Amorphis – “Under The Red Cloud” (Nuclear Blast Records)
Amorphis have been together for over 25 years, in that time releasing 11 studio albums, going from death metal in the early 90s to an evolutionary sound over the years infusing traditional Finnish folk, psychedelia, and progressive elements into today’s style. With an equally elaborate method of composing involving the band members demoing their stuff individually before collaboratively assembling the material, it’s little wonder why Amorphis’s songs are so complex, yet without a doubt, so creatively brilliant! “Under The Red Cloud” continues in a similar vein to that of its predecessor and yet still pushing the envelope with even more diversity and also getting heavier this time around. Undoubtedly in my mind, this has been due to changing producers from Peter Tägtgren to Jens Bogren, who has raised the tempo of not just the band, but also their material which gives it a far more uplifting feeling despite a perception of them being a somber band. Equally, he seems to have played a big part in the selection of the 10 final tracks here (from an original 22 songs reputedly) as well as their arrangements, the result of which is that while diverse in themselves they are not too different from one other. From huge, bountiful melodies taking in traditional folk on ‘Tree Of Ages’ to the futuristic prog melodies of ‘Enemy At The Gate’, there are even sitars amid funky middle eastern rhythms on ‘Death Of A King’ that take you back to the late 90s days of “Tuonela”. Matching in equally diverse vocals mixing clean soulful with guttural death, it was interesting to learn that these were pretty much all done by vocalist Tomi Joutsen this time round, who has clearly made some big personal strides too like on the impressive closer of ‘White Light’, backed by some cool femme vocals from Aleah Stanbridge. With the modern Scandi prog rock of ‘Sacrifice’ showing a commercial edge, ‘Dark Path’ couldn’t be further afield with its gothic piano and melodic death riffs superbly contrasting with aggressive double bass drumming and some visceral death roars again from Joutsen! There are few bands around who could hold a candle to Amorphis, whose tightness and unity as a band is reflected in yet another spell bounding album that will have you ecstatic for a long time indeed – definitely no writers block here!!