Review Summary: Growing strong.
To say that the past decade has been kind to Amorphis would be an understatement. From the elegance of Silent Waters
to the pomp of Circle
, the Finnish prog metallers have carved a solid foothold for themselves over the course of eight years. So, of course, when a new album is released, the inevitable question of whether or not the flavor has gone bland comes up. Sure enough, Under the Red Cloud
proves to be another worthy addition to Amorphis’s discography, as well as one of the best progressive metal releases this year so far.
Vocally speaking, Tomi Joutsen steps forth with his typical combination of smooth, sonorous clean singing and raucous, gravelly grunts contrasting with one another. However, he also brings forth some variation on “The Four Wise Ones” and “Dark Path”, where he utilizes higher-pitched harsh vocals, creating a sense of rigidness and vigor. Esa Holopainen’s guitarwork is on par as always, melding together traditional melodic leads with a hint of folk alongside a mesh of scrupulous soloing. This is especially prevalent on tracks such as “Tree of Ages” and “Death of a King”, the latter of which features wind instruments and a heavy prog vibe. “White Night” features a very strong keyboard presence, along with a female guest vocalist, both of which aid in keeping the music engaging and disparate. “Come The Spring” is another noteworthy song, mainly due to the sheer amount of zeal behind it, harkening all the back to Skyforger
. The entire album is roughly an hour in length, which is long enough to make things interesting without getting too bogged down in fluff. Jens Bogren’s production job fits in quite well, smoothly meshing together the various instruments while making sure Joutsen’s vocals are most dominant in the mix. Drummer Jan Rechberger and bassist Niclas Etelavuori serve as the supporting crew, and maintain a strong backbone for the rest of the band throughout the album. As a whole, the album gives off a very willful, gracious feeling, fluctuating between tranquility and chaos in a very refined manner. There’s a sense of pride and clarity flowing through, but simultaneously a pensive, composed energy beneath it.
All that being said, the one major gripe some will have with Under the Red Cloud
is the fairly formulaic structure of the music as a whole. Chances are that if you’re even remotely acquainted with Amorphis’s past few albums, you’ll have a good idea of where each song is going right from the beginning. In spite of this, though, there’s never a particular moment where the music turns stale, and the linear construction of the music isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
At the end of the day, Under the Red Cloud
stands tall as its own album. Everything fits snugly together, and there’s a real sense of confidence exuding from each band member in their respective craft. Amorphis have risen yet again to the challenge, and show no signs of backing down soon. If this is the standard that the band holds itself to right now, it’s astonishing to ponder where they’ll be going in the future.