Amorphis Announce Fall US Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 9th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

AMORPHIS (Photo by Jaakko Manninen)

I can’t be the only one who has seasonal bands, right? We’ve talked about this before, probably — last time I wrote about Amorphis in Springtime, perhaps — but they are for sure a Spring band in my mind. Something about their sound, coming out of a cold, dark winter beating your ass, new life just beginning to peak through, that moment of relief before the too-hot summer beats your ass from the other side. Amorphis fit right in there for me.

So a co-headlining tour with Dark Tranquillity? Fine. I doubt I’ll get to see it, but Amorphis are a great band, and while it’s still May, I’m glad to have the excuse to put them on for a few minutes this afternoon. That’s really the extent of it. I could go on about their 30-plus years as a group, their having spearheaded folk metal before it became a cornball excuse for dudes to drink and alienate women, or the fact that they’ve now been with vocalist Tomi Joutsen — forever the ‘new guy’ in my head — longer than the dude he replaced, in addition to having released more with him as their frontman. Time is weird. Also I’m old.

I could go on about all this stuff — also about how Atomic Fire Records, which I’m pretty sure was all the people from Nuclear Blast who were signed bands like Amorphis in the first place, seems to have morphed into Reigning Phoenix Music — but I won’t. Why? No one cares about my bullshit, and if you’re here at all — it’s okay, I know you’re not — it’s for the tour dates. Here they are:

amorphis dark tranquillity tour poster

AMORPHIS Confirms North American Co-Headlining Tour With Dark Tranquillity; Tickets On Sale This Friday

Finnish metal legends AMORPHIS will return to North America this Fall on a co-headlining tour with their comrades in Dark Tranquillity. The journey, which will hit over two dozen cities, will commence on September 3rd in Richmond, Virginia and closes on October 6th in New York City. Support will be provided by Fires In The Distance.

AMORPHIS comments, “We are more than excited to announce this tour with our brothers from Sweden, Dark Tranquillity. It’s been a while, and we certainly miss our North American fans. It will be a one-of-a-kind Scandinavian death metal package with both bands performing in a headliner status every night. We’ll blast through the continent like a storm; so see you all there and let’s have a metal night to remember.”

Tickets for this must-see tour go on sale this Friday, May 10th at 10:00am local time. See all confirmed dates below.

AMORPHIS w/ Dark Tranquillity, Fires In The Distance:
9/03/2024 Canal Club – Richmond, VA
9/04/2024 Hangar 1819 – Greensboro, NC
9/06/2024 Center Stage – Atlanta, GA * AMORPHIS Headlining date
9/07/2024 Conduit – Orlando, FL
9/09/2024 White Oak Music Hall – Houston, TX
9/10/2024 Trees – Dallas, TX
9/11/2024 The Rock Box – San Antonio, TX
9/13/2024 Nile Theater – Mesa, AZ
9/14/2024 Brick By Brick – San Diego, CA
9/15/2024 Echoplex – Los Angeles, CA
9/17/2024 DNA Lounge – San Francisco, CA
9/18/2024 Goldfields Roseville – Roseville, CA
9/20/2024 Hawthorne Theatre – Portland, OR
9/21/2024 Rickshaw Theatre – Vancouver, BC
9/22/2024 El Corazon – Seattle, WA
9/24/2024 Metro – Salt Lake City, UT
9/26/2024 Marquis Theatre – Denver, CO
9/27/2024 Bottleneck – Lawrence, KS
9/28/2024 The Cabooze – Minneapolis, MN
9/29/2024 The Forge – Joliet, IL
10/01/2024 Opera House – Toronto, ON
10/02/2024 Fairmount Theatre – Montreal, QC
10/03/2024 La Source de la Martinière – Quebec City, QC
10/04/2024 The Middle East Down – Cambridge, MA
10/05/2024 Baltimore Soundstage – Baltimore, MD
10/06/2024 Gramercy Theatre – New York, NY

Tomi Joutsen – vocals
Esa Holopainen – guitars
Tomi Koivusaari – guitars
Santeri Kallio – keyboards
Olli-Pekka Laine – bass
Jan Rechberger – drums

Amorphis, “On the Dark Waters” official video

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Friday Full-Length: Amorphis, Chapters

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 22nd, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Twenty years ago, Relapse Records had a distro booth at the Palladium in Worcester for the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival. Coincidentally, the fest was held last weekend in roughly the same spot (it’s outdoors now). Fair enough. Relapse‘s booth was inside, as were both stages in what was apparently 2003. I was walking through from the larger downstairs area to the upstairs stage — I don’t remember whom I was seeing just then, but I know I definitely saw Stampin’ Ground up there one time, and I’m pretty sure Brand New Sin played up there at one point — and passed by the large banner and the table that had vinyl and CDs (more of the latter then) arranged in boxes with some flat on the table for display.

AmorphisChapters was one of those out. A CD and DVD with music videos — that was a big deal then — it was released in 2003 to some murmurings about an anniversary. I dug the band a lot, had seen them in Worcester a few years earlier, and it caught my eye, but it was like $20 and I know for a fact didn’t have $20 in 2003. I don’t have $20 now. And I don’t think they were taking cards at merch tables two decades ago, so I left it on the table and went about my business in the mildewy upstairs of the Palladium.

I’d return to Relapse distros many times over the subsequent years at various events — not to mention their record store, glorious as that was, in Philadelphia — and never saw another copy of Chapters in-person, there or anywhere else. It went out of print quickly, all parties seeming to silently agree that it was for the best, and languished on my Amazon wishlist basically since. I won’t say I was on some Odyssean quest to find it, scouring the earth in its many nooks and hithers and yons, but it became something of a regret of the early century in my head that I didn’t manage to make that purchase. That I let that one go.

