AMORPHIS - HALO
INDEFATIGABLE FINS - TRIED AND TESTED
Amorphis are now veterans who were there 30 years ago promulgating a distinctly Finish sound that encompassed Nordic lore, imagery and traditional elements. Though they experimented for times with stripped down folk and proggy excursions they have, latterly, reclined into a consistent and reliable unit with less dabblings and more straightforwardness. By this well-matured period in their careers, Amorphis know what they are doing and 14th album Halo is a predictable yet competent distillation of everything from their crowded trophy room.
What is undisputed is Amorphis’ long-established capability of creating irresistibly catchy melodies and Halo is jam-packed with them. Northwards and The Moon showcase big acrobatic Euro-friendly singalong choruses as does Seven Roads Comes Together. Singer Tomi Joutsen sticks loyally to a fairly proven formula of interchanging Amon Amarth-esque low-end death growls for the (often long) verses with arcing, high-register cleans for triumphal soaring choruses. It isn’t just the vocals, but there are hugely melodic hooklines and harmonies that burst with cladded-for-war assuredness. It all provides lift and melodic gusto that even cynics would struggle to defy. Typically, this is another showcase of accomplished musicianship and the band's performance exudes confidence.
What marks out Amorphis from many of their peers is the depth and richness of their sound which is augmented by the folk and prog components along with a ‘did you put something in my mead’ olde world trippiness. 70s’ style organs, choral flourishes, ghostly female backing, and just a weirded pine and misty etherealness that gives their rock crunch a layered sumptuousness and mystique. There are even Eastern influenced strings on the otherwise rampant gallops of A New Land and War while closer My Name is Night a delicately theatrical gothic cod-fantasy. It helps make a longer album like this listenable and interesting.
As with most folk-infused metal there are times when the theatricality of this type of music veers into the ridiculous. Sometimes it is executed with a healthy dose of self-awareness and irony, but Amorphis have an earnestness in their foot on monitor grimacing that perhaps belies that, by now, they probably do not care about how ludicrous their 'Viking carnivalesque' might occasionally might be.
With Halo, Amorphis have relied steadfastly to a fault-tested stylistic formula that they established long before now and know is a winner with followers. While no new creative shores have been discovered, it is a confident and swaggering performance. There are few surprises but equally few disappointments for long-term acolytes.
Halo release via Atomic Fire Record in February 2022.