Published on Wednesday, 02 September 2015 18:33
Album title: Under The Red Cloud
Release date: 4 September 2015
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
01. Under The Red Cloud
02. The Four Wise Ones
03. Bad Blood
04. The Skull
05. Death Of A King
07. Dark Path
08. Enemy At The Gates
09. Tree Of Ages
10. White Night
11. Come The Spring [Digipak & 2LP bonus]
12. Winter's Sleep [Digipak & 2LP bonus]
A band which is with us for 25 years now, and is without any doubt responsible for development of metal music like we know it today. Their monumental albums from 90s like it is Tales From The Thousand Lakes or Elegy introduced to the metal scene a whole new melodic melancholic folk extravaganza, which was carefully blended into the dark death metal style. I remember me listening per hours to those melodic guitars riffs... And now, throughout those years Amorphis became a big player and one of the most important names in the metal scene, and they are back with their twelfth (!) studio album carrying a strong symbolic name, Under The Red Cloud. The band found their own unique style long ago, we can say that it happened already in the beginning of their career, but what we hear from them today is dragging on since the album Eclipse (2006), which is the first album with recent vocalist Tomi Joutsen. Amorphis are struggling real hard to survive on the market by trying to compose interesting and not repetitive albums, sometimes more, other times less successful, and Under The Red Cloud belongs into the category where the Finns did it with greatness.
The new studio effort from the band brings us ten tracks, where we can find all of the most important elements that characterized Amorphis's music; there are tons of catchy melodic riffs, melancholic passages, folk insertions, aggressive and brutal parts, perfect guitar leads, progressive elements and yet much more. The sound is dense, in a way similar to the one on the previous album, but there's to be found kind of a dynamics that we were used to hear on their legendary album Elegy from 1996, and still there's that catchy melodic factor that was perfectly used before on almost each of their albums, but perfected for example on Skyforger (2009). Now, the band still sounds a bit different, even though many elements were heard in this form on their previous album, Circle, released in 2013, in a way it's a continuation of that one, but yet Under The Red Cloud is a bit more adventurous thanks to the bands new compositional and productional approach pushed forward by studio master Jens Bogren. Under The Red Cloud is maybe the most dynamic album the band released since 1996 and the ultimate proof for that comes already with the somehow typical new era Amorphis track - album titled opener, but nevertheless it shows that the band has enough courage to take everything one level higher.
The before talked dynamics of the album are enriched with participation of some guest musicians who joined the band in the studio. Aleah Stanbridge (Trees Of Eternity) sang some female vocals on three tracks, Chrigel Glanzmann (Eluveitie) played flutes as well on three tracks and Martin Lopez (ex-Opeth) added some exquisite percussions on the one of albums most interesting tracks - "Death Of A King". I must say that was blown away by the blend of aggressivity, catchiness, folkish vibe and overall flow of the maybe one of the most diverse tracks Amorphis ever did - "The Four Wise Ones". Great synths, driving guitars, nice use of flutes, vocoded addictive female vocals, oriental sound and of course, Tomi Joutsen's as always great vocal performance, whether be singing clean or growling deep, this time with a singing part that sounds a bit thrashy. The second track that really got me is the captivating and dynamic "Death Of A King", again with amazing use of flute and a big dose of folkish elements spread all over and blended well with Amorphis trademark sound. Trust me that the refrain of this one will be playing in your head long after you'll stop listening to it. The next one, "Sacrifice", is the most catchy and melancholic track up here, actually a briliant representative of the album with some heartrending riffs, memorable refrain and I don't wonder why they choosed it for the first video.
The flawless performance of all involved musicians as well brings some real bangers like it's "Bad Blood" or "Dark Path". There are all over constant shifts between harsh and clean melodic parts, many times implemented with some nice piano touches and other instruments like is electric sitar, just to bring kind of an additional atmospheric layer and emotional factor. Still in my opinion one of the best jobs Amorphis ever did comes with the final track "White Night". Those Finns never really used this kind of fronted female vocals like here and Aleah did a truly great performance on it. Her soothing, emotional, rather sensual and addictive voice nicely blends with a gentle sound and the shift into the dense harsh part is breathtaking.
In short, Amorphis on their new album sound modern, adventurous, but still very much conscious of their legacy. Under The Red Cloud, instead of some parts that sound like fillers, is maybe the best album this band did in the last ten years. It has it all we should expect from the band of a such caliber, they sound more devoted into what they are doing than ever and the result is highly captivating, melodic, dense, versatile and surprisingly dark sound, which in my opinion has the power to bring also some new fans to their devoted fan base, while those who liked Amorphis from before will devour this album without hesitation.
Review written by: T.V.