Found it the other day on Discogs. Six bucks, plus six bucks shipping. It’s in great shape.

Since the package came in — it’s in a jewel case and just brims with turn-of-the-century thickness in its plastic; the guilt-free excesses of a world that didn’t understand how mad it had gone — I’ve been through it a couple times and I’ve tried to place it as well in the band’s history. The thing is, if Chapters was supposed to be an anniversary thing, it was off. Begun as a cavernous death metal act informed by their native Finnish folklore and eventually, by then, progressed into a melodic heavy/hard rock act with plenty enough of that metal left over to give them some edge, Amorphis marked their 10th anniversary in 2000, and their first long-player, The Karelian Isthmus, came out in 1992.

Plus — and here’s the one that’s had my eyebrow up lo these many years — Amorphis released their Story – 10th Anniversary comp in 2000, so if Chapters was somehow intended to complement that, which doesn’t amorphis chaptersseem unreasonable on its face given the two titles, the fact that it came three years later is puzzling (I’d thought it was earlier). DVDs had ‘chapters.’ Was that why they called it that? Rest assured, I continue to have no idea.

On the most basic level, it could just have been contract fulfillment, I guess. In 2003, Amorphis released Far From the Sun (highlighted by the bonus acoustic version of its title-track) as their first non-Relapse offering, through Nuclear Blast. Certainly possible they owed their former label a release and the CD/DVD was where they landed. However they go there, the audio disc is packed. In addition to the bonus tracks “Too Much to See,” a highlight of the special edition of 2001’s Am Universum (discussed here) and “Northern Lights” from the recordings of 1999’s Tuonela (discussed here), it’s got a whopping 17 songs total, culled from the band’s first decade of releases.

And in addition to any revisit to this era of Amorphis‘ catalog (and other eras as well) bringing renewed appreciation for the complexity of their arrangements, from flutes and instrumentation that helped them become credited as early practitioners of folk metal — which they never really were, but they influenced the mindset with their lyrics culled from the Kalevala, the national poem of Finland, and some of their transposed-onto-death-metal groove — the layeres melodies of the vocals as heard on Chapters resonate with depth. As they would. At this point in their history, Amorphis were fronted by Pasi Koskinen (also Ajattara, ex-Mannhai), who took over on lead vocals for 1996’s Elegy and helped make that one of the band’s most crucial landmarks. As frontman through the aforementioned Far From the Sun, Koskinen‘s contributions aren’t to be understated and the malleability of his voice to work from harsh to clean played a large role in the band’s overarching progression. He set the model that Amorphis would follow with subsequent singer Tomi Joutsen, who is about to enter his 20th year with them and is their longest-tenured vocalist.

But whether one listens to Chapters or Story, or just to the albums themselves, that progression is the narrative. It’s just presented differently, and something I appreciate about Chapters as opposed to Story is that our presents Amorphis‘ growth in reverse order such that the then-newest material, which was the Am Universum and Tuonela stuff, is up front, and the listener can trace back from there, through Tales From the Thousand Lakes, not all the way to 1991’s Disment of Soul demo, but at least to the raw first record that was built out therefrom.

And while it’s true their sound has settled from the radical shifts it presented in the decade covered by Chapters (and the earlier compilation), they continue to grow. Now signed to Nuclear Blast offshoot Atomic Fire, they oversaw a series of catalog reissues last year and put out their 14th studio LP, Halo (review here), and undertaking an ongoing full touring cycle to support. Just yesterday they released a live video for “Wrong Direction” from an upcoming third live record, Queen of Time (Live at Tavastia 2021), out on Oct. 13. They have a Fall tour in Europe lined up (of course), were in Japan earlier this month, toured the States last year, tour Finland in December and already have fests lined up for 2024, including Summer Breeze in Brazil next April. So yes, very much active.

I usually say when I write about Amorphis that they’re one of a few acts I write about to zero response, and I suspect that this being a silly contract-fulfillment comp from 20 years ago that I once passed up won’t help that. But you should know that I bought this CD with money from Obelisk merch and that I appreciate the support that let that happen.

Thank you for that, and thank you for reading. As always, I hope you enjoy.

Week was proceeding. Monday and Tuesday were recovery from Desertfest New York last weekend. Then it was just digging into the rest and getting through. Yesterday the first of what I expect will be a lifetime’s supply of emails from The Pecan’s school came in, this one from the principal asking what the hell we can possibly do with this kid who puts her fist in other kids’ faces, hits the aide in the classroom and, on Wednesday, bit her teacher. That one took the wind out of our sails a bit. She’s doing all her academic work, which is a thing upon which one might hang some kind of hat, but everything else is hard. Very much a challenge.

I told the principal I didn’t have an easy answer but reminded him as well that before the year we had a whole series of meetings on how to handle her and this was why and that the plan we agreed to at those meetings, the first of which was before last school year even ended, has yet to be put into place. We have another meeting next Friday. I expect it will be a conversation.

But it sucks to see my kid having the hard time that I think we knew she was going to have even as we parent-denial’ed ourselves into some hope otherwise. If I sound defeatist about it, I am. We have muddled through camps (until we couldn’t) and various other activities like soccer and tae kwon do, and pretty much anytime she’s somewhere with other kids her age and there’s an adult in charge, especially if she’s there more than once for longer than, say, 40 minutes, it’s going to be a problem. That’s based on past history.

