Aye! Guilty! The first listen of Queen of Time – Amorphis‘ 2018 concoction – originated from a relatively lo-fi streaming platform. And – unsurprisingly – this first glimpse left yours truly wondering where Amorphis was headed these days. Terrible visions of Amaranthe-esque disasters, misguided Power Metal et al. But the Finns usually have been a stable brand. At least until now. So, confusion reigned for a while at the RockmusicRaider offices.
Just think back to the outstanding ’96 album Elegy or the 2015 piece Under The Red Cloud, perhaps with the exception of Circle that earned fewer brownie points. In this sense, the puzzle did not fit at all. The supreme powers that be @ RMR thus decreed a forced waiting time until such time that a better copy would become available. And – lo and behold – the moment hi-fi amps started to flow from the music machine, things started to change.
Queen of Time steps right into the groove with The Bee. The Amaranthe-esque fears evaporated quickly once this first song started, and which – incidentally – fetched a straight 10/10 on the individual track rating. Amorphis pulled out all the stops on this new record. A progressively flavored, folksy, melodically symphonic piece of metal. So, what does that mean in terms of style? Avantgarde Gothic Metal? Well, whatever. Fact is, Amorphis had the courage to step all over boundaries and break stuff. And they still managed to keep their own trademark sound in the process. Lovely.
To get this done, the band went far abroad and recruited a large number of guest contributors, almost longer than Trump’s list of lies. Almost. And they got talent: Jens Bogren of Fascination Street Studios as some sort of Jack-In-All-Trades. Noa Gruman of the Progressive Metal band Scardust. You know the folks that made it to #1 on our 2017 Top 10. Multi-talented girl that she is, Amorphis tasked her with the choir – and some vocals on Queen of Time. Then I found Chrigel Glanzmann (Eluveitie) for his fluting power.
Ostura also contributed to this record, another Progressive Metal band prominently featuring on this blog. Lastly, Anneke van Giersbergen (Vuur, The Gentle Storm) offered her considerable talents as a guest vocalist on Amongst Stars. This is top talent right there, and we only covered parts of that mighty list.
And indeed, whilst Queen of Time sports all the trappings of a typical Amorphis record, the variations run deep. The band took their past work before them, dismantled it, and somewhat started anew. As a result, you find the record trespassing on folk terrain much more than its predecessors ever did. And a distinct and delicious progressive undercurrent installed itself on top of it all. I’d also like to point out the savvy arrangement and song-writing of these tracks that are not often seen this side of metal. Besides, whatever record has Fascination Street Studios written all over it deserves – at least – a second look.
We’ll even forgive them the saxophone madness on Daughter of Hate, which use I always find a bit “osé”, as we say in French. Or that the record loses steam somehow in the midsection. Like the proverbial six-pack that gets lost once you get of age.
Yet, Queen of Time gorges with cool tracks, and in truth, I did not find any filler on Amorphis‘ newest record. The aforementioned opening track The Bee, for instance, sells itself with a surprising crunch and savvy switch between electronics and harsh growls. The hot and cold, from sturdy metal to Noa’s choir, to funky vocals on Message in the Amber will surely retain your attention, no questions asked.
The crown jewels really light up this piece of work towards the end. Yep, they make you listen to the Full Monty and then save the day with the real thing. There’s the aforementioned Amongst Stars for instance – the best track on Queen of Time. Anneke van Giersbergen puts in her newest metal contribution. This after last appearing in a heavier metal setting in Moonspell’s 2008 epic Night Eternal. And don’t we just love her being back on rougher terrain. Not because of the magical times with The Gathering, but because she is a truly, truly gifted vocalist. And this shows in the vibrancy of this track, complete with a really neat guitar solo. She kinda outpaces her hosts, sorry Amorphis.
Pyres on the Coast did not strike me as too cool at first. But then this damned great arrangement becomes audible and THIS makes this track one of the best on this album. Again, this hot and cold, from rough, growly metal to expertly arranged space-time electronics made me go for seconds.
In the end, Amorphis really did it. They upped the ante and blew Under The Red Cloud out of the water. The band again showed supreme mastery of their trade, going new places. And this without losing the distinct sound and beat that has become their trademark. So – gosh – here you have yet another review gushing about the high-quality delights Queen of Time offers. And you know what? They are right. This is truly a great record.