressive, or folk metal genres will find something to enjoy at separate times on this album, and that makes it worth checking out purely on its own. At a time where it is imperative that bands adapt to the ever-changing musical landscape, Amorphis has introduced new elements to their music and has reinvigorated their sound in the process, proving that 30 years into their career that they have no intentions of slowing down.
“Halo” is releasing on February 11th, 2022 via Atomic Fire Records. You can pre-order the album here.