But now, instead of having her own paraprofessional in class to help her stay on task and resist urges toward physical violence — biting a pregnant lady is never a good look, regardless of one’s grade level — she’s flailing, feels like a failure, and has entered a negative cycle of feeling ashamed at her behavior, scared of her surroundings and like she needs to lash out when basically any demand is put on her. I cannot properly emphasize how much the school has dropped the ball here, nor how disappointed I am in their having done so. These are legal questions and obligations.

She’s there today. Her teacher was out yesterday — one might want a day off, yes — and I don’t know what the score is today yet and won’t until we pick her up, so I exist in a nebulous zone of cluelessness, which rest assured is a big change for me. We’ve started taking her upstairs, no warning, when she hits us. It gets her to stop hitting and does nothing, apparently, to prevent the next one. Yesterday she started behavioral talk therapy in hopes of learning some strategies to cope with her brain being apparently on fire all the time, which, yes, rest assured again, is a perspective on existence I blame myself for teaching her.

Oh, and we’re getting the dog groomed like right now as I’m writing. And I taught her to spin for a treat in like three minutes the other night. And she hasn’t had an accident in the house in like two weeks. She’s a good little dog, this Tilly. Surprisingly so.

Have a great and safe weekend. Watch your head, hydrate, enjoy the emergent Fall if it’s Fall where you are. Try not to bite any pregnant ladies on your way to next Monday.


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Album Review: Amorphis, Halo

Posted in Reviews on February 9th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

amorphis halo

The long-term triumph of Amorphis rests in their ability to be immediately recognizable and always just a little different. Since 1990, the Finnish outfit has defined a style of progressive metal and rock born out of and not entirely separate from its deathly beginnings, yet sweeping in melody, open to grandiose arrangements even as it crunches out its heaviest riffs and lowest growls.

They long ago forged their path through what largely in their wake became folk metal, with lyrics based on Finland’s national epic poem, the Kalevala, and particularly since 2006’s Eclipse, when vocalist Tomi Joutsen made his debut with them, their awareness of who they are as a band has resulted in a series of full-lengths — Halo being the latest and their first for Atomic Fire Records after years on Nuclear Blast — that have set about refining, tweaking their approach in various ways, pushing forward along their stated direction. Core elements are often the same, and they are here as well: the prominent keyboard/organ work of Santeri Kallio alongside the guitars of founders Tomi Koivusaari (rhythm) and Esa Holopainen (lead), the drum gallop of Jan Rechberger through big choruses like that of “A New Land,” and the returned bass grit of Olli-Pekka Laine, who rejoined the band on 2018’s Queen of Time (review here), having been a founding member and departed after 1999’s Tuonela (discussed here).

Melody and impact, movement, dynamic tempo shifts, and twists like the odd bit of orchestral complement on the title-track or “The Moon,” some Eastern guitar inflection in “On the Dark Waters” or in the back half of the aforementioned “A New Land,” guest vocals there and on “Halo,” and so on, do and should feel no less familiar to those experienced with the band’s work over the last 15-plus years than the production of Jens Bogren at Fascination Street in Sweden, with whom the band has collaborated since 2015’s Under the Red Cloud (discussed here), or the folkloric lyrics by Pekka Kainulainen. Across 11 songs and a CD-ready 55 minutes, Amorphis collect individual pieces to serve the larger purpose of their 14th or 15th album — depending on what you count — and in so doing, they not only keep the thread going and give themselves an occasion to tour again, but they continue the process of growing as players and as a unit. Those who’ve followed the bigger melodies of their more recent work will likely be surprised at how hard some of Halo hits.

It’s not raw, by any stretch. Beginning with “Northwards” and “On the Dark Waters” and “The Moon” as an initial salvo, Halo presents Amorphis circa 2022 as confident and patient crafters of their sound — masters of what they do and are. I wouldn’t argue, even if I wasn’t a fan. And Bogren‘s production gives them plenty of space in which to unfurl their material, but process has had a role to play in making Halo too, and that’s evident in the outright crush of some of the album’s more death metal aspects. Joutsen — who might always be the “new guy” for having taken the place of Pasi Koskinen, bringing a professional clean/growl take where Koskinen had grown into his approach over time — has rarely sounded more vicious than he does on “Northwards” and even in the song’s later reaches when the backing chorus shows up, he weaves together soar and gutturalism in a way that has become a defining aesthetic presence, new guy or not.


Something Halo does especially well throughout is toy with the balance between harsh and lush, and Joutsen is of course a big piece of that, as “Windmane” hints in its early going toward Amorphis‘ classic take on death metal’s creep and the later “When the Gods Came” opens later to an organ-laced breakdown ahead of its solo-and-melody-topped apex and growling finish. Yet as much as it’s a collection of individual tracks, the songs also intertwine toward both a thematic and aural narrative, functioning almost in movements such that “A New Land,” “When the Gods Came” and “Seven Roads Come Together” form the crescendo of an epic tale before “War,” “Halo” and “The Wolf” push into darker atmospheres, more foreboding if not entirely less melodic.

The title-track, as an example, also includes guest vocals — it’s Petronella Nettermalm on closer “My Name is Night”; not sure if it’s her as well on “Halo” or “A New Land” — and though it has its shove, it’s just as prone to take flight. Parts of “War” and “The Wolf” would, by contrast, be straight-up death metal in any number of other contexts — the latter is the meanest thing I can recall Amorphis putting out in a long time, and it still has a hook. What this culmination means for the story as a whole, I’m not sure, but in terms of the listening experience, it makes that sense of extremity the arrival point toward which the rest of Halo has built. As journeys go, it’s well worth the trip. Infectious and exciting in kind.

