Metal Hammer magazine recently ran a feature on Amorphis that called them one of the most underrated bands in the world. This was slightly inaccurate though, for while they’ve certainly not sold as many albums as they should have or played to audiences as big as they deserve, the folks that got into them absolutely adore the Finnish band. There are people out there who don’t need to listen to ‘Skyforger’ or ‘Tales From The Thousand Lakes’ again because they’ve been burned so deeply into their consciousness that they play constantly in their brains.
We wouldn’t say the negative press has been elusive, but we’ve seen more Snow Leopards than bad Amorphis reviews. If any album breaks that cycle it won’t be ‘Under The Red Cloud.’ Their sixth album with current vocalist Tomi Joutsen and twelfth in all is a bold and cohesive work that’s brimming over with great songs. It is grandiose in scope and ambition, mixing old school death metal with elaborate prog melodies, soaring vocals and upbeat folk. It’s the kind of album you’ll want to force on people that usually turn their noses up at metal until they admit how good it is and long-time devotees will welcome this just as much as their back catalogue.
Highlights are difficult to pick but ‘Bad Blood’ is an early contender, riding in on a flawless riff and spiralling through crushing death metal into a ridiculously catchy chorus. ‘The Skull’ starts off as bruising pit inciter before wandering through tripped out jazz melodies and harmonious piano playing then plunging back into the maelstrom again. It could have been the heaviest track on offer if it weren’t for ‘Death Of A King,’ whose initial snake-charming turns into a huge prog-death anthem and a final sequence that sounds like a gig in a sandstorm.
In the second half, ‘Dark Path’ is perfect fodder for walking home from the Pub in the middle of the night. It’s a booming slice of majestic pomposity that’ll make you feel like part of something magnificent rather than a drunk man shouting song lyrics at a hedge, while ‘Tree Of Ages’ sees them fully embracing their folk influences. This one could be played at both medieval markets and metal festivals alike and will delight anyone that likes a bit of manly jigging with their slam dancing. The closing ‘White Night’ mixes things up slightly, Joutsen sharing vocal duties with guest singer Aleah Stanbridge whose soothing tones lend a sombre edge before shifting gears into a spaced out instrumental meander. It then climaxes in a truly dramatic finale that conjures up mental images of the band stood atop a mountain, hair whipped by the wind and screaming defiantly at the approaching storm.
In fact, the hardest part of critiquing ‘Under The Red Cloud’ is finding any faults at all. If that comes across as gushing praise, it’s meant to. This is a tremendous album and while there’s still three and a half months left in 2015, it’s going to be tough to top it.
...the hardest part of critiquing ‘Under The Red Cloud’ is finding any faults at all. If that comes across as gushing praise, it’s meant to. This is a tremendous album...