AMORPHIS: CIRCLE (2013)
1) Shades Of Gray; 2) Mission; 3) The Wanderer; 4) Narrow Path; 5) Hopeless Days; 6) Nightbird's Song; 7) Into The Abyss; 8) Enchanted By The Moon; 9) A New Day; 10*) Dead Man's Dream.
Apparently, Amorphis work around the clock now — their internal algorithm is programmed to print out the results every two years, and thus, here is yet another set of melodic death metal anthems that sounds every bit as loud, proud, and doom-laden as every other set of melodic death metal anthems they had released since... well, you know.
One thing that I have noticed is that, by this time, even some of the veteran fans on Internet message boards started to sort of fiddle around and grumble about how preciously few new sensations they were offered. This may have to do with an important change in style, which might not be noticeable immediately, but whose surreptitious effects may be harming the listener's system from the very start — the album is extremely hot on guitars and quite modest on keyboards. Most of the songs drop the «wimpy» keyboard intros that were quite prominent, for instance, on The Beginning Of Times, and dive straight into battle. Santeri Kallio is still there alright, but he is intentionally pushed into the background, as if Amorphis decided to make a «hardcore» album all of a sudden.
But the decision does not do much good. Essentially, all the songs simply sound even more like each other now than they did before — dissipate your attention a bit and you will never know which one is which. Granted, some of the riffs are more memorable than others... and some are less memorable than others... and... and... okay, the flute is back in ʽNarrow Pathʼ, so prominently, in fact, that one could take the song for a Jethro Tull circa Songs From The Wood outtake, redone in a grinding heavy metal arrangement. (There is even more flute — in fact, a whole delirious Ian Anderson-style solo — in the middle of ʽNightbird's Songʼ as well).
Other than that, as usual, the album is undescribable in non-technical terms, because each single riff aims more or less at the same emotional goals that Amorphis have pursued since the dawn of time. Mind you, they aren't bad riffs: on the whole, this is not the dullest Amorphis album ever — Skyforger is probably worse — but if the band's concept of rethinking their sound is really confined to ideas like «let's cut down on the keyboards a little bit», this is not even funny, and just goes to show how deep the rut is.
I actually wish more of the tracks here were like the bonus inclusion: ʽDead Man's Dreamʼ breaks in with a top-notch death metal riff, growling vocals, and speed — something that is completely lacking on the main body of the album (which is probably why they relegated it to bonus status, so as not to disrupt the conceptuality). ʽNarrow Pathʼ, with its Celtic dance focus, and this thing, with its speedy thump, are pretty much the only mood-breakers on the record. But yeah, at least these guys can still play, that is for certain.
An interesting technical note is that this is pretty much the band's first album (in a long time, at least) not to draw its lyrical inspiration directly from Kalevala — this time, there is some sort of «original» concept about a struggling loser empowered by a spiritual guide and, well, whatever. In reality, this makes about as much difference as the downtoning of the keyboards — big-time fans will take notice, and as for the rest of us, who really cares these days? The good thing is, with these guys still steering the ship with firm hands and iron vocal cords, good old Finland probably has nothing to fear but fear itself.
Check "Circle" (MP3) on Amazon