Nothing on Halo is over six minutes long. Nothing is less than four and a half. This is a band who know what they’re doing, know even in the context of recording (mostly) remotely for the first time in their career what they’re looking to accomplish, and know how to make that happen on a recording. Whether or not the uptick in intensity on the whole here speaks to some larger shift in their direction, it’s impossible to know, but as “My Name is Night” caps with a melodic epilogue, swaying into its final moments, it brings into relief just how far Amorphis are able to move in one direction or another within the stretch of a song, movement or album, and how much mood and atmosphere they’re able to harness from material that’s still straightforward in structure.

They are themselves utterly across Halo, and as ever, part of that means change. Longtime fans will revel in the brutal aspects of the tracks and the moments of gorgeousness alike, and for newcomers, these songs should make an enticing introduction to who Amorphis are at this stage in their career.

Amorphis, “On the Dark Waters” official video

Amorphis, “The Moon” official video

Amorphis on Facebook

Amorphis on Instagram

Amorphis on Twitter

Amorphis website

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Amorphis Announce US Tour Supporting Halo

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 14th, 2022 by JJ Koczan


So I guess this is where we’re at, right? Bands announce a tour and hopefully it happens and everyone gets to go and nobody gets sick and the tour goes as long as it can go and if it goes to the end that’s awesome and if not then the parties involved deal with that when and where they can. I get it. At some point, you have to live, right? Not only in the fiscal sense — I don’t know if the dudes from Amorphis have dayjobs or not; frankly the Finnish government should put them on payroll as cultural ambassadors for life — but if you’ve spent the better part of 30 years on stage, it’s who you are. The show must go on. For everybody.

Amorphis release their new album, Halo, next month through Atomic Fire Records. I stumbled last week on an interview I did with the band in 2006 for Metal Maniacs — as well as an absolute trove of interviews on Minidisc, many of which I didn’t even remember — and though at the time they were supporting Eclipse, which was their first album fronted by Tomi Joutsen, I remember being crazy stoked to see them live. I’ll go ahead and put the Gramercy Theatre show on my calendar, but I don’t know if I’ll be there or not. It would be awesome, I’ve no doubt. Even thinking about it feels like a test.

Times. Change. Think positive thoughts. The news today is Omicron may be peaking in the US. No word on the next variant yet, but I’m sure it’s waiting in the viral dugout.

In any case, the word from the PR wire is good, and here it is:

Amorphis tour

AMORPHIS Announces North American Tour This Spring In Celebration Of Their Forthcoming Halo Full-Length

AMORPHIS will tour North America with their brand new album Halo this Spring! The tour begins on April 13th in New York City and will make its way through nearly two dozen cities, coming to a close on May 12th in Baltimore, Maryland. Support will be provided by Sylvaine and Hoaxed.

Comments the band, “We are more than excited to announce that we are touring North America in the Spring 2022 to support our upcoming album Halo. We’ve been missing you, live gigs, and touring like never before! We are looking forward to the shows as well as bringing Sylvaine and Hoaxed with us as special guests. Limited amounts of AMORPHIS VIP packages with meet and greets are also available. We hope to see you there, meanwhile take care, stay healthy, and shine on! “

See all confirmed dates below. Tickets go on sale Friday, January 14th. VIP Packages including a ticket, meet and greet, photo opp, and exclusive items are now available. For more details and to purchase, go to THIS LOCATION:

AMORPHIS w/ Sylvaine, Hoaxed:
4/13/2022 Gramercy Theatre – New York, NY *
4/14/2022 The Palladium – Worcester, MA *
4/15/2022 Club Soda – Montreal, QC *
4/16/2022 The Opera House – Toronto, ON *
4/18/2022 Mr. Smalls Theatre – Millvale, PA
4/19/2022 The Forge – Joliet, IL
4/20/2022 Skyway Theatre – Minneapolis, MN
4/22/2022 The Oriental Theater – Denver, CO
4/23/2022 Soundwell – Salt Lake City, UT
4/25/2022 Hawthorne Theatre – Portland, OR
4/26/2022 The Imperial – Vancouver, BC
4/27/2022 El Corazon – Seattle, WA
4/29/2022 The UC Theatre – Berkeley, CA
4/30/2022 El Rey Theatre – Los Angeles, CA
5/01/2022 The Nile Theater – Mesa, AZ
5/03/2022 Come And Take It Live – Austin, TX
5/04/2022 Amplified Live – Dallas, TX
5/06/2022 Center Stage (The Loft) – Atlanta, GA
5/07/2022 The Orpheum -Tampa, FL
5/08/2022 The Abbey – Orlando, FL
5/10/2022 Neighborhood Theatre – Charlotte, NC
5/11/2022 The Broadberry – Richmond, VA
5/12/2022 Baltimore Soundstage – Baltimore, MD
* Hoaxed only

AMORPHIS’ stunning fourteenth album of their career will be released February 11th via Atomic Fire Records. Halo — which features artwork by Valnoir (Alcest, Paradise Lost) — was recorded, produced, and mixed by Jens Bogren (Fascination Street Studios) while mastering duties were handled by Tony Lindgren.

