Amorphis
Under the Red Cloud


4.0
excellent

Review

by Xenorazr CONTRIBUTOR (110 Reviews)
September 6th, 2015 | 55 replies


Release Date: 09/04/2015 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Finding harmony between the new and the old.

If Finland held annual elections for their heavy metal scene, Amorphis would be THE contender for 2015 Presidency. The new Nightwish album was a somber disappointment, and even with the likes of upcoming Children of Bodom and Stratovarius material, Amorphis have usually raised the bar for themselves and their peers. An impressive feat, considering the band are celebrating their 25th year together with a 12th studio album. Expected lulls in quality have naturally occurred during their lifespan, with the most recent example being the time between (and following) Skyforger and The Beginning of Times. Though both were semi-competent albums, they definitely left some fans feeling under-enthused, more than anything. Then the 2013 beast that was Circle showcased a band reinvigorated. They were still doing the same spiel, but Circle delivered in a way that suggested more exciting avenues would be pursued. Now the band is ready to cast us Under the Red Cloud, and all one needs to be interested is a good look at the album art. The play of reds and blues is of significant contrast to the less saturated color schemes of previous albums, including Eclipse's warm hues and Far From the Sun's blank background. Instead, this art is curious and eye-catching, peculiar and mesmerizing. This is the forecast Amorphis have set for us.

Under the Red Cloud is a notably different affair than Circle. It's still Amorphis at their core, with a couple songs falling into otherwise familiar archetypes, but there's a distinct and permeating sense of maturation here. Elder albums Tales from the Thousand Lakes and Elegy come to mind when considering what's at work, albeit in spirit more than style. Where folk elements came to enhance those albums, oriental comes to touch up Under the Red Cloud. Amorphis don't necessarily go Orphaned Land on us, but a point like the ambient reprieve 90 seconds into "The Skull" exemplifies the kind of influence listeners can expect to notice throughout the entire album. Amorphis haven't even shied away from incorporating other subgenres (often lightly) into their music, but this is the first time in years that such an approach has felt natural; Skyforger's coy progressive tactics were merely distractions from the band's overall sound; The Beginning of Times played so casually you could almost call it pop. Under the Red Cloud makes short and effective work of dispelling any doubts, from the calm yet haunting keys that open the album to the chilling combination of dismal guitar playing with guest Aleah Stanbridge's (Trees of Eternity) vocals on album closer, "White Night."

The album is both quick and gradual in presenting its case. After treating us to relative familiarity on the first two tracks, "Bad Blood" begins the actual transition whenever Tomi isn't contrasting the instruments with his harsh vocals. Curiously, Under the Red Cloud is at its most experimental when the music is at its lightest. Thankfully, Amorphis have an established pattern for alternating the harsh and melodic, though the emphasis has always been on melody (they are melodic death metal, after all). Furthermore, blending these seemingly newfound elements into the formula works as smoothly as a mint chocolate chip milkshake.

As fresh as Under the Red Cloud is, there are still a couple moments that evoke a sense of familiarity, with "Sacrifice" practically instilling deja vu after Eclipse's "House of Sleep." It's best served as an immediate piece to compare all the superior tracks to, especially considering its preceding track, "Death of a King" does such an effective job amalgamating the new and familiar, while the subsequent "Dark Path" plays out in a Circle-esque fashion, but with less distorted grit. This brings us to Under the Red Cloud's necessary improvements to production, making the album a far smoother listening experience. Comparatively speaking, Circle was a glass of tart lemonade while Under the Red Cloud is a properly made mojito. Both serve their respective purposes, but for overall enjoyment, it's obvious which is preferred, regardless of your care for refinement.

Amorphis have finally combined best of their contemporary ingredients with the right spices and condiments to create a winning recipe. Under the Red Cloud tastes like a long-lost experience, one that creates nostalgia and subsequent refreshment because of it. Somewhere in the field of bands searching for the next big shift in style or ways to return to their roots, Amorphis have found a balance, allowing them to achieve two goals simultaneously. Whether you prefer the band's newer or older material, both parties can agree that Under the Red Cloud is a welcome collection, ripe with subtle and overt flavors to savor with each and every sip.



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user ratings (364)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
ExplosiveOranges CONTRIBUTOR (4)
Growing strong....



Comments:Add a Comment 
Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
September 6th 2015


1050 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I'm probably the only person who was looking forward to this more than Book of Souls, but yeah, album is pretty dope.

Hawks
September 6th 2015


52294 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Love these guys so much.

Digging: The Body and Full Of Hell - Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light

EvoHavok
September 6th 2015


7306 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nah, you weren't the only one.

Hawks
September 6th 2015


52294 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah I was def looking forward to this more considering I've never really jammed Maiden how I should.



Either way, this fucking slays and is their best since Silent Waters.

EvoHavok
September 6th 2015


7306 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Their best since Silent Waters. [2]

Also, great read, Kenneth!



Hawks
September 6th 2015


52294 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah pos'd hard. m/

Stryfe14
September 6th 2015


72 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

My biggest problem with this album is that Come the Spring is a bonus track and not the album closer.

Hawks
September 6th 2015


52294 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is probably my AOTY so far. I haven't jammed a whole lot of 2015 albums, but yeah.

Mythodea
September 6th 2015


4180 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Wow. Knew them only by name, now took the chance to listen to them. Death of a King was magnificent. Found the full album on YT and currently I'm approving. Thought they'd be far more agressive and heavy though.

Hawks
September 6th 2015


52294 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Their first couple albums are way heavier. This is still pretty heavy though, they just mix in more folk elements nowadays. m/

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
September 6th 2015


17082 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Well I'll be poppadamned if 'Death of a King' isn't my favourite genre of 'curry-house metal'

Ocean of Noise
September 6th 2015


9816 Comments


damn a 4.5??

might have to check this after all...

Digging: Orbital - The Middle of Nowhere

Hawks
September 6th 2015


52294 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'm an Amorphis fanboy, but yeah Ocean I think you'll dig this hard.

Ocean of Noise
September 6th 2015


9816 Comments


Dude I have all their albums so I'm kind of a fanboy too ahaha

Haven't listened to them in ages though...

Hawks
September 6th 2015


52294 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Silent Waters is one of my fav albums of all time. m/



But yeah if you dig them then there's no reason why you won't love this.

Gyromania
September 6th 2015


23754 Comments


these guys haven't been great since eclipse. hope this is good

Hawks
September 6th 2015


52294 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

That's just not true bro, but m/.

Gyromania
September 6th 2015


23754 Comments


to be fair i never did hear circle. everyone loves silent water but that album sucks imo

Ocean of Noise
September 6th 2015


9816 Comments


what

Ocean of Noise
September 6th 2015


9816 Comments


and Circle ruled



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