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Amorphis - "The Beginning Of Times" (CD)

Amorphis - "The Beginning Of Times" CD cover image

"The Beginning Of Times" track listing:

1. Battle for Light (5:35)
2. Mermaid (4:24)
3. My Enemy (3:25)
4. You I Need (4:22)
5. Song of the Sage (5:27)
6. Three Words (3:55)
7. Reformation (4:33)
8. Soothsayer (4:09)
9. On a Stranded Shore (4:13)
10. Escape (3:52)
11. Crack in a Stone (4:56)
12. Beginning of Time (5:51)

Reviewed by on June 23, 2011

"...the band is now continuing on in the same vein as the last two or three albums to create a blend of prog, folk, and melodic metal."

More than 20 years have now passed by since Amorphis was born in Finland and became one of the pioneers of early extreme metal. Looking back on the band’s discography, it’s unlikely either any fans or the band itself could have possibly predicted how Amorphis would sound today in comparison to early works like “The Karelian Isthmus” or even middle-era albums such as “Am Universum.” With the exception of a recent brief side-trek to re-record old material, the band is now continuing on in the same vein as the last two or three albums to create a blend of prog, folk, and melodic metal.

Something any potential listener needs to know right off the bat is how catchy and melodic this album is in comparison to older material. There’s even less brutality and more hooks than the mellow and piano-driven previous album “Skyforger,” although the releases do share a lot in common. “Mermaid” is the most obvious example of the less heavy orientation, using smooth clean vocals that don’t quite belong to pop or rock, but aren’t quite in the metal realm either. That’s not the say the album as a whole won’t be pleasing to listeners with a preference for a more intense experience, however, as heavy guitars still have a solid presence and growls do appear every now and again.

Much like the last album, there are loads of prog, folk, and symphonic elements that spice up the music and prevent the album from ever being just standard death metal. The matching of keyboards with guitars on “Reformation” creates a unique atmosphere somewhere between “psychedelic” and “epic,” while “Song of the Sage” throws in the flutes and other non-metal instruments for a strong folksy feel. The track “Crack in a Stone” is another example of how Amorphis melds musical ideas, using what sounds like a tambourine along with an energetic and eccentric guitar tone for a strange, but effective, juxtaposition. Album closer “Beginning of Time” is among the best cuts off the disc, being highly atmospheric, vaguely menacing, and even a little creepy. The catchy chorus is present, of course, but it doesn’t dominate the song the way it does with most of the other tracks.

Unfortunately there are some downsides to the new album, especially when compared to other Amorphis offerings. While “Skyforger” had the “Majestic Beast” track to solidify the death metal and prog rock aspects together, “The Beginning of Times” doesn’t have an equally stand out track in its roster. A few of the songs, such as “Three Words,” start out incredibly strong but then have trouble maintaining the same level of passion and force for the entire duration. The subject matter and overall formula Amorphis relies on is also starting to feel played out, and it seems like the band may be due for yet another of its famous sudden changes in style.

Amorphis is still mostly firing on all cylinders with “The Beginning of Times,” but its sound is almost too familiar and it appears the steam may be starting to run out. While still easily on the upper end of music in general, the band’s latest release isn’t quite as compelling as other albums from days gone by. Fans of the band will undoubtedly love it, but hopefully the long running Finnish act goes the extra mile next time around and really shakes up the formula.

Highs: The same high quality blend of prog rock, folk, and death metal that fans have come to expect from Amorphis

Lows: The sound is becoming played out, as the album is essentially a less heavy version of its predecessor.

Bottom line: If you loved the last album you'll dig this one, but it's even more catchy and less heavy than before.

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)