Pre-order the album physically, pre-save it or pre-order it digitally to receive ‘The Moon’ instantly now, here:

Tomi Joutsen – vocals
Esa Holopainen – guitars
Tomi Koivusaari – guitars
Santeri Kallio – keyboards
Olli-Pekka Laine – bass
Jan Rechberger – drums

Amorphis, “The Moon” official video

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Amorphis Post “The Moon” Video; Halo Preorder Available

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 8th, 2021 by JJ Koczan


New Amorphis video, you say? Sold. Lots of shadows, lots of looking up at stuff, lots of walking through what’s probably Finnish parkland, and of course, the moon makes an appearance in “The Moon,” which is the first single taken from the Finnish mainstays’ upcoming long-player, Halo. Set for Feb. 11 issue as the band’s first outing through Atomic Fire Records — headed by Nuclear Blast founder Markus Staiger — Halo is up for preorder/pre-save now and without dipping into promo-speak, Amorphis are a pretty safe bet.

That is to say, if you’re familiar with the band as they are now — their most recent studio offering was 2018’s Queen of Time (review here) — then to a certain extent you know what’s coming. On “The Moon,” their trademark folk-derived style of riffing is met with a combination of clean and growled vocals from longtime frontman Tomi Joutsen and the groove is solid and expansive without being overly pretentious, melodies fleshed out by keyboard and layered-in guest vocals from… well, somebody. It’s Amorphis, and it sounds like Amorphis. 14 records later, one would and should expect no less.

But while their ultimate stylistic trajectory may be a settled question — they know what they’re doing — they’ve never really stopped growing either, and like Queen of Time before it, I expect that when Halo shows up, its tracks will bear that hallmark of Amorphis‘ sonic persona no less than any other. It’s been years since I last saw Amorphis play. Maybe, if circumstances allow, I’ll be able to catch them for this record sometime in 2022.

Here’s the video. See if you can find the moon in “The Moon”:

Amorphis, “The Moon” official video

Amorphis present music video for new digital single ‘The Moon’ off their upcoming album »Halo« out on February 11th, 2022.

Pre-order the album physically, pre-save it or pre-order it digitally to receive ‘The Moon’ instantly now, here:

AMORPHIS – who stand among Northern Europe’s leading dark metal acts, hitting #1 on the Finnish charts five times – have been captivating fans and critics for over 30 years with their melancholic, yet heavy soundscapes. After announcing their upcoming fourteenth studio album, »Halo«, out on February 11th, 2022 through Atomic Fire, last month, the waiting time is over as the sextet present the world with the record’s first single and a music video for ‘The Moon’, created by renowned director Patric Ullaeus (rEvolver Film).

Comments lyricist Pekka Kainulainen: “I have done several drawings and paintings on this subject over the years. Now I complementary wrote some heavy metal lyrics… This is a song of love.”

Guitarist Esa Holopainen adds: “It’s a very atmospheric and catchy song that represents what AMORPHIS sound like in 2021 well.”

Once again adorned by artwork provided by Valnoir (ALCEST, PARADISE LOST etc.), »Halo« was recorded, produced and mixed Jens Bogren (Fascination Street Studios) while mastering duties were handled by Tony Lindgren.

Tomi Joutsen – vocals
Esa Holopainen – guitars
Tomi Koivusaari – guitars
Santeri Kallio – keyboards
Olli-Pekka Laine – bass
Jan Rechberger – drums

Amorphis on Facebook

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Amorphis website

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Amorphis to Release Halo Feb. 11

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 4th, 2021 by JJ Koczan


New Amorphis is good news, as far as I’m concerned. It’s a rare band who remain intriguing over a span of any decades, let alone three-plus, but with 14 records under their belt — the latest prior to the upcoming Halo was 2018’s Queen of Time (review here) — the Finns are not only stalwarts of European heavy metal, but of a progressive creative mindset in particular. In some ways, you know what you’re getting — melody, impact, a blend of harsh and gorgeous, big production, folk elements and themes, quality songwriting — but you never quite know in what shape it will arrive, and that becomes part of the fun. Apparently the 13 songs on Halo were whittled down from 30. Doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect they might have a follow-up EP out sometime soon.

Also notable, this will be the first Amorphis record since 2004 not to see release through Nuclear Blast. I don’t know much about Atomic Fire Records, if it’s the band’s label or another imprint or what — I couldn’t find that info, though there’s a label logo — but that they’d be working with someone else after 18 years at all is significant.

But of course, it’s Amorphis one way or the other. 14th album? The more the merrier.

From the PR wire:

amorphis halo

AMORPHIS Announces New Album, Halo, Out On February 11th, 2022 Via Atomic Fire Records

Rock and metal music have always been a haven for those who have bigger stories to tell; who have grander emotions to convey. For more than thirty years, Finnish figureheads AMORPHIS have done their best to carve their very own niche in heartfelt yet aggressive, melancholic yet soothing tunes. On Halo, their staggering fourteenth studio effort, the Finns underline their trailblazing status as one of the most original, culturally relevant, and rewarding acts ever to emerge from the land of the thousand lakes.

Halo will be released on February 11th, 2022 on Atomic Fire Records.

Halo Track Listing:
1. Northwards
2. On The Dark Waters
3. The Moon
4. Windmane
5. A New Land
6. When The Gods Came
7. Seven Roads Come Together
8. War
9. Halo
10. The Wolf
11. My Name Is Night

In the past, mythology and legend took the role of today’s pop culture: Stories and a set of values uniting us by giving us a voice and a tapestry on which we can find each other and identify with something. By weaving the tales of Finnish national epos Kalevala into their songs and interpreting them in a timeless way, AMORPHIS combines the role of ancient minstrels and luminaries of the modern world, honoring tradition without getting stuck in the past.

