Amorphis is a Finnish Death Metal band that’s been blasting metal tunes since 1990. In 2005 they switched vocalists from Pasi Koskinen to Tomi Joutsen - in my opinion a fantastic change.
Ever since Joutsen’s been part of the band, these guys have basically morphed from being just another run-of-the-mill Death Metal band to a unique, yet perfect, blend of Power/Death Metal.
- - - - -
As for the album, personally I think it’s their best one yet, and that’s saying something - I thought Silent Waters (2007) was just spectacular, and I’ve heard great things about Eclipse (2005).
Now because these guys still have strong Death Metal roots, you can expect to hear some death growls in most of the songs. Normally I’d be turned off about this, but the album’s probably about 80% clean vocals and only 20% death growls.
Also, it’s important to note that this is a concept album, and like most of Amorphis’ work, it draws from stories from the Finnish epic poem 'Kalevala'. This album in particular focuses on a mythological blacksmith (Ilmarinen) who, among other things, forged the Sampo and crafted the dome of the sky. (Hence 'Skyforger’)
Onto the track breakdown:
- Sampo - A strong contender for best song on the album; just over 6 minutes long, this track lures you in with 4 minutes of gentle vocals and terrific guitar, followed by a minute of intense singing/growling, then back to the clean vocals. It pulls it off fantastically, and is set up this way to mirror the story of the Sampo (look it up if interested; I’m not explaining it)
- Silver Bride - Another great song, which they released as a single before releasing the album. Probably about 95% clean vocals, and a chorus that’s very pleasing to the ears.
- From the Heaven of My Heart - Not as fond of this song; it’s still well done, but some of the guitar riffs are lacking (at least, compared to the rest of the album). Overall, a good song; just not a great song. On most other albums I rate it higher, but it’s got a lot of competition with songs like Sampo and From Earth I Rose.
- Sky Is Mine - Great song; absolutely great. 100% clean vocals, and the guitar riffs mix perfectly with Joutsen’s voice. There are some parts where I feel the songs loses a bit of momentum, but it quickly picks right back up. Also of interest is a synthesizer solo followed by an electric guitar solo - very well done.
- Majestic Beast - Hmmmmmm. This song’s got some good stuff in it, but I always have trouble getting through the growling vocals in it. In addition, the rhythm guitar does this muffled fast picking during the clean vocals portion that is f#*king annoying when you’re listening with headphones and can distinguish it. Definitely a weaker track of the album, unless you’re a fan of death growls, in which case you will probably call it a stronger one.
- My Sun - A more laid back song, with clean vocals and a strong chorus to keep it all together. There’s nothing much to say about this track; all clean vocals, and Holopainen is great on the lead guitar, but there are more interesting songs on this album.
- Highest Star - The guitar plucking and flute at the beginning of this track do a great job of leading into Joutsen’s soothing vocals, up until the chorus where things pick up a notch. A very strong track, and one I recommend, and yet it’s not even one of my top picks in the album! (The album is f*#king amazing though, so it’s understandable)
- Skyforger - The namesake of the album, and one of the best on it too. Like Highest Star, it leads in very quietly, however it doesn’t wait until the chorus to get in your face with it’s awesomeness. The growls in it fit perfectly, and the guitar throughout the track is just spectacular. Highly recommended.
- Course of Fate - Not a favorite of mine, although now that I think about it, I don’t know why; the vocals in it are just fantastic, and the riffs equally so.
- From Earth I Rose - Holy freaking crap. Now this was the song that I think changed me from disliking death growls to at least making them bearable to listen to in any particular song. This is tied with Sampo I’d say for best track on the album; every instrument does a fantastic job in this song, and because of that I think it’s easy to listen to this track enough times that you’ll eventually get used to death growls if you aren’t already used to them.
- Godlike Machine - This is a bonus track on the album, and it reminds me a lot of From Earth I Rose, to the point that when I first listened to this album I actually mistook it for being a few extra verses of it. It’s a good track, but a little heavier in the death growls than I care for. It’s got very solid guitar playing throughout that helps balance this out however.
Overall, this album is very, very well done. The vocals are never lacking, the guitars are always driving the song, the drums amplifying the strong choruses and supporting any quiet interludes, the bass doing whatever the bass does to help the band, and the piano/synthesizer providing great parts in songs such as Sampo and From Earth I Rose.
If you are lazy and only want to listen to parts of the album, then my recommended tracks are: 1, 2, 4, 8, and 10. You’re doing the album a great injustice though unless you listen to the entire thing; it’s an incredible album that’s well planned out and executed.
Overall rating: 9.5 / 10.0