Tuesday 10 November 2015

Amorphis - ‘Under the Red Cloud’ (Album Review)

By: Daniel Jackson

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 4/9/2015
Label: Nuclear Blast Records

I have no doubt that if you’ve been a fan of what Amorphis has had to offer over the last ten years, you’re likely already ecstatic with ‘Under the Red Cloud’.

‘Under the Red Cloud’ CD//LP//DD track listing:

1. Under The Red Cloud
2. The Four Wise Ones
3. Bad Blood
4. The Skull
5. Death Of A King
6. Sacrifice
7. Dark Path
8. Enemy At The Gates
9. Tree Of Ages
10. White Night

Amorphis is:

Tomi Joutsen | Vocals
Tomi Koivusaari | Rhythm Guitar
Esa Holopainen | Lead Guitar
Niclas Etelävuori | Bass, Backing Vocals
Santeri Kallio | Keyboards
Jan Rechberger | Drums

The Review:

My reactions to Amorphis as a listener are often more complicated than simply liking or disliking one of their albums completely. Aside from ‘Karelian Isthmus’, which is a comparatively straightforward doom/death metal album, the rest of their discography has been a case of peaks and valleys within each album they’ve released. Because they’ve so often been keen on switching directions completely from song to song, there are usually a few songs I enjoy, and a few I don’t, on just about every album they’ve released.

‘Under the Red Cloud’, the band’s twelfth full length album, is a case of more of the same, if you feel the same way I do. The issues I have here are pretty similar to the issues I have going back even as far as ‘Tales from the Thousand Lakes’, an album many regard as an undebatable classic. The problem for me is that they’re excellent in the melancholic death metal aspect of their sound, but too often venture out into hokey prog/folk territory that never quite crosses the “fun” threshold. A lot of this is up to personal preference, but in my case; I prefer metal albums to have a somewhat consistent emotional tone throughout.

Where Amorphis usually loses me is in the shift in temperament from song to song or even within a song itself. “The Four Wise Ones” starts off with an excellent melodic death metal riff, but it’s not too long before the song loses steam and drops into a listless, low-key chorus. The song moves back and forth for a couple of minutes before finding itself in an extended prog-lite bridge, lead by synths and ultra-processed vocals. By this point, the song is basically lost at sea, and aimlessly adrift, praying for anything to tow it back to shore. Thankfully, the song’s final moments bring us back to where we began; back to the melodic death metal riff that seemed so promising at the beginning.

The Four Wise Ones” is emblematic of the album as a whole in that every song has at least some moment where I’m hooked and on board one moment, and feeling befuddled and annoyed the next. I think part of my feelings about this album and Amorphis in general can be attributed to the fact that I’m just not someone who goes into a metal album wanting to hear a lot of different ideas going on at once, particularly if they’re on different ends of the emotional spectrum. I just don’t handle those abrupt changes in feeling very well. I have no doubt that if you’ve been a fan of what Amorphis has had to offer over the last ten years, you’re likely already ecstatic with ‘Under the Red Cloud’. For those of us looking in from the outside, there isn’t anything here that’s going to convince us that we’re going to get a wholly enjoyable album anytime soon.

Under the Red Cloud’ is available digitally here and a CD/LP copy here

FFO: Paradise Lost, Barren Earth, Katatonia, Insomnium

Band info: Facebook