AMORPHIS definitely are one of the most fascinating bands in Metal, for a long time actually. Throughout their career they have covered an amazing spectrum and still never radically changed their style, thus losing their fan base. Starting out as Death Metal with their “The Karelian Isthmus” album, they evolved through highly melodic Death Metal towards calmer, more complex and at times almost avantgardistic touches, before finally settling down for the last two albums “Eclipse” and “Silent Waters”, where they molded together elements from their further and more recent past and to great effect. “Skyforger” continues down this road, further exploring the mélange of old and somewhat less old, forging not the sky, but a cohesive, deep and emotionally involving album that will leave you breathless and elated at the same time.
I still maintain my standpoint that the appointment of Tomi Joutsen as fronter was a stroke of genius, as he can deliver passionate clear vocals as well as mean growls, which are embedded into the very detailed and varied compositions that take their influences from a myriad of different genres and sub-genres, some Death Metal, subtle Folk influences (just listen to these inimitable and marvelous guitar leads that Esa Holopainen continues to create), Progressive Rock, some psychedelic influences (especially in the keyboards) and more, resulting in an engaging album that never grows stale and despite the many different elements processed stays organic and immediately comprehensive and the proof for the true genius of AMORPHIS is the fact that this is achieved with four different song writers.
So what has changed compared to “Eclipse” and “Silent Waters”? Nothing elementary, as the very widespread range of influences continues to flow in roughly the same vein, but it is exactly this wide range that ensures that AMORPHIS do not get repetitive and the sheer quality of the songwriting takes care of the rest, often combining fragile piano and guitar melodies with emotive power, the growls as counterpart to the clear voice, the already mentioned lead melodies and varied drumming, this is a piece of beauty, I can’t put it down any different way. Beginning with the slow-paced “Sampo” and moving into the very variable “Silver Bride” that has an immediate catchiness to it without sounding shallow, “Skyforger” has this natural flow that will take you on a journey through emotions and melodies that will have to be surgically removed from your brain to get rid of them.
“Sky Is Mine” is a good bit faster, but has this irresistible guitar melody that drills itself into your memory and gives the song this fleeting breeziness that sees its counterpart in the strong chorus, while “Majestic Beast” surprises with deep growls in the verse that then give way to the clear voice for the bridge and chorus, before the growls return for the verse again, giving the song a completely different set of dynamics than the ones before and shows that AMORPHIS have not yet given up on their Metal roots, quite the contrary, vocally it is probably the heaviest track they have produced in years! This is one of those albums, where it is almost impossible to single out certain songs or not to mention others, as they all have distinctly different characters and points of interest. One that does truly stand out, though, is the title track, which starts out with quiet piano and acoustic guitar, but turns into one of the most intense songs AMORPHIS have written in the past few years, with passion, emotion, power, intensity, incredible melodies, with epic lyrics, a true masterpiece!
And the closing tracks “Course Of Fate” and “From Earth I Rose” also have this emotive power that entwined with the melodies form this intense bond that has been so characteristic of the Finns and that they have perfected throughout the years and which is perfectly complemented by the crystal clear and powerful production, which lets every single little detail shine and gives the listener the perfect chance to dive into the emotional world of the north. I’m not sure, if the lyrics draw from the Kalevala or the Kullervo again, but in any case they are definitely worth reading along and the cover artwork by Travis Smith is a masterpiece of itself, rounding off an album that is a very hot contender for the top spot in the 2009 best of lists, “Skyforger” is another absolute highlight in the Finns’ long list of great releases and they show that despite staying closer to the last two albums than they’ve been known for in the past couple of years, they can continue to evolve, pure brilliance!
(Online June 1, 2009)