The vibrant, lively, and touching beauty that is Halo highlights their musical and storytelling mastership on a once again soaring level: It’s a progressive, melodic, and quintessentially melancholic heavy metal masterwork plucked from the fickle void of inspiration by original guitarists Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari, bassist Olli-Pekka Laine, drummer Jan Rechberger, longtime keyboardist Santeri Kallio, vocalist Tomi Joutsen, the band’s long-standing lyrical consciousness, Pekka Kainulainen, and a selected group of world class audio professionals led by renowned Swedish producer Jens Bogren. Considering the band’s prolonged journey in the forefront of innovative metal music, it’s difficult to grasp how AMORPHIS manages to raise the proverbial bar time and time again, presenting a more than worthy finale to the trilogy begun with 2015’s Under The Red Cloud followed by 2018’s Queen Of Time.

“It really is a great feeling that we can still produce very decent music as a band,” says Holopainen, a founding member of the band. “Perhaps a certain kind of self-criticism and long experience culminate in these latest albums.” To the songwriter himself, Halo sounds both familiar and different. “It is thoroughly recognizable AMORPHIS from beginning to end but the general atmosphere is a little bit heavier and more progressive and also organic compared to its predecessor,” he elaborates.

Tomi Joutsen, the man with vocal cords capable of unleashing colossal, bear-like growls as well as singing soothing, mesmerizing lullabies, adds, “To me, Halo sounds a little more stripped down compared to Queen Of Time and Under The Red Cloud. However, don’t get me wrong: when a certain song needs to sound big, then it sounds very big.” He’s right, of course: By stripping down some of the arrangements, the monumental moments become even more monumental.

That’s of course also thanks to producing renaissance man Jens Bogren who harvested the thirteen final tracks from a batch of thirty songs AMORPHIS offered him. “Jens is very demanding, but I really like to work with him,” says Holopainen. “He takes care of the whole project from start to finish, and he allows the musician to focus on just playing. I may not be able to thank Jens enough. Everything we’ve done together has been really great, and this co-operation has carried AMORPHIS significantly forward.”

Indeed. Setting off with the stormy grandeur of opener “Northwards,” AMORPHIS takes us on an epic journey through the lands of the north, their rich cultural and historical heritage, and musical traditions. This is not only an album for fans or metal connoisseurs. It’s a must for every imaginative mind out there with a soft spot for cinematic soundscapes, triumphant melodies and breathtaking dynamics measuring the borderlands of light and dark.

However, no AMORPHIS album would be complete without the imaginative and poetic storytelling of renowned lyricist and Kalevala expert Pekka Kainulainen. “From day one, Pekka has always been an enthusiastic and prolific lyricist for AMORPHIS,” says Joutsen. “It is a slow process of translating archaic Finnish poetry into English and adapting it our progressive rhythms. Fortunately, Pekka does everything on time and with great care.” Since 2007’s Silent Waters, Kainulainen has been navigating the mythological waters of his homeland with great skill and respect. For Halo, he outdid himself once again. “Halo is a loose themed record filled with adventurous tales about the mythical North tens of thousands of years ago,” he explains. “The lyrics tell of an ancient time when man wandered to these abandoned boreal frontiers after the ice age. While describing the revival of a seminal culture in a world of new opportunities, I also try to reach the sempiternal forces of the human mind.”

Thirty-one years after their inception, with uncounted global tours under their belt and fourteen albums deep in their career, AMORPHIS still proves to be the musical fountain of youth, an extraordinary band constantly reinventing itself without abandoning its mystical roots. With Halo, they deliver an astonishing album that deserves to be played everywhere, transcending the realms of metal and rock by its sheer profoundness and musicality.

Tomi Joutsen – vocals
Esa Holopainen – guitars
Tomi Koivusaari – guitars
Santeri Kallio – keyboards
Olli-Pekka Laine – bass
Jan Rechberger – drums

Amorphis, “Amongst Stars” official video

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Friday Full-Length: Amorphis, Am Universum

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 18th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

I’m begging you, just listen to this record. Please. For me. For you. Just listen.

Am Universum, the fifth album by Finland’s Amorphis, turns 20 this year. It was released through Relapse Records on April 3, 2001, so the date’s already passed. As the follow-up to 1999’s Tuonela (discussed here), it found the band progressing further into traditional rock melodies tinged with Finnish folk elements and drives inherited from their journey through death metal. Vocalist Pasi Koskinen still throws in a couple growls if you listen for them, but from Santeri Kallio‘s keys to the guitar nuance from Eso Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari that unfurls in opener “Alone,” there’s no question that by this point Amorphis had largely left such extremity behind.

They did so organically, but boldly, over the course of their prior outings — 1992’s The Karelian Isthmus, coupled with the 1993 Privilege of Evil EP, 1994’s pivotal Tales From the Thousand Lakes, 1996’s even-more-pivotal Elegy, ’97’s My Kantele EP and the aforementioned Tuonela — their sense of progression never faltered, and it by no means stopped with Am Universum either. But, 10 years out from their first demo, Am Universum‘s 10-song/50-minute run marked a special moment in what was becoming the band’s signature blend of elements, and I don’t know that they’ve to-date ever written a stronger collection of tracks. Some songs are memorable. Once you get these into your head, they’re unforgettable.

