Review: “Halo” by Amorphis

Thirty one years after their inception and in November thirty years after their debut album “The Karelian Isthmus”, the return of Finnish Progressive Metallers Amorphis with “Halo“, the third and final chapter in a trilogy of albums behind 2015’s “Under The Red Cloud” and 2018’s “Queen Of Time” couldn’t be more timely. A staggering fourteenth studio album in that time has seen the band work with renowned Swedish producer Jens Bogren (Between The Buried And Me, Dark Tranquility, Arch Enemy) once more as they seek to build on the foundation of gold and bones they have created in their very own niche in heartfelt yet aggressive, melancholic yet soothing and cinematic music. As a group of musicians guitarists Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari, bassist Olli-Pekka Laine, drummer Jan Rechberger, long time keyboardist Santeri Kallio and vocalist Tomi Joutsen (not to mention the band’s long-standing lyrical consciousness Pekka Kainulainen) have always found themselves with a story to tell, blazing a trail for the Progressive Metal genre like a shooting star across the night sky. With each passing album they have managed to raise the bar for themselves as musicians, finding inspirations and evolving to remain at the forefront of the genre while others fall on their swords, struggling to maintain the consistently high output.

The truth is that Amorphis are a truly unique set of musicians that others aspire to match and with “Halo” that is no different as the epic grandeur of the opening masterpiece “Northwards” beings the journey. Seamlessly pulling together Progressive Metal with Melodic Death Metal and folk influences while allowing Kallio an innovative solo mid song that is almost jazz inspired and as impressive as it is unexpected before “On The Dark Waters” takes over, being heavier for the most part with more unclean vocals but has a wonderful ethnic passage that is equally compelling. There are only a handful of bands making music this diverse with a consistently high quality, Boston’s Wilderun being one of them and that’s partly down to the work involved in creating songs of this quality. Each one has well thought out little intricacies that pop out of the mix over multiple listens giving the album incredible longevity, the human brain not capable of taking it all in during the first listen, filled with catchy clean and unclean vocals, intriguing lyrics and magnificent instrumentals and bringing all of that together takes tremendous courage of convictions from Amorphis. The additions of orchestration and choirs from Francesco Ferrini (Fleshgod Apocalypse) are all masterfully done, the symphonic flavours enhancing the dramatic and cinematic dynamics.

Arguably the best balanced vocally is “A New Land” with great flow between the guttural uncleans and majestic cleans throughout the tale before “When The Gods Came” delivers a vibrant sent of leads to complement the stunning rhythmic work with tribal drum patterns taking the musical narrative off piste before returning to source. In terms of the trilogy, as an album “Halo” is the less complex of the trio with the band opting to select from the collection of thirty recorded in the sessions eleven that are stylistically similar to the work of 2009’s “Skyforger”. What happens to the cuts left off this album is an interesting question, it seems like a waste to leave them in cold storage for eternity and not release them having gone to the effort to not only write them but also commit them to tape. “Halo” itself is a track well chosen at the title track, it has an air of majesty about it with the cinematic soundscape elements that creates something that encompasses all of the elements that make the sound into one single entity, while also dialling back the unclean vocals a little bit more than necessary. The biggest surprise here however is “My Name Is Night“, an epic and mournful ballad that Tomi Joutsen intertwine vocals with Petronella Nettermalm of Paatos like a pair of star crossed lovers condemned in the hands of destiny that makes for a stunning finale to a beautiful album [8.5/10]

Track listing

1. Northwards
2. On The Dark Waters
3. The Moon
4. Windmane
5. A New Land
6. When The Gods Came
7. Seven Roads Come Together
8. War
9. Halo
10. The Wolf
11. My Name Is Night (ft. Petronella Nettermalm of Paatos)

Halo” by Amorphis is out 11th February via Atomic Fire Records

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