Review Summary: Amorphis take a step into the prog.rock realm with Skyforger and return with interesting results
Amorphis is a very interesting Finnish metal band, mainly because of their very original sound which mixes a bit of melodeath, folk, doom and has a nice progressive side to all of that. But since Amorphis has already released nine studio albums (including this one) and because the last three albums had all been utterly similar to one-another, even the fans of the band wanted them to do something a little bit different on this album. And that is exactly what Amorphis did.
Amorphis has always had two key strengths: 1) the sheer beauty of their songs and 2) their driving, beautiful guitar melodies, so it should not come as a surprise that they have based this album on those two things. They have done some noticeable changes though from their last, and superb effort Silent Waters. Amorphis tuned down their sound a bit on Skyforger, making it a bit more progressive-rock-like than anything else. There are still noticeable folk and doom influences and a bit of melodeath kicks in every once in a while, but the overall sound is a lot like something you will get from a bit heavier prog.rock band. Also, at least in my opinion, Amorphis added something that was strongly lacking on Silent Waters. Energy. Straight from the opener "Sampo", which is a very energetic song, the album proves to be much more full of energy than Silent Waters was. The quick-paced piano notes and groovy high-pitched riffs at the start of "Sampo", combined with Tomi Joutsen's energetic vocals carry the listener into the right mood. The song let's down a bit in the end but that is ok because the next song "Silver Bride" starts again very energetically and unlike "Sampo", it never loses its intensity.
Even the slower songs on this album, like "Highest Star" and "Majestic Beast" are full of energy, showing that these Finns are still able to rock out pretty hard on an album. And then there are the truly fast-paced songs like "Sky Is Mine" and "Course Of Fate" that grip the listener into itself, sometimes even forcing them to jump to these songs a bit or warranting some silly dance-like moves (don't judge me!).
If you would ask me what the true highlights of this album are then the first song that pops up right away is "My Sun". The song is once again a classic Amorphis song, aka it is undeniably beautiful. The piano melody is breathtaking and the beautiful vocals/lyrics by Tomi really touch the heart. Some easy, neat guitar lines found in the background only help the song and the slow, stellar drumming is perfect. The other standouts that I would pick for this album would be "Majestic Beast" and "Sky Is Mine". "Majestic Beast" has a strong, a little bit unusual guitar sound that is very interesting to listen to and the fact that Tomi uses his powerful growls in that song is definitely a plus. "Sky Is Mine" is the albums most energetic song featuring a gripping melody/pace. Rather fast guitarwork makes this song a refreshing listen and the vocals of Tomi are once again great.
Amorphis has never been an overly technical band and that definitely doesn't change on this album. The guitar lines are rather easy to play, drumming isn't anything mind-blowing and the overall sound is somewhat simplistic. But that is ok since, like stated above, Amorphis' strength has always been the beauty of their songs and their embellished guitar lines. The truth is that if you like the kind of music Amorphis plays you will, with 90% likeliness, enjoy this album. If you did not like Amoprhis' music before or thought that their music is too simplistic you will not like this.
The fans of Amorphis wanted them to do something a little bit differently and that is exactly what Amorphis did. Minor changes in their sound and a more prog.rock like approach result in an effort that is Skyforger. It is not the best Amorphis has ever put out, but what it is, is a refreshing listen.