Amorphis - _Skyforger_
(Nuclear Blast, 2009)
by: Kostas Sarampalis (
I was not too unhappy when long standing singer of Finnish group Amorphis Pasi Koskinen announced he was leaving the band. Instrumental as he was in helping Amorphis transcend their first phase, I always blamed him for the likes of _Far From the Sun_, as well as for other, less obvious shifts in the band's music that somehow did not appeal to me. Starting with _Eclipse_, replacement singer Tomi Joutsen gave Amorphis a new breath of life and three albums in, they seem to be going stronger than ever._Skyforger_ is great. It is all that Amorphis have done in the past, yet at the same time a very mature and individual effort. More than anything, it is a lot of fun to listen to (and live, it is even better). Though Amorphis will never again return to their _Tales From the Thousand Lakes_ era (and why should they?), with _Skyforger_ they somehow emanate the energy and feeling that made that album a fan favourite. Listen to "Sky Is Mine" and I dare you not to get excited and start fist-waving, air drumming and the like. Joutsen's voice matches Amorphis style well. Though his range is not that great, he has a wonderfully emotive voice, and he can also growl and scream to his heart content and switch between the two styles effortlessly. Everything seems to just flow and work in harmony in this album. Koivusaari's heavy licks compliment Holopainen's melodic finger work, Kallio's keys are gracious and never in the way and in general the band seems to have found a happy equilibrium that just works.There is quite a variety of moods in the eleven songs that make the album (including the bonus "Godlike Machine" in the digipack version), with especially the first four being very catchy and uplifting, after which the album turns a bit more introspective and atmospheric, only to finish with the very death metal like "Godlike Machine". Though I would have preferred a less mellow second half, the song writing and strength of the material is on par with Amorphis' skill and experience. It would have been great if they had infused more raw power in some of the songs and toned down the prog elements, though. Only because some of the latter songs tend to sound a bit samey, which is what loses _Skyforger_ one point. Regardless, I am only too happy to see this band rising high again. I have had a very soft spot for them, since _Tales..._ was the first 'death' album I fell in love with and opened the door to an astonishing amount of good music for my ears.As a closing comment, I would like to add that I am writing this review a day after I saw them live in London, and I can happily say that the new material plays very well in a live environment -- and that Amorphis are kick-ass live. There.
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