REVIEW: Amorphis – The Beginning Of Times
Ever since their origins in 1990, Amorphis have been true to their namesake; shifting genre styles from an all-out death metal on The Karelian Isthmus through melodic death on Tales From The Thousand Lakes into a more synth-driven melodic metal on their recent releases. Under the helm of latest vocalist Tomi Joutsen, they have released 3 stellar albums (Skyforger is one of my top 10 ever), and now have graced us with The Beginning Of Times, a natural continuation of the previous sound but, as always, adding new elements.
Almost paradoxically, the band have hardened and softened their style. Tomi J’s low and powerful growl is more fully utilized, doubling its presence from three songs on Skyforger to seven on this release, and dominating second single “My Enemy”. At the same time, the band feels more restrained on each song; most open with a keyboard-based riff, and only occasionally dips into heavier territory (“Three Words” and “My Enemy”). Guitar and synth solos float about, especially on the infectious “Mermaid”, and “You I Need” has hints of “Sky Is Mine” from the previous release. Tomi’s mid-ranged cleans make many strong appearances, even carrying “Mermaid”, and the duet with Netta Dahlberg on “Soothsayer” is particularly effective. The folk element also returns to a large extent, as seen on the interludes “Song Of The Sage” and “Brother Moon”-esque riff of “Escape”. Also notably, Jan’s drums have been kicked up a notch as on “Crack In A Stone”, and even the bass makes some appearances such as in the epic closer “Beginning Of Time”. All in all, the band feel an incredibly cohesive unit, while each are also given their chance to stand out.
Tomi K said in an interview that the lyrics are written last in the recording process, and this ends up with a fairly mixed bag of results, despite the concept theme surrounding part-human/part-god and central Kalevala character Väinämoinen. “Mermaid” and “On A Stranded Shore” deal with the discovery of a man’s wife being a mermaid, “my maiden’s hair/Grass on the waters’ edge, now willows on the shore”, while “My Enemy” ends up with slightly more amusing lyrics: “Your legs turn to sludge from my ire”. Fortunately, Tomi J’s ability to craft vocal melodies that suit and enhance the words leads to some strong and memorable choruses, if not as many as on Skyforger.
To call The Beginning Of Times a dip in quality seems unfair, but it is true that there is something intangible lacking here, which was present in each of the previous Tomi Joutsen outings. However, I have every faith that the band will return with a more potent offering in the near future, and reclaim their spot as one of the top Finnish metal bands of the past 20 years.
Song to try: