Originally planned around Easter, Finnish progressive metal act AMORPHIS had planned a celebration for their 30th anniversary year. The band was set to perform three consecutive shows each meant to celebrate a decade worth of songs from their gigantic back catalogue. Little did they know, one month prior, all hell would break loose and as a result, thousands of shows all around the globe were canceled due to a microscopic enemy. While measures and restrictions are not necessarily weapons to eradicate COVID-19, the lockdown situation made it possible for Finland to arrange a limited amount of shows with restricted capacity and luckily for us, that means that AMORPHIS was scheduled to play not three, but six decade shows at Tavastia in Helsinki. Since we’ve seen plenty of AMORPHIS‘ latest shows, mostly focused on “Queen of Time“ and “Under the Red Cloud,” we thought it would be a good opportunity to re-discover the band’s earlier albums, thus we decided to go to the early evening show on Friday, August 16th, 2020, which saw the six-piece play their earlier works. Check out our photo gallery of the event here.
Now, before we start to elaborate on how the show was, let’s address the elephant in the room: how can a show in 2020 during a rising infection rate in Helsinki be a responsible thing to organize? Well, the organization and venue clearly did their best to arrange a safe environment for everyone present, crew and audience alike. There were plenty of seats and if visitors preferred to have a standing spot somewhere closer to the stage, rows were created in which a maximum of 12 people could stand next to each other with plenty of room in between. With a restricted capacity, the band had organized two shows a day, with enough time in between to disinfect and clean the premises. While face masks were not obligated, they were strongly recommended and available for purchase at the bar. Hand sanitizers were widely available for everyone to maintain good hand hygiene. A couple of minutes before the show started, a safety announcement reminded the audience of the rules and recommendations.
The atmospheric piano intro of “Tales from the Thousand Lakes” started playing throughout the venue. While tension was slowly building up, the six-piece came on stage one-by-one and started playing into “Into Hiding.” As the track is the opening track on the above mentioned classic AMORPHIS album, it worked very well as the start of the show. The oriental-styled guitar riffs, the groovy bass section near the end, and keyboard melodies, all were perfectly executed. Judging by the reactions, the crowd was definitely excited to be part of this unique live experience, confirming this sentiment by their screams. “The Castaway” soon followed and kept the spirits high with its folky feel to it. The track was the perfect moment for singer Tomi Joutsen to excite the fans even more, by letting them shout at the top of their longs before starting the verse; a song that can easily warm up any crowd, even during the darkest of times. After “The Castaway,” Joutsen took a few minutes to greet the audience; visibly excited to play in front of an audience once again.
The band switched to the in 1996 released “Elegy,” with its legendary opening track “Better Unborn,” a song they hadn’t played live since 2017 and for me a personal live debut, which was somewhat in line of the previous songs. With much precision, AMORPHIS played through the track. With the next track, “On Rich and Poor,” the six-piece stays faithful to “Elegy,” playing the high-on-energy riffs, keeping the balance of fun and dynamic tracks throughout the show. Next, followed “Greed,” a track of “Tuonela.” I was personally looking forward to this track, since the band hadn’t played it since 2014, which meant it was another live debut for me. The more laidback, psychedelic track felt like an interesting choice between the faster paced tracks so far, which offered a nice little break. The band stuck to the original order on the album and played “Divinity” next. Originally, these two tracks flow into one another beautifully and this was no different during the show. The mellow, ambient intro served as a short intermezzo between the songs, after which Joutsen‘s clean vocals filled the venue.
Next, the intro track “Karelia” from “Karelian Isthmus” started playing through the speakers, introducing the biggest surprise of the evening. Singer Tomi Joutsen left the stage and guitarist Tomi Koivusaari took over the microphone, growling to “Vulgar Necrolatry” (orginally by ABHORRENCE, played with the original lineup), which was released on “Karelian Isthmus.” “Vulgar Necrolatry” was perhaps the most aggressive track on the setlist that evening, more oriented towards traditional death metal, with a thrashy guitar solo played by Esa Holopainen. It’s truly interesting to see how much the band has changed since their inception and songs like these truly make it possible to see their entire evolution. After the track was done, Koivusaari seemed relieved the singing experience was over and his band mates were all applauding his performance. Joutsen returned to the stage for another one of AMORPHIS‘ darkest tracks, “The Exile of the Sons of Uisliu.”
The more melodic and fast-paced “Drowned Maiden” followed to brighten up the grim atmosphere set by the two previous hard-hitting songs, after which the band focused on “Magic and Mayhem,” which turned out to be a true crowd-pleaser and one of my personal highlights of the evening. Fan favorites “Black Winter Day” and “My Kantele” rounded out the set towards the end of the night which due to the restrictions was way too short.
In general, celebrating AMORPHIS 30th anniversary together with a setlist filled with rareties nowadays was an altogether great experience. In comparison to their “Queen of Time” tour, these shows were more intimate, with a more minimal stage look. The lighting was overall grim, suiting the atmosphere of the songs. Most of the setlist came from “Tales from the Thousand Lakes,” which was not a big surprise. After all, “Tales from the Thousand Lakes” went on to influence the signature AMORPHIS sound: a fusion of death metal with traditional folk, psychedelia, and progressive elements. Three decades later, the band has developed and matured their sound over the span of three decades, resulting in their latest critically acclaimed album “Queen of Time,” yet many of the elements used in their latest studio effort, were already clear from the start.
Although the band is used to bigger audiences in Finland nowadays and there was a lot of tension in the audience due to the world’s situation, AMORPHIS was able to make people forget about any anxiety related to the current pandemic and prove that with the right measures, a show can be a safe environment for everyone to celebrate any band’s live music. Hopefully, we’ll soon be able to catch them again!
Written by Laureline Tilkin
- Into Hiding
- The Castaway
- Better Unborn
- On Rich and Poor
- Vulgar Necrolatry
- Exile of the Sons of Uisliu
- Drowned Maid
- Magic and Mayhem
- Black Winter Day
- My Kantele