Review Summary: Marinating the foundation.
Amorphis have been on a bit of a roll ever since Tomi Joutsen joined the band in 2006. His first two outings (Eclipse
and Silent Waters
) could be considered stakes in a then-new foundation with each subsequent release showing the band stretch into a little something different than before. Things got more interesting with Under the Red Cloud
, which brought an attractive contrast of grit with folk elements that occasionally brought the band’s earlier works to mind. Unlike the re-recordings Amorphis did for Magic & Mayhem
a few years prior, however, their 2015 LP held the benefit of feeling like a proper, natural callback born out of instinct. The results were positively infectious, leading many to hold it among the band’s best efforts. This also meant that Under the Red Cloud
would be a mighty tall order to follow, and if pre-release interviews were any indication, Amorphis were set to present more orchestral elements than before, something that several metal bands run with in a complete, unbridled frenzy. Fortunately, time has taught Amorphis a thing or two about the art of tact, as their latest endeavor, Queen of Time
, demonstrates with positively dazzling results.
So what exactly have Amorphis done with their sound to be just as worthy of the reverence they earned from Under the Red Cloud
? Perhaps unsurprisingly, they’ve stuck to what made that album work so well and have expanded upon its elements. This means an abundant supply of Finnish folklore makes its way into every song in some way, shape or form. Lyrically, this is par for the course, as Amorphis have been utterly unflinching in depicting or otherwise paying homage to their homeland. The real moments of curiosity then make their way in the music itself, the means by which the band infuse their land of heritage with a genre of music that, at first glance, doesn’t seem like the most natural companion. Both Circle
and Under the Red Cloud
showed a growing gravitation for heavy moments, namely in the vocal department, resulting in an irresistible power dynamic that is only further enhanced by the subtle oriental touches. Queen of Time
takes the concept even further, making use of grand pianos, hammond organs, Latin lyrics, throat singing and saxophones, all while sliding even further from the clean, glossy sounding end of the spectrum. Where many of the band’s previous works treated these additional instruments like seasonings to decorate a meal, Queen of Time
treats them like means to marinate the core sound. This is to say that Amorphis have absolutely maintained their musical identity, but this time the added flavors feel more imbued into the sound itself.
Those who’ve already heard the album’s first single, “The Bee,” will know how Queen of Time
opens up. Truth be told, it’s initially difficult to know what to expect, since the mesh of Tomi’s trademark vocals (both harsh and clean) during the chorus and verses with the strangely disco-like keyboard throws a lot of potential directions up in the air. Yet if “The Bee” is specifically meant to accomplish anything as the album opener, it’s to serve up a little listener’s shock so that the surprises to come don’t throw you even more off-guard. This is because Queen of Time
is relatively light on safe material, with the second single, “Wrong Direction,” doing for this album what “Sacrifice” did for Under the Red Cloud
: being an accessible appetizer that ultimately serves as a moment of breathing room when consuming the album from start to finish. One of the more striking tracks, “Daughter of Hate,” features a combination of elements that demonstrate just how far Amorphis have come over the course of 12 years; a mildly ominous first verse followed by Tomi belting out some ear-tingling shrieks for the chorus, only to be followed by the aforementioned saxophone and, later on, a choir chant and some spoken Finnish words for good measure. That may seem like a lot to take in, even for nearly six-and-a-half-minute song, but Amorphis make each transition easy to follow and generally avoid getting impulsive with the elements. Not every moment is sized up to perfection, however, be it the Titanic-esque flutes on “Wrong Direction” or the wobbly keyboard solo on “Heart of the Giant,” but these are ultimately brief points of distraction at worst, and are hardly indicative of the staggering quality found throughout Queen of Time
If anything, Amorphis have opened up a gate of expanded curiosity with their 13th studio album. They seldom, if ever, go off the deep end with any element of their music, yet the level of composure maintained in the face of heightened influence leaves one feeling nothing if not pensive for the future. In any case, Queen of Time
marks itself as yet another moment of triumph from a band that shows no signs of stopping, least of all with regards to growth. It stands as a reinforced statement on Amorphis’ steadfast nature for consistency in their ongoing search for new lakes to drink from, a search that has taken them on a path ripe with intrigue and reassurance. And like their previous best efforts, Queen of Time
delicately nurtures these qualities so that they may flourish with vibrancy.