Amorphis are amazingly consistent. They can’t seem to make a bad album, or even a bad song. The band has a new album coming out through Atomic Fire Records on February 11th. The album is called Halo.
Amorphis really needs no introduction. Hailing from Finland, they’ve been around since 1990, and they’ve made 14 studio albums in that time. The current lineup is Tomi Joutsen on vocals, Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari on guitars, Santeri Kallio on keyboards, Olli-Pekka Laine on bass, and Jan Rechberger on drums. Pekka Kainulainen once again handles the lyrics.
This band has long made a death metal style of music, though their more recent albums have leaned heavily into folk and progressive metal. I feel like those traits are even more noticeable in Halo, with progressive song structures all over the place, and even keyboard solos that sound like retro 70s prog rock. Their sound is definitely becoming more nuanced, more interesting, and more vibrant; I would say that melody is king always for them, and this album is no different.
One thing I should note is a brief comparison to my album of the year for 2018, Queen of Time. Firstly, Halo is meant to be the third in a trilogy that began with Under the Red Cloud and continued in Queen of Time. Second, it is always difficult to follow such a strong masterpiece, but I think Amorphis has done admirably here. This is no Queen of Time; it doesn’t have the insanely strong song-writing or vivid inspiration of that album. Halo is its own thing, though, and doesn’t try to copy past albums. Keep that in mind for context.
No, Halo isn’t a copy of the past. Many of the songs offer transitions and contrasts that Amorphis hasn’t done that much before, and instrumentals, too. This is certainly a serene and poetic album, thanks both to Pekka’s amazing lyrics, but also to the band’s glowing guitar licks and tasty rhythms. There are plenty of moments where I simply have to stop whatever else I’m doing, and just listen. I think that is this album’s primary strength: it doesn’t try to do too much. Halo lets the band breathe and emote in a clear and unvarnished way.
I think “The Moon” was a perfect single to lead the pack. This track captures the dark and Romantic essence of the entire record. I especially love the ambient interlude that reminds me of “House of Sleep” from 2006. “On the Dark Waters” is another great single that displays the more progressive side of the album, especially in the folksy interlude. If you like these singles, the rest of the album should please you.
For my two cents, “Northwards”, “When the Gods Came”, “Seven Roads Come Together”, and “My Name is Night” are the best songs on the album, aside from the singles. All of the songs on the record are good in one way or another, though. “Northwards” is the opener, and it is a mighty one at that. It feels epic and mountainous with its choral interlude (“War” is similar in that regard”), and just feels amazing overall. “When the Gods Came” is a chugging and rapturous track, one that continues to grow on me; I appreciate the majestic metallic groove that forms its core.
“Seven Roads Come Together” is a classic Amorphis track complete with fantastic keys that really elevate the song. It almost feels like a film score at points, and the song works best when all the various elements come together into one mesmerizing tone. I always feel uplifted after I hear it. “My Name is Night” is a Romantic closing song that features a duet with Petronella Nettermalm. Her voice is a calming one, and definitely gives the album a shadowy lullaby to end what is a great effort all around. This song would sound amazing live, and I find myself playing it by itself often.
Amorphis are about as consistent a band as exists. While Halo might not be the best album they’ve ever created, it is still a worthy and deeply enjoyable experience. It certainly feels darker and more focused on melody than even 2018’s Queen of Time, and even for that fact alone it is definitely a gorgeous work. Fans will be very happy with this record.
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