Monday, September 28, 2015

Amorphis - Under the Red Cloud

Let me cut right to the chase, I've been listening to Amorphis' thirteenth full length, Under the Red Cloud, non stop since I got my grubby little paws on it. I've listened to it at work a lot, I've listened to it with headphones on, etc. I know this album quite well and the reason that it's resonated so well with me from my first listen is that it is, simply put, the epitome of the perfect album. Yeah, I know that I'm quite liberal with giving scores that are perfect but for good reason...and this album is no exception. This is a band of amazing musicians and songwriters creating an album that just fits together in perfect harmony from the opening note to the closing.

This album is the culmination of everything that this band has done since the arrival of front man Tomi Joutsen. His growls are deep and harsh while his flawless baritone cleans have become the signature for this band. But a front man alone can not carry an entire band and it's the songs that this amazing front man gets to sing and how he uses his voice to create the atmosphere for the songs is what sets this band apart from the rest. These songs are just flawless and flow from one to another making this an album that must be listened to in full to properly feel the atmosphere. From the opening piano notes of the title track you know that this is a special album. As the song flows to some acoustic guitars with a clean solo mixed in over the piano the song picks up momentum leading to opening riffs where the melody is reminiscent of folk melodies. The majority of this song is sung in Joutsen's amazing cleans with a chorus that is just infectious. This will not be the only time I mention the choruses on this album because every song has these amazing choruses.

My favorite song on this album is "Bad Blood." It begins with some cool sounding keys playing a sort of folk melody leading to this simple but really cool main riff. Joutsen shows his growling skills here but the fucking chorus just gives me chills. His cleans are so full of emotion and feeling you can't help but feel this music while listening. There's a cool bridge in the song that has a single note lead melody over Joutsen's cleans that is absolutely beautiful. This is goosebump shit here. "Death of a King" is another one of these amazing songs that infuse folk elements into it by both modern means such as keys and traditional means such as a guest appearance by Chigrel Glanzmann of Eluveitie. The verse is growled over the folk elements leading to a nice bridge that flows to another one of those choruses full of emotion and atmosphere. The solo on this is very melodic and it helps the flow of the song instead of being just a solo. Just another example of creating a song where all the pieces fit perfectly.

The lyrical content on a good bit of this album is quite spiritual with a couple of references to "the skull of a bear" in a spiritual or something of an ancient religious nature. The opener and title track mentions this as well as "The Skull." "Sacrifice" is another that has a deeper spiritual feeling, and even being probably the most rock oriented song on this album it still reflects the sheer brilliance of this album with it's deep spiritual meaning and amazing musicianship. "Tree of Ages" also has a spiritual feel to it with more of the flutes and traditional folk melodies but still having some serious riffs in there. This is another song that has that infectious chorus and amazing solo. "White Night" is the perfect ending to an absolutely brilliant album. It begins melodic but with an epic feeling to it. Soft female vocals begin the verse with Joutsen's growls coming in. Once again, the chorus is the star of the show here. This song just feels like it should end this album and I'm not sure why I get that feeling and I'm sure that was the artists intention.

I have the digipak version which has two bonus songs, "Come The Spring" and the amazing "Winter's Sleep." The latter is a monster of a song that shows all of the elements of this amazing band. In it's 25 year existence this band really hasn't released anything that could be considered a bad album. However, they seem to have finally found a sound that truly compliments this truly talented band. Everything they've ever done has led up to this album. I'm even going to go out on a limb here and say that could easily be album of the year. This album is a musical journey where you feel the music instead of just listening...and that is why this is the perfect album.


Iron Void - Doomsday

The modern doom movement has been flourishing for a few years now and has given us some truly great bands that pay homage to classic doom. Enter Iron Void from the UK. They actually date back to 1998 but it has just been recently that the band has been given the chance to release their music to the masses. 2014's self titled full length debut was a great slab of classic doom and they seemed to waste no time in creating a follow up album set to be released on October 5 titled Doomsday. The band so graciously gave me a sneak peak into this album for a review and I am glad they did because this solidifies them as a band that will leave it's mark on doom metal.

The opening and title track kicks things off epic style with seven and a half of slow pounding doom. Heavy riffs are what you find here along with vocals and a melody that is rather eerie feeling. The tempo picks up a little for a some nice 70s style soloing in the middle and a riff that has a really cool groove to it. "Path to Self Destruction" is an even stronger song that begins with some clean guitars that sound like something from an early Rush tune to this monster riff and eerie melody. This song could wind up being a top doom song for me. The solo is another one of those fuzzy 70s style solos that fits this music well. "The Devil's Daughter" comes right in after and just slays from beginning to end. Once again it starts off with some cool clean guitars before going into this infectious riff that brings to mind early Pentagram. This song has elements of proto-metal as well as traditional doom. This band is not afraid to show where it's roots lie.

To keep things interesting, this band does not confine itself to just slow epic doom. Songs like "The Gates of Hell" and "The Answer Unknown" actually have more in common with Venom or Motorhead than Cathedral but it still doom in it's atmosphere. Both are rather energetic numbers for doom songs but the riffs are heavy as fuck and the solos could have been done by Fast Eddie Clark 35 years ago. Normally something like that would not work but for some reason that radical shift in sound for a couple of songs gave this album some depth. I thought it worked well. "Colesseum" gets right back into the doom with it's heavy as fuck doom riffs and overall eerie atmosphere that dominates this album. The lead riffing is very melodic giving the song another element. This song could wind up being considered classic doom 20 years from now.

The album closes epic doom style with a seven and a half minute opus that just screams epic doom. As with a lot of this album, the different elements that make this band show, from the 70s proto-metal riffs and solos to the all out heavy as fuck epic doom riffing. This band's previous album made me take notice but this album has made me a fan. Putting two strong albums out with just over a year between releases shows that this band is on a mission. Anyone who loves classic doom or traditional metal should take notice of this band. I expect bigger things to come.