Vera : Amply two years after the superlative ’Circle’, the echelon of the Finnish metal scène Amorphis is back with a next studio album ‘Under The Red Cloud’, already their twelfth. This follows after we saw the band taking a dive into their own former material at summer festivals, since they played integrally their breakthrough album ‘Tales From The Thousand Lakes’. In the meantime the band around guitarist Esa Holopainen and singer Tomi Joutsen were working hard on fine-tuning new material under the strict guidance of Swedish producer/guru Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios. And they came out with a stunner like fury!
Those who had a liking for ‘Circle’ will see this album as a logical successor, but somehow the vibe and atmosphere of ‘Under The Red Cloud’ also reminds me of that other classic album ‘Elegy’. Maybe because the folk elements are relished with a special snare instrument (electric sitar); but also because the contrasts between heavy and infectious melodic are even more striking. With the contribution of three guest musicians, it has turned into a multifarious and colourful album, just like the artwork of Valnoir. One can hear Chrigel Glanzmann (Eluveitie) on flutes in three songs, Martin Lopez (once drummer in Opeth, now in Soen) plays percussion on the eastern tinged ‘Death Of A King’ and Aleah Stanbridge (Trees Of Eternity) does a kind of duet with Tomi in occluding track ‘White Night’.
The album kicks off with the title track in which beautiful piano notes and nice guitar accents lead towards a reigning outburst of epic enchantment. Clean and raucous vocals are juxtaposed and we experience the charms of loads of leads on guitars and keyboards. The first surprise already happens in ‘The Four Wise Ones’ since this initially mid-paced song goes a couple of times in crescendo towards proper blackish metal fury, inclusive a brilliant vocal prestige of Joutsen. With flute and organ we hear an atmospheric passage with distorted voice until they pick up the thread again in full glory and heaviness. The keyboards at the beginning of ‘Bad Blood’ happen to be frivolous and that marks this slightly folkloristic track with fluent guitar solos and a very catchy chorus. Yet we can also notice progressive influences in their music. For instance, we can hear those in the comprehensive ‘The Skull’ which ends in a wild and dramatic manner. Oriental and epic is ‘Death Of A King’, where guest musicians Chrigel and Martin appear, but Esa shines mostly due to a voluminous wah-wah solo. Magnificent eastern ornaments due to Esa’s sitar playing! The video candidate ‘Sacrifice’ is accessible and based on clean chants. Very catchy. Mark the fetching piano melody that will haunt you in ‘Dark Path’, but all this in the middle of proper heaviness, because Tomi goes once again in the direction of black metal for a moment. A next epic, slightly bombastic song with oriental overtones appears to be ‘Enemy At The Gates’. Even the vibe of The Tea Party or Led Zeppelin looms up, although there are dynamic, firm riffs that remind me of Opeth too. This is again a brilliant composition with some sitar sounds. Chrigel’s troubadour flutes announce the more folky flavoured ‘Tree Of Ages’. However, vocals are mainly rough and guitar skills amazing. In the final track ‘White Night’ Aleah sings a couple of lines in duet with Tomi, but the repetitive melody instantly haunts you, while guitar leads are once again delicious.
Every song is a highlight. This is like a synopsis of the ultimate Amorphis sound, with elements of their whole career: death/black harshness, refined folky ornaments, progressive twists and turns… yet always melodic and epic. An amazing experience!