“Queen of Time” by AMORPHIS will be released by Nuclear Blast on May 18th, 2018. The album has the prospect of being one of the better Finnish releases of the year, if not worldwide. AMORPHIS initially was a death metal band, but has progressed beyond death metal to something almost indescribable, getting their influences from folk, power metal, and melodic death metal with here and there some progressive elements. The band, however, this time managed to even top that, by turning things around and introducing a lot of new styles and elements into their music.
The album has a total of ten tracks and lasts for about 50 minutes. Overall those 50 minutes will seem to pass by really quickly. I wouldn’t say the songs are catchy or anything, even though some of the riffs and orchestration sections might definitely stick to your head instantly, but it’s more addictive than anything. Let’s be honest here, I listened to the album quite many times, and every time I felt like I immediately had to listen again to get a better grasp of it. You will see that there are so many details and different kinds of layers in the music.
AMORPHIS has based not one but 12 albums on the Finnish national epic “Kaleva.” Not only has the music changed, but the theme of this album has slightly shifted to an epic about the rise and fall of civilization. When I think of old civilizations, I immediately think of civilizations, such as Troy, Persia, Mesopotamia, all of those have had influences from the Middle East, so no wonder that a lot of the sounds have such an Oriental atmosphere to them. A little bit closer to home is the traditional folk music that often is incorporated in the music, which then can refer to the Germanic/Anglo-Saxon European past. The difference with “Queen of Time” lies also in the monumentality of the songs. As usual, AMORPHIS tells stories to us, also with this album, it seems one long story, but it’s more complex, compelling, and innovative from their end. This might have something to do with the collaboration with Jens Bogren, who they also worked with on their last album “Under the Red Cloud.” There are different elements on this album and also a lot of familiar faces on this album such as Chrigel Glanzmann (ELUVEITIE) on pipes, and Anneke van Giersbergen (VUUR) is also featured on one song. But there are also other collaborations such as saxophones, orchestras, choirs (which is a new element in AMORPHIS’ music and it makes me wonder why they haven’t done this before in their path to success, it just makes so much sense). All of these new elements have created a dramatic and cinematic depth into the sound of AMORPHIS. I wouldn’t say the album is heavier, but it definitely offers a more elaborated version of AMORPHIS, it’s deeper, it’s more powerful, but still, there’s that typical AMORPHIS sound.
“The Bee,” which was their first single, already managed to grab our attention when it first came out. The song reminds me a lot of Oriental-inspired power metal tracks but offers that something more. The build-up in the song is just so amazing, it goes from a hauntingly beautiful voice luring you into a strong melodic riff, after which it turns into a more brutal and straight-to-the-point riff that will lead throughout the song together with Tomi’s guttural vocals. The whole song creates a vivid impression of what differences there are with the previous album, yet there is a lot more to come. In general, the track works well as an opener because of its nice flow and energy.
“Message in the Amber” follows, by introducing the listener to the folk elements AMORPHIS nowadays is not shy to use. The song starts off a bit slow but has a bit of contrast added into it introduced by the chorus, where the tempo totally turns around. It’s faster, more aggressive than the mellow vocals from the verses. The folk lead within the song is very catchy, whereas the verses and chorus are perhaps a bit more non-traditional, the song thus consists of many contrasts within a couple of minutes and gives a very good idea of what AMORPHIS is trying to do with this new album.
“Daughter of Hate” starts with church organs. I always think that these types of organs always create some kind of very dark and grim atmosphere to songs and sure the song has some elements from melodic death metal, it starts off quite aggressive, turns a bit more soft and melodic and then the chorus takes it away completely, being followed by a saxophone solo. The saxophone is an instrument that hasn’t been used in metal that often, but nowadays it’s popping up more and more in songs, and why not. It adds such a groove to songs that it feels like there is more meaning to the songs, more atmosphere created. The choirs in the middle of the song are another good example of the extra depth, the choirs create a more dramatic aspect to it, creating more tension, which is important when we think back about the theme of the rise and fall of civilization.
“The Golden Elk” starts off really beautifully, it reminds a bit of “The Bee,” it has the same atmosphere in there, that same oriental vibe to it that makes the song drive forward, but somehow it feels more elegant. The orchestration really peaks in here, during the C-part of the song. The overall atmosphere that reminds me somehow of ancient old cities like Troy, is really well done in every aspect of the song and then I haven’t even talked about the ending to this song, the orchestration melts together with a piano, the song thus ends quite minimal, but because of its grandeur, it seems like the perfect fitting ending.
“Heart of a Giant” kicks in with a smooth guitar intro, which is instantly followed by strings and a great riff, again with that same oriental atmosphere to it. This melody is driving the whole song forward, but the added layers of other riffs surely complement the melodic elements of this song.
“Amongst Stars” is a really beautiful song, it’s a duet between the legendary Anneke van Giersbergen and Tomi Joutsen. I had never really spent any thought about how their voices might blend together, but they sound like a match made in heaven. The piano melody in the song is really nice and smoothly guides the voices throughout the whole song. This song is perhaps the most melodic one on the album. The folk intermezzo before the c-part, offers a nice break in the song, before going over to the compelling solo. A very strong song. The album ends with “Pyres On The Coast,” which offers a perfect ending to the story of “Queen Of Time.”
Tomi Joutsen guides us through the songs with his vocals. I have always quite enjoyed Joutsen’s vocal style. Like a good full-bodied red wine, his voice has a rich, sort of complexity to it and it just lingers both in his clean vocals and in his growls. What is even best about the latter is that he somehow managed to put a lot of emotion in his brutal vocals, which is something I haven’t yet experienced with a lot of other singers. Top that off with all the excellent musicians in their current lineup and you get such a high-quality album as this one, with an outstanding production. All-in-all all of these songs offer something really nice, it feels like there are no filler songs on this album. It was even a bit difficult to pick out highlights. I haven’t specifically said which ones were mine, but I’m guessing that the ones that I picked out to highlight in this review are definitely my personal ones, and that’s a lot of them. This album is really strong, it’s a nice refreshing and even unexpected return of AMORPHIS who gave more insight into what the future now has laid out for them. The path that they are walking on has many turns and I am quite sure that this album means even more growth. I am definitely looking forward to seeing what this album means in terms of live shows. This definitely was one of the better albums I have listened to so far in 2018 and I can only recommend you highly to listen to it more closely.
1. The Bee
2. Message In The Amber
3. Daughter Of Hate
4. The Golden Elk
5. Wrong Direction
6. Heart Of The Giant
7. We Accursed
8. Grain Of Sand
9. Amongst Stars
10. Pyres On The Coast
Tomi Joutsen | Vocals
Esa Holopainen | Guitar
Tomi Koivusaari | Guitar
Olli-Pekka Laine| Bass
Santeri Kallio | Keyboards
Jan Rechberger | Drums
Nuclear Blast Records