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Amorphis - Live in Helsinki Ice Hall Award winner

Amorphis
Live in Helsinki Ice Hall
by Chris Hawkins at 03 June 2021, 3:11 PM

This live album from Finland’s most compelling Metal band was an easy choice to make this week.  I have a long history with AMORPHIS stretching back to the heady days of the early ‘90s when I saw an ad for “Tales from the Thousand Lakes” in Metal Maniacs.  The general rule has always been not to buy an album based on its cover; however, an album with such a haunting, captivating, fantastical scene was most worthy of an exception.  That risk taken on AMORPHIS paid off in dividends for somehow the music actually did sound like cover.  Here was a band blending Death Metal with elements of Doom, Prog Rock and native Finnish Folk melodies, a novel sound in an era of bands trying to “out-brutal” each other, at least here in the States.  Twenty-seven years later, I can proudly attest to remaining a fan throughout the subsequent peaks and valleys.

I must admit to an undercurrent of selfish jealousy perhaps running through this review.  It was quite some time ago that I caught the band live, back in ’99 prior to the release of “Tuonela” in fact, and after having witnessed such a key turning point in their evolution, I regret not having seen them since climb to the summit of forward-thinking Extreme Metal in a live setting.  While I have always favored the earlier albums from the band, particularly “Tales from the Thousand Lakes” and “Elegy,” I think Tomi Joutsen has been a solid, consistent, and impressive vocalist, one I would like to see front the band in concert.  For now, I will have to settle in to this live album captured at the Helsinki Ice Hall.

The show opens with a regal, anthemic intro that bleeds into “The Bee,” the lead track from the band’s last album, “The Queen of Time”.  An ideal opener, it showcases the band’s full, almost-cinematic sound.  Followed closely by “Heart of the Giant,” the early moments show a band firing on all cylinders and demonstrating the fruits of their labors.  It is certainly an impressive display of a band that is not only tight but also intuitive, performing at a peak level.  What could be deemed the opening chapter concludes with the fourth track, “The Four Wise Ones,” from 2015’s “Under the Red Cloud”.  Clearly a crowd favorite, it not only succinctly encapsulates this period of material but also serves to energize the listener for what comes next.

The first climax for this concert comes in the form of the following track, “Into Hiding,” also the first proper track from ‘94’s “Tales from the Thousand Lakes”.  Hearing the band in its modern, admittedly slicker form tackle an essential classic as such not only reinforces the appreciation of the original version but also fosters one for the band in its current state.  While it may sound clichéd, the track truly came alive.  In some ways, it sounded heavier while in others, more elaborate and stunning.
While the sound quality has been alluded to previously, a better, more in-depth look should prove useful.  The first adjective I would select to describe this live album would be huge.  Often such a simple word is the best descriptor of such abstract concepts.  The quality is on par with the top tier of recording artists and simply put, this is comparable to what I would expect from anyone from RUSH to IRON MAIDEN to PETER GABRIEL.

The wide variety of guitar sounds are reproduced with enough girth when needed in some parts and ample pristine clarity in others.  No instrument overpowers another, quite the feat when factoring in such a full band but undoubtedly the result of experience and such a very high production value.  Seriously, the production will not disappoint even the most conservative sticklers of audiophiles.  The end result is a show that highlights the collective band while retaining each member’s contributions without sounding either cluttered or over-produced.

What should be also noted is how heavy the setlist leans on “The Queen of Time,” a whopping six of the fifteen tracks.  In no way is that means to be a detriment to the album though there are some moments from the band’s discography that are unfortunately unrepresented.  This is primarily material from the late ‘90s to the early 2000s and while some may feel this was a lull for the band, there were indeed some quality tracks from those albums beyond pure nostalgia or sentiment.

If I had to pick a favorite moment on the album, it would be the ninth and tenth tracks, the one-two punch of “Against Widows” and “My Kantele”.  Hearing those familiar strains took me back to a frozen drive late at night decades ago that I will never forget.  There is no scintillating plot twist to the story; rather, a scene from a memory, a feeling forever etched in time as interpreted by my frontal cortex.  Sharing this scene is meant to speak to the unique, timelessness of the band’s legacy, that ability with a few guitar chords to transport the listener to a different realm entirely.  If there is one positive benefit to extol of music, it is definitely that, evidence of the thunderous impact of the band’s music on myself and certainly myriad others across the globe.

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Intro/The Bee
2. Heart of the Giant
3. Bad Blood
4. The Four Wise Ones
5. Into Hiding
6. Sampo
7. Wrong Direction
8. Daughter of Hate
9. Against Widows
10. My Kantele
11. The Golden Elk
12. Pyres on the Coast
13. Skyforger Intro/Silver Bride
14. Black Winter Day
15. House of Sleep
Lineup:
Ollie-Pekka Laine - Bass
Jan Rechberger – Drums
Esa Holopainen – Lead Guitar
Tomi Koivusaari – Rhythm Guitar
Santeri Kallio – Keyboards
Tomi Joutsen – Vocals
Record Label: Nuclear Blast
     


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