Am Universum is a riding-a-bike album. Once you put it on, it’s like you never left. Multi-stage choruses in run rampant throughout, and as “Alone” introduces tones, melodies, the richness in Niclas Etelävuori‘s bass (he had replaced Olli-Pekka Laine, who’d soon come back) and the push of Pekka Kasari‘s drums (again, Jan Rechberger would return to the band in short order), the spectrum of colors offered only grows across cuts like “Goddess (of the Sad Man),” “The Night is Over” and “Shatters Within,” the band bringing structural variety along with a range of expression and an overarching flow that continues as the record progresses through the hard-riffed/well-organed “Crimson Wave,” “Drifting Memories” — one of several tracks to feature echo-lacedAmorphis Am Universum saxophone, but one on which it’s particularly well used — into the victory lap of “Forever More,” the gorgeous, melancholic semi-acoustic standout of “Veil of Sin,” and the closing duo, “Captured State,” which returns to some of the heavier hookmaking of the early cuts, and “Grieve Stricken Heart,” which is the first song since “Alone” to top six minutes and a beyond effective summation of the record’s many strengths in craft and aesthetic.

It’s hard with Amorphis — even harder than spelling “isthmus” — because especially up to this point in their career, every album really was an era. They had gone from raw death metal to the innovative use of instrumentation and themes from Finnish folk music, basing songs on the Kalevala, and so on, and they did so largely at a time before the internet really spread into people’s lives. So listeners lived with these albums in a different way. Even Relapse wasn’t the metal-major, whatever that means, it is now circa 1994 — indeed records like those Amorphis produced helped make them one. But the point is there are loyalists to each of those offerings listed above, and in that regard, Am Universum doesn’t get nearly enough credit for what the band managed to accomplish across its span.

Please. Just listen to it. I wouldn’t ask you if I didn’t think it was something you should hear.

On its face, it’s kind of unassuming. Two six-minute tracks bookending a bunch of others around four and five minutes long, pretty consistent, and the art? 20 years later and I’m still not sure what’s going on there, but I can tell you that its muted colors don’t come close to representing either the vast soundscape or the emotional breadth that comes across in the listening experience. In context it makes sense. This was, ostensibly, a metal band putting out a melodic heavy prog rock record. There had to be a certain amount of, “what the hell do we do with this?” going on, because especially coming out of death metal, and especially walking the sonic path that Amorphis were across genres, almost defining them as they went — folk metal is still a thing — it had never happened before. Am Universum pushed across boundaries and challenged the band to become something almost entirely different than they were when they started, and even crazier, pulled it off. I never have, but I’d love to talk to Matt Jacobson from Relapse about this album, if only to say thanks for taking the chance on putting it out.

Amorphis, true to their name, would continue to change. In 2003/2004, they offered Far From the Sun, as their first outing for Nuclear Blast, which stripped their songwriting down further into melodic heavy rock and would prove to be Koskinen‘s last album with the band; he has gone on to contribute to a number of outfits, among them MannhaiShape of Despair, Ajattara and so on. His replacement, Tomi Joutsen (also Hallatar and a bunch of others), made a distinguished first impression on 2006’s Eclipse (I saw them at BB King’s in Manhattan on that tour; it was the day I got back from SXSW that year; I was tired, they were great) and has gone on to be a reliable frontman presence for the group across the better part of two decades’ worth of releases, the band ultimately finding a line between melody and harder hitting fare that is no less their own for the influence it’s had over European metal in general.

In 2021, the band released Live at Helsinki Ice Hall, and Holopainen has a solo-ish album out under the moniker Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen on which he collaborates with different singers, so there’s plenty more to dig into after this. Amorphis‘ latest studio outing was 2018’s Queen of Time (review here), which demonstrated just how much the band’s sound has come to encompass over their now 30 years, and how distinctive their work is across the greater sphere of heavy music, metal or otherwise.

Please, just listen.

Thanks for reading. As always, I hope you enjoy.

Man, nobody’s gonna give a shit. I know it. Amorphis is one of those bands I write about because I love them and no one cares. Amorphis, Anathema, Swallow the Sun, etc. I’ve got a whole list. Let the record show I did it for me anyway, despite the begging aspect. That’s mostly me trying to convince Mike H. and a few others it’ll make their day better.

Lot going on this weekend, but somewhere in there I’m going to find time to review the Fatso Jetson/All Souls stream. I think that might be the last livestream review I do, at least of pandemic-era stuff. Shows are starting up again this Fall, it’s looking like, and barring disaster, it’ll be possible to see bands in-person rather than onscreen. I don’t think livestreams are going to completely disappear, so I’m not gonna say I’ll never do another one, period, but for now, unless something really amazing comes up — more ‘Live in the Mojave Desert’ etc. — I feel like maybe this is a good one to go out on.

Weird week. The Pecan is out of the boot post-legbreak, and that’s good. He’s still favoring the leg a bit, but it’s only been a few weeks. He’s running again, so that’s good, and I took him to the playground down the way yesterday and he played hard like a three year old who hasn’t been to the playground in the better part of a month, so that was good to see. He saw the moon while he was on the swings and got all excited: “It’s a crescent moon!” If I could live a thousand years, I’d hope never to forget it.

But the week is over, which is good, I think. No school next week, which is going to be a crunch. Summer break, huh? Okay. Camp starts after the July 4 holiday, so that’s about two and a half weeks he’s home. There you go. If you’re wondering, that’s why I didn’t answer your email. I’ll be lucky if I have time to shower twice.

I made Facebook group for The Obelisk this week. It’s here if you want to check it out:

So far it’s a lot of people introducing themselves and their projects, but that’s to be expected, I think. And the whole point of the thing is to share music, so that’s reasonable. You could argue I did the same thing by starting it in the first place.

So yes, needless to say I’ll be phasing out this blog in the next couple weeks to focus on The Obelisk as a purely social media-based entity.

