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Amorphis - "Under The Red Cloud" (CD)

Amorphis - "Under The Red Cloud" CD cover image

"Under The Red Cloud" track listing:

1. Under The Red Cloud
2. The Four Wise Ones
3. Bad Blood
4. The Skull
5. Death of a King
6. Sacrifice
7. Dark Path
8. Enemy At The Gates
9. Tree Of Ages
10. White Night

Reviewed by on August 25, 2015

"The album stands out a bit more on its own than recent material with the handful of stylistic changes, but will still be familiar and satisfying for long time fans of Amorphis."

A band that has managed to keep pleasing fans for a quarter of a century despite several sound and lineup changes, Finland's Amorphis now celebrates 25 years of existence with “Under The Red Cloud.” Keeping things running like clockwork, Amorphis has somehow released a new album about every two years across that entire time, culminating in this follow-up to the 2013 album “Circle.” Album number 13 keeps up the same general ideas of recent output, but with some welcome changes.

Based on the psychedelic cover artwork and some of the comments from the band members, I was personally hoping for more of the “Am Universum” prog rock oddity that hasn't been heard in full force from Amorphis since back in 2001. While that unfortunately didn't end up being the case here, that doesn't actually detract from the quality of this album that continues in the vein of the “Skyforger” through “Circle” albums.

There are some slight nods to that former sound, however, like the '70s rock influence in the guitars mixed with atmospheric keys halfway through “Bad Blood,” or the watery, distorted clean vocals on “The Four Wise Ones.” Of course a fair share of folk elements also pop up, and in a minor but significant shift, the harsh vocals have slightly more of an abrasive and blackened edge. Overall, “Under The Red Cloud” is a wide ranging and dynamic album, not afraid to shift across styles and genres.

The advance release track “Death Of A King” offered a bit of a shock to fans when it hit online, with its oriental melody and wind instruments, and a handful of guest musician appearances gives this album a more unique flavor. Eluveitie's Chrigel Glanzmann provides the flute on several tracks, for instance, while female vocals from guest Aleah Standbridge appear on three of the songs, including ending track “White Night.” Eighth track “Enemy at the Gates” is like a more interesting version of recent Opeth, and in a bit of a twist, ex-Opeth drummer Martin Lopez actually shows up on the album to drum on the aforementioned “Death Of A King.”

There's easily enough differences from the previous three albums for “Under The Red Cloud” to solidly be its own entry, but not enough shifts to totally leave the tried and true formula behind. The album stands out a bit more on its own than recent material with the handful of stylistic changes, but will still be familiar and satisfying for long time fans of Amorphis.

Highs: Tried and true Amorphis gets a few welcome changes in style.

Lows: If you were hoping for something significantly (or completely) different than the last three albums you won't find it here.

Bottom line: The basic formula of the last three albums continues here, but with some more adventurous twists to keep the sound fresh.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)