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Amorphis - Under The Red Cloud Award winner

Under The Red Cloud
by Daniel Fox at 01 September 2015, 6:00 PM

AMORPHIS’ discography seems to progress in cycles; if one were to consider “Eclipse”, “Skyforger” and “The Beginning Of Times” as a cycle, then we can consider “Circle” as the beginning of a new one. That was 2013; “Under The Red Cloud” is now.

Dubbed as “Melancholic Rock” by… I have no idea whom, “Under The Red Cloud” is, like the majority of AMORPHIS’ discography, impossible to classify; what I can stipulate, however, is that it is their heaviest album to date; no doubt in part to Jens Bogren producing the album. Whereas previous helmsman Peter Tägtgren took the band to new heights in terms of tempo changes, heaviness, and a good ol’ ‘upping the ante’, Jens not only built on that, helping forge a veritable sledgehammer but also pushing the band further in the studio. Once again, the album does not directly reference the Kalevala, but rather subtly draws from its themes

There is nothing melancholic about the titular track, which opens the album. An uplifting piano introduction, courtesy of master pianist Santeri, draws us in to an epic, gloriously melodic and pounding cascade of powerful riffs and truly glorious leads; definitely one of the album’s “guitarist” tracks, with Esa sharing a blistering trade-off solo with Santeri. We witness right from the onset, how AMORPHIS are managing to reinvent themselves, and that is only proven further in “The Four Wise Ones”. Perhaps an example of the band’s most up-tempo recording since their Death Metal days, this number is certainly full of surprises; no less Tomi’s expanded vocal range (you’d swear it was a different singer), and an entrancing guest passage by TREES OF ETERNITY vocalist Aleah Stanbridge.

If the unpredictable dynamism and more-than-ever-before ingenious song-writing was not yet apparent, “The Skull” is sure to send shivers down spines. A truly exotic number, carried by inescapably Eastern-sounding chord progressions, interjected by raucous interludes and truly graceful choruses. Interludes… Seemingly one of the many great beauties of this album; something AMORPHIS have always been notoriously good at, but given the progressive and unpredictable nature of the new material, they are all the more unexpected and all the more compelling. The single track, “Death of the King” follows, and is quite definitive of AMORPHIS’ willingness to push the melodic envelope, featuring exotic drumming and a wistful and eerie flute performance by none other than Chrigel Glanzmann. The oriental sitar that heavily embellishes this track will heartily remind long-time fans of “Tuonela”.

If much of the previous tracks, especially the uplifting and emotive (though obviously radio-material) “Sacrifice”, then “Enemy At The Gates” capitalises on their ability to create a suffocating, foreboding and Doom-like atmosphere. The band’s twin guitarists, Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari, are already praised as guitarists bursting the over-populated bubble of power chords and guitar solos, weaving fantastic clean guitar tracking into their mix of choppy riffs and exhilarating chord progressions.

“Under The Red Cloud” sees the band in a new territory. While “Circle” was dark and progressed in a less decisive manner, the new album is set apart from it with a kind of logical, uplifting explosiveness not expected of the band, impeccably treading the fine line between ambition and execution. The band seemingly more at ease with their new musical direction, Koivusaari comments in an interview on the site that AMORPHIS is likely to get even heavier. Given how well their archetypal folk elements are woven into this release, I can only have high hopes for what the future has in store for future releases. I’m going to have to agree with the majority of the press on the scene at the moment and conclude that it’s easily their best post-“Skyforger” release, if not of all time.

5 Star Rating

1. Under The Red Cloud
2. The Four Wise Ones
3. Bad Blood
4. The Skull
5. Death Of A King
6. Sacrifice
7. Dark Path
8. Enemy At The Gates
9. Tree Of Ages
10. White Night
Tomi Joutsen - Vocals
Tomi Koivusaari - Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals
Esa Holopainen - Lead Guitar
Santeri Kallio - Keyboards
Niclas Etelävuori - Bass
Jan Rechberger - Drums
Record Label: Nuclear Blast Records


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Edited 31 January 2023

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