Amorphis - "Skyforger" (CD)
"Skyforger" track listing:
1. Sampo (6:08)
2. Silver Bride (4:13)
3. From the Heaven of My Heart (5:20)
4. Sky is Mine (4:20)
5. Majestic Beast (4:19)
6. My Sun (4:04)
7. Highest Star (4:44)
8. Skyforger (5:15)
9. Course of Fate (4:15)
10. From Earth I Rose (5:04)
Reviewed by xFiruath on May 25, 2009
True to their namesake, long running Finnish act Amorphis have kept their core sound a very fluid concept. “Skyforger” is the band’s ninth full-length album and it’s just as much a radical departure from their famous early album “Tales From the Thousand Lakes” as was their middle album “Am Universum.” While it appeared that the band had finally decided to stick solely with the death metal style in their last offering “Silent Waters” they have again gone for a dip into the sickly sweet waters of prog, which could either excite or disappoint any given fan, depending on how they liked the band’s previous excursions into more mellow territory.
The first few moments of opening track “Sampo” will give a good idea of who is going to be down with the new direction and who will long for the albums of yester year. A smooth and light-hearted piano arrangement stays in the forefront for most of the song, carrying it along with the backing guitars and drums. Tomi Joutsen’s vocals start out slightly lower and harder than can really be considered fully “clean,” but they are clearly distinguished from actual death growls. As the song progresses, his vocals shift completely into clean and melodic territory. He’s got an amazingly wide range and his voice has a deep, rich quality that is incredibly pleasing to the ear. Whether that’s a compliment or criticism is completely open to the interpretation of the audience, as they may have been expecting full on death screams based on the band’s previous offerings. Throw in the catchy repeating chorus segments on nearly every song and the result is easily the most mainstream Amorphis disc yet.
There are very few growls to be heard anywhere on “Skyforger,” as the melodic singing has become the focus of the music. That’s not to say that the album isn’t heavy, as it definitely still qualifies as a metal release. “Majestic Beast” is the track that will most please the more extreme crowd, and manages to nearly perfectly evoke the feel of its title. Terrible and beautiful at the same time, it combines all of the various sounds of each instrument to produce a dreadful majesty. Even when the menacing guitars and hellish screams are pounding at full blast, there is still a strong melody and rhythm. The heavy repeating guitar riff on the song is very similar to the sound of “The Grand Conjuration” by Opeth, so any fans of that song will be quite pleased.
The remainder of the songs on the album spend their time switching between folksy and gothic, or combining the two together. Some of the backing synths have a very heavy folk emphasis, which leads to a few of the tracks having a style more in common with a band like Tyr or Equilibrium than they do with the earlier Amorphis albums. “My Sun” strikes on the best balance between the opposing forces, providing the most seamless blending of the folk, rock, gothic overtones, and metal.
Even if some of the individual elements may be slightly off-putting to fans of the older style, it’s always good to hear a band actively work to evolve their sound in new and interesting directions. Despite the de-emphasis of growls and introduction of much more clean melody “Skyforger” is still thoroughly enjoyable and should work its way into the collection of any serious Amorphis fan.
Highs: Catchy and compelling clean vocals, a few songs that are heavy and menacing
Lows: Overall much more toned down and mellow that would be expected from Amorphis, some of the sounds are a little too mainstream
Bottom line: A more mellow and catchy version of Amorphis that should appeal to hardcore fans as well as prog enthusiasts
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