Amorphis returns with their 14th album, Halo, which is another strong display of their unique blend of melodic death metal, progressive metal and folk music. While Halo does not sound too dissimilar from their previous work, it is still an enjoyable listen from a band that has proven themselves to be reliable on countless occasions.
The album begins with atmospheric strings and an uplifting piano melody which then effortlessly transitions into the typical heavy sound of Amorphis. Northwards contains a powerful chorus with a momentous guitar lead and some skilful vocals that shift from cleans to screams without any struggle. This is one of Amorphis’s biggest strengths as Tomi Joutsen is an absolute powerhouse of a vocalist. War gets to boast about being the heaviest cut off of the album due to Tomi Joustens feral screams and some thunderous drums that take it to new heights it otherwise could not of achieved and the leading single, The Moon, shows off his instinctual ability to make a catchy vocal melody during the chorus and the bridge. Another song that is lifted up to greatness due to a strong vocal performance is Windmane with a chorus that is extraordinary amongst the Amorphis's discography.
A New Land is a strong contender of being one of the bands catchiest tracks. It immediately starts with an unforgettable melody and then leads into an earth-shattering verse. The bridge involves a fantastic pairing of male and female vocals in a folk melody that then leads into the chorus which has great screams and a memorable guitar line that then crescendos perfectly into a enormous hook. The song also exhibits a couple middle-eastern tinged acoustic guitar passages and an effective guitar solo. The Wolf is another example of some remarkable guitar solos and riffs from the band’s lead guitarists, Esa Holopainen and rhythm guitarists, Tomi Koivusaari. The title track is by far the best and the most different song off the album. The song features both monumental vocals and impressive guitars like many other songs from Halo but it comes into it’s own within the last ninety seconds. It seamlessly transitions from the chorus to a beautiful symphonic section with immense strings with a complimentary piano melody. Furthermore, the song then leads into a grand guitar solo and that then also progresses into a female vocal lead folk melody backed up by piano and an acoustic guitar.
While Amorphis is definitely has not become creatively bankrupt or have lost any spark within their music, the album still falters from the vast majority of it being very predictable. They have made very few changes within their sound since Silent Waters. Despite the fact they have refined their sound during this time and have made it better, they do need to leave their comfort zone more often. As a result of this, more than a few songs off the record do become forgettable or unremarkable. These songs are not bad by any means and are solid listens but afterwards, they instantly left my mind.
My Name Is Light ends the album on a somewhat disappointing note. Outside the fantastic vocals from both Tomi Jousten and the guest vocalist, Pettronella Nettermalm, the song is rather lacklustre. For an album full of heaviness and epic choruses and melodies to conclude on a slow and comparatively quiet ballad feels like a strange choice. The song needed something else to be the epic conclusion it was so very close to being. Additionally, a couple tracks throughout the record have intense and heavy moments that feel like they are building up to something big but then suddenly, the momentum flickers away. This issue is most notable in the song War. During an extreme and fierce section of the song that holds great riffing, blast beats and dissonant screams it then shifts into a slow and cleanly sung chorus. These two sections do not mix well and consequently, they clash with each other.
Overall, Halo is another strong release from Amorphis. If you enjoyed their previous work, there should be no reason why you can’t enjoy this. They further refined their unparalleled sound of melodic death metal with strong melodies from both guitar and vocals and some stellar folk sections that are spread across the album. However, the band style is becoming rather predictable as very few moments during Halo strays far from their comfort zone. The album also contains a few minor weaknesses with a closing track that didn’t quite hit the mark and a couple moments where the momentum built fails to go anywhere.
MY TOP 3 SONGS:
2. A New Land