No. Of course not. Not that I’m so attached to WordPress — though apparently I am — but I’ve yet to find a social media interface that holds a candle to AOL 3.0. Or maybe I’m just nostalgic. I can still hear my 28k baud modem screeching in my head, about to get knocked offline when someone picks up the phone. Charged by the minute. Madness.

What a time to be alive.

But that’s enough whatnot. I plug along. I did some good reading this week, nothing too challenging, but it feels good for the brain. I hope you’re well and stay that way. Have fun, be safe, watch your head, hydrate. Gotta hydrate. So important.

No Gimme show today, but next week’s is the first part of a two-parter Neurosis deep-dive. It’s gonna be awesome.


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Amorphis, Queen of Time: Keeper of Fleeting Moments

Posted in Reviews on May 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

amorphis queen of time

As they’ve for so long shown an affinity for Finland’s national poem, the Kalevala, it seems somehow only fitting that 28 years after their founding, Amorphis‘ own story should be the stuff of a winding runic epic. Years of lineup changes, sonic evolution, genre definition and defiance have brought them to their 14th long-player, Queen of Time (on Nuclear Blast), with four of their original members in the six-piece lineup, and as they’re quick to show on the Jens Bogren-produced outing, the progression that began on 1992’s The Karelian Isthmus continues unabated. As they mark the return of original bassist Olli-Pekka “Oppu” Laine, with whom they last played on 1999’s Tuonela (discussed here), they embark on some of their most expansive sounds to-date, including not just the standout keyboard work of Santeri Kallio, who joined in 1999, but also flourish in the form of choral and orchestral arrangements and vocal appearances from Anneke van Giersbergen, who guests on the penultimate cut “Amongst Stars,” and longtime lyricist Pekka Kainulainen, who contributes a speech in Finnish to third track “Daughter of Hate.”

That song runs as part of a momentum-building first half of the album that, from the intro to opener “The Bee” through “Message in the Amber,” “Daughter of Hate,” and “The Golden Elk” and “Wrong Direction,” move with experienced poise through the band’s long-established dynamic of folk, death and progressive metals, vocalist Tomi Joutsen (also Hallatar) — who since coming aboard with 2006’s Eclipse (also their label debut on Nuclear Blast) has now been in the band nearly twice as long as his predecessor, Pasi Koskinen — switching easily between guttural growls and dramatic, emotionally driven clean singing.

The clash of the beautiful and the brutal has been at the core of what Amorphis do for over 20 years, since 1996’s groundbreaking third album, Elegy, but whether it’s the chugging riff of “The Bee” meeting with a string arrangement and keyboard launching into the chorus or the later “Grain of Sand” finding Joutsen layering soaring melodies over growls as drummer Jan Rechberger pounds away behind and lead guitarist Esa Holopainen touches on minor-key Easternisms as a chorus backs the bridge to the next onslaught, Amorphis have never quite made the transitions so fluid. Part of that is the melding of melody and extremity as on “Daughter of Hate,” which brings in saxophone around the two-minute mark after a particularly brutal opening, but Bogren, who seems to have been the mastermind behind bringing the choral and orchestral arrangements into the proceedings, can only be considered right for having done do.


Even the band’s also-string-inclusive preceding album, 2015’s Under the Red Cloud, which Bogren also oversaw amid a host of engineers, didn’t push as far as “The Bee” or “Message in the Amber,” the latter touching almost on Blind Guardian-style grandiosity in its second half. That’s not a complaint. Even as later cut “We Accursed” holds to a “rawer” approach with its Finn-folk bounce and swirling keyboard solo over a start-stop riff from Holopainen and fellow founder/rhythm guitarist Tomi Koivusaari, Amorphis seem to be expanding on the ideas of Under the Red Cloud, pushing themselves further in multiple directions and still leaving room for hooks like that of “Wrong Direction” or the memorable finale in “Pyres on the Coast” that seems to bring all sides together and round out with Kallio on a still-somehow-appropriate church organ.

But that is what Amorphis does, and it’s what they’ve always done. Save perhaps between 1994’s Tales from the Thousand Lakes and the aforementioned Elegy, their growth has never come in leaps and bounds — and part of that was personnel change — but it’s been a consistent truism of their work that each outing builds off the accomplishments of the one before it, and refuses to stay in the same place. In the now-seven albums they’ve done since Eclipse, when Joutsen came aboard, they’ve been ever more aware of who they are as a band — that is, there are some things an Amorphis record needs to be an Amorphis record, and they seem to consciously tick those boxes — but never afraid to refine their processes and push themselves in ways they haven’t before. As such, the 10 tracks/57 minutes of Queen of Time are multifaceted and rife with breadth, but the core sonic persona of who Amorphis have become — itself true to the band’s name for its ever-changing shape — has remained true.

They are one of a kind in metal, and whatever subgenre one might want to peg them into, they’ll never quite fit all the way. That’s true of the galloping “Heart of the Giant,” the careening delivery of the title-line in “The Golden Elk,” and the piano line that runs under “Amongst Stars,” as the meticulousness of Amorphis‘ songwriting, the sheer clarity and detail of it, makes them an ever more complex and ever more immersive listening experience. Invariably, with a band who’ve been around so long produced such a catalog, fans have their favorites, so I won’t say Queen of Time is the “best” Amorphis album, because the designation is meaningless. However, it is the farthest stage yet reached of their ongoing progression and it claims its place in their catalog as an utter triumph in its achievement. For established fans or open-minded newcomers, it should not be missed.

Amorphis, “Wrong Direction” official video

Amorphis website

Amorphis on Thee Facebooks

Amorphis at Nuclear Blast website

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