Amorphis

support Orphaned Land
author AP date 05/11/10 venue Amager Bio, Copenhagen, DEN

It was a little surprising that Amager Bio, which has the capacity to hold up to 1,500 spectators, was chosen as the appropriate venue for tonight's metal event. Amorphis command a large following in Finland, but outside its cold borders they are hardly the kind of band to attract such a large crowd - especially when the concert takes place on one of Denmark's most sacred celebrations: J-dag (the annual nation-wide release party for Tuborg's Julebryg Christmas beer). Even more surprising was the fact that Amorphis were not credited as headliners; rather, it was a jam band specialising in Metallica's repertoire who were to play last and with the most impressive stage production.

Orphaned Land

First up, however, are Orphaned Land, who have managed to transcend regional and religious disputes and unite Muslims, Jews and Christians alike into a huge international following over their two decades of existence. Yes, Orphaned Land come from Israel, and fuse progressive, doom and death metal, as well as Middle Eastern folk music and traditional themes from each of the three Abrahamic religions into self-proclaimed Oriental heavy metal. The music features a wide variety of instruments aside the usual guitars and rhythm section, including oud, saz, bouzouki, chumbush and classical piano, but sadly these have all been incorporated into the set by means of playback. Noting that much of the melody comes from a backing track, the show is difficult to appreciate at first, but as soon as Yossi "Sassi" Sa'aron gets a chance to flash his guitar virtuosity with a solo, all concerns about lack of instrumental prowess be gone. Not only are Sassi's ethnically styled solos different to anything you would normally expect to hear on a metal album and hence all the more mouthwatering, he never lets a chance forego to demonstrate all forms of trickery with the six-string, from exchanging hands, playing upside down and generally rocking out like a true metal champion with enormous joy radiating from his constant smile.

Then there's the vocalist, Kobi Farhi, who repeatedly needs to assure people that he is neither Jesus Christ nor Moses despite being dressed in a way both are often portrayed, and careening on stage with the demeanor of a messiah or prophet. The occasional deep growls aside, his doom-laden singing, ethnic chanting and poetic narrations are delivered like prayers to a higher authority, his arms and expressions completing a carefully choreographed persona. It doesn't seem to matter that the room is all but empty - Orphaned Land have traveled from afar to play and they do so humbly, with passion and conviction. And after the initial skepticism, I too must surrender to the awesome soundscapes. Of course, bringing along a musician to play each of the instruments present in Orphaned Land's music would be a definite bonus, but considering the expenses this would cause and not forgetting that Sassi has almost single-handedly written and recorded the parts, their physical absence is entirely understandable and in no way limits the experience. One simply imagines their presence through auditory perception and acknowledges that Orphaned Land are one of the most original, invigorating metal bands today.

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Amorphis

Amorphis on the other hand, are much colder and much more direct in their expression. For those unfamiliar with the band: their music is centered on melodic death metal that has, over the couse of their 20-year career, moved from incorporating elements of extreme metal (most notably doom) to taking on a simpler, more accessible and - some might say - more predictable formula. The audience is clearly divided on these, with one half raising their voices for every old, primarily growled song (for example "Exile of the Sons of Uisliu", "Black Winter Day" and the brilliant closer "My Kantele"), and the other becoming stimulated by the newer produce (for example "Skyforger", "Sky Is Mine" and "From the Heaven of My Heart"). I, on the other hand, appreciate both facets of the band, having followed the band since my first encounter with melodic death. It must be said though, that while the old songs are indisputably better in structure, the new songs emit far more power and sound like the kind of big, anthemic metal songs a band that hopes to remain relevant and 'big' needs.

As you might expect from six stone cold Finns, the performance is not exactly warm either. Crowd interaction is kept at a bare minimum while vocalist Tomi Joutsen flails his giant dreadlocks around and the remaining members focus on delivering tight-as-hell instrumental parts. Other than that there really isn't all that much going on - it's easy to see why many have dubbed Amorphis a miserable live act. I have to disagree a bit though, because a band armed with songs this good and a near-perfect mix will always cross enough boxes in my book to deserve decent recognition. And let's face it, when you're playing music as dark and atmospheric as Amorphis, a hyper-energetic performance would look ridiculous. Solid stuff, but nothing out of the ordinary.

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Setlist:

01. Silver Bride

02. Sky Is Mine

03. Towards and Against

04. The Castaway

05. Song of the Troubled One

06. Exile of the Sons of Uisliu

07. From the Heaven of My Heart

08. The Smoke

09. Alone

10. Black Winter Day

11. House of Sleep

12. My Kantele

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