Finnish heavy metallers, Amorphis, have released their latest and 13th studio album, called Queen of Time. Having originally formed as a death metal band, Amorphis are now a glorious mix of power, prog, folk, rock, symphonic and death metal and Queen of Time is a shining example of genre mixing perfected.
Amorphis formed way back in 1990 and released their debut, The Karelian Isthmus, in 1992. Starting off life as a death metal band, being in existence for the best part of thirty years is likely to see changes come through in your music. It wasn’t a sudden change for Amorphis. Their sound has evolved slowly but steadily over time. Their second album, Tales from the Thousand Lakes saw clean singing introduced. Am Universum saw greater use of keyboards and a saxophone added. This continues throughout their history culminating in 2015’s Under the Red Cloud. An album many believe to be one of the all time classic metal albums.
Amorphis are a 6 piece. They are original members Esa Holopainen on lead guitars, Tomi Koivusaari on rhythm guitar and harsh vocals, Olli-Pekka Laine on bass and Jan Rechberger on drums. Along with them we have Santeri Kallio on keyboards, having joined in 1998 and Tomi Joutsen on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, having joined in 2005.
Queen of Time is a long and expansive album with 10 tracks and just under 60 minutes of music on it. The lyrics within are written by the band’s long term lyricist, Pekka Kainulainen and like much of Amorphis’ work, centre on the epic national poem of Finland, The Kalavela. The album opens with The Bee which is a little heavier than I was expecting. It starts with some synth and keys with background female vocals before a deathly roar brings the heaviness over a power metal guitar line. It is an attention grabbing start and continues that way with chunky riffs, high toned guitar solos mixed with creative keyboard melodies. Vocals turn from aggressive roars to sorrowful cleans as the journey begins.
Message in the Amber comes next and switches things up completely chucking in the catchiest of catchy folk metal intros. It could be a Turisas song. Heavy vocals come in for a darker riff in the verse, cleans come through with big keyboard melodies in a big sounding chorus. We get a big power metal sounding solo followed by an empowering choir chorus. Variety comes thick and fast on this album with no song sounding the same as it’s predecessor yet it manages to still sound like a flowing album. Daughter of Hate is a darker song with a heavy start and church organ sound. It is still chock full of melody but also has sections where the screaming approaches black metal.
The Golden Elk is one of my favourite tracks with a bouncing, catchy melody similar in catchiness to Amongst Stars. The latter also chucks in some excellent female vocals courtesy of Anneke van Giersbergen. Loads of intricate melodies litter the song with moments of crunching riffage and darker vocals from the band to contrast. Heart of the Giant has some huge symphonic, orchestral elements with lots of choir backing while Grain of Sand has a powerful chorus and a feverous ending with crashing drums and a heavy riff. The album closes with Pyres on the Coast which has a bit of everything in it. Heavy and clean vocals in contrast, folk sections, big orchestral backing, power metal like soaring leads and sections of thumping bass and pounding drums. It is an awe-inspiring end.
The amount of variety on Queen of Time is quite astonishing really. There really does seem to be a bit of most genres melded together to create inspiring, expansive tracks that keep you thinking. One of the most amazing things about it all though is how well it all flows and fits. You would think this dramatic mix of death and folk and power and more could maybe sound disjointed or not equal to the sum of its parts but it works. It really works. Queen of Time is pretty special. It feels like the 30 years of graft for Amorphis have led to this pinnacle. One of the must hear albums of 2018, for sure.
Queen of Time is out now and can be picked up at any of the streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify. You can grab a physical copy from the band here or from the links below. Find out more on Amorphis and keep track of their releases at their website, on Twitter and on Facebook.
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Queen of Time by Amorphis (Nuclear Blast)
The Final Score - 9.5/10