Of Mice & Men
The Mo Club, Southampton, UK - 16/4
The Beginning Of Times
Written by: AP on 09/10/2011 13:30:47
What was initially conceived as a death metal band, Amorphis have explored a range of genres since their conception 21 years ago, including doom, progressive, heavy and folk metal, before landing on their current style, which is best described as a concoction of melodic death metal and folk with progressive tendencies. Although the band never achieved the kind of success as did their countrymen in Children of Bodom, Amorphis remain one of the most longevous bands to come out of Finland, with this latest opus "The Beginning of Times" being their tenth studio album.
With such experience it is natural to expect nothing short of a well written, professionally executed album, and here Amorphis do not disappoint. "The Beginning of Times" is essentially a continuation of the band's last three albums, "Skyforger", "Silent Waters" and "Eclipse"; while not outright heavy, it is driven and catchy, delving into traditional Finnish folk music for inspiration for its melodic edge. "Battle for Light", "Mermaid" and "My Enemy" set the dial to a fantastic start with keyboards, dual leads and Tomi Joutsen's impressive vocal presence, both during deep growls and majestic clean parts, melting into instantly catchy songs reminiscent of Dark Tranquillity, Insomnium and Opeth. But while such comparisons can certainly be drawn across many of the songs, Amorphis never indulge themselves into idolatry, preserving their own signature sound throughout.
Not surprisingly, considering where this band is from, "The Beginning of Times" is defined by a sense of melancholy only the isolation and cold winters of the Finnish north can inspire. But rather than resorting to meandering in coldness and sorrow, Amorphis are masters in blowing the desolation into epic proportions. In "You I Need" and "Song of the Sage", for instance, the use of lofty keyboard ambience, flutes and female singing coalesce into songs as vast as the tundra-dominated landscapes of Lapland. Indeed, one of the best aspects of Amorphis is their ability to put together an ambitious concept album about their Finnish heritage, mainly focusing on the mythical epic "Kalevala", and still remain accessible and engaging. There is hardly a song here that cannot instantly be enjoyed on a visceral level.
But in contrast with the pop-driven approach of the previous three albums, "The Beginning of Times", feel a little more restrained and convincing, and while the band's early repertoire has largely been pushed into oblivion since the replacement of former vocalist Pasi Koskinen with Tomi Joutsen in 2005, there is a distinct return here to a less mainstream domain that fans of "Tales from the Thousand Lakes" and "Elegy" are likely to appreciate. Even so, the songs tend to lack that big bang that would make them the stuff of legend. "The Beginning of Times" instead places the emphasis on texture. But clocking in just short of 55 minutes, the approach starts to feel a little one-pronged on the likes of "Reformation", "Soothsayer" and "On a Stranded Shore", none of which come close to the impact exerted by the first five songs.
Given that it is this type of lofty hard rock anthems that have alienated many of the band's former fans in the past, it might have been wiser to cut them out and focus on the brilliant symbiosis of doom, folk and melodic death metal that has proven to be Amorphis' recipe for success. Fortunately "Escape" and "Crack in a Stone" return the album to the right track, the first an energetic heavy metal piece which, had it been sung by Bruce Dickinson, would not sound out of place on an Iron Maiden record, and the second bearing a close resemblance to Opeth's older material. As such, although the album never soars into a higher dimension in the way that the band's earliest works did, "The Beginning of Times" is still an excellent album characterized by a haunting, mystical soundscape capable of providing instant gratification to those that approach the album with an open mind.
Download: Battle for Light, Mermaid, Song of the Sage
For the fans of: Ghost Brigade, Insomnium, Sentenced
Release date 30.05.2011
Nuclear Blast Records