Amorphis – Skyforger (2009) – Review

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RMR just covered Amorphis‘ 2022 piece Halo. And contrary to a few croaks of imminent defeat out there, the band still shines as strongly as it did some 13 years earlier. They must be doing something right in this outfit. Or – perhaps – it is the Finnish fresh air, the pristine water, and frequent trips to the sauna. This band churns out one great record after the other. Consistently, reliably, and with minute attention to detail and quality.

So, as we are on a roll with this band, the time has finally come to reach way into the past and have a go at Skyforger of 2009. High time!

Filigreed and ornamental. That is the term that hit me right from the start of the record. This is some neatly chiseled production that takes off with a waterfall of excellent keys straight on Sampo. And that’s interesting. On their newest record, RMR himself just opined that the choice of the studio had a major effect. Yet, and whilst this certainly plays an important role, methinks that the band’s astute attention to detail and quality accounts for much more than ‘only’ production.

It also seems that at Amorphis HQ, things are cruising along just fine. Back in 2009, the band already sported pretty much today’s lineup. With the exception of Niclas Etelävuori on bass who left the band in – 2017. So, there seems to be unity and – indeed – alignment when it comes to songwriting and approach. It does help of course that the band finds its fodder for themes and songs in the Kalevala, a 19th-century composition of Karelian and Finnish oral folklore. And Skyforger here also drinks deeply from this particular well.

The record also shows vocalist Tomi Joutsen in full form in a setting that – same as the aforementioned Halo – already favored clean vocals as opposed to growls. Interestingly, for some four albums, this record included, Marko Hietala – late of Nightwish – who acted as producer and provided backing vocals. And this may explain why Joutsen‘s growls and clears come across as homogenous and buffed to a shine.

Skyforger boasts a tasty mix of Melodic Death Metal, Gothic, and – indeed – some hefty hints towards Progressive Metal. Now, for those who look for an early Steven Wilson in disguise, come again. If anything, the weight of prog shows itself in the midst of the ever-changing song structures. And the aforementioned Sampo indeed contains the snazziest example of Amorphis‘ prog power.

However, the arrangement and flow of the piece remain pretty flawless throughout the record. Santeri Kallio‘s1) keys dazzled us more than once. Starting with the intro, keyboards prove to be that ‘fil-rouge’ throughout the record. But the RMR folks here were truly blown away by this guitar / key solo at the end of From The Earth I Rose. That said, the guitars shine brightly yet again. Esa Holopainen / Tomi Koivusaari already on a rampage years ago. Boy, I could get used to that spiffy string fest that consistently roars out of our loudspeakers whenever we load one of Amorphis’ numerous records.

Now, interestingly, Skyforger ain’t all that perfect, the way some critics purported it to be. And of course, the view is always 20/20 in hindsight, we get that. The first three tracks are extremely strong with Sampo and From The Heaven Of My Heart taking the lead. But after that, you’ll get a pretty weak mid-section where things should be fat and heavy.2) Majestic Beast is probably the weakest track of the pack. Fortunately, things lighten up after that, and as of Skyforger – the title track – we’re seriously back in business.

Ultimately, it’s all in the perception. In a way, Skyforger sounds like a record of a band still in search of their perfect sound. This may seem like a strange statement for a band with some eight albums under their belt already. But don’t forget that this is Joutsen‘s third piece only, so it (kinda) makes sense. Much of the excellence was already present, yet there are a few stumbles and serious scratches along the way. In a way, Amorphis did choose a fitting name for their record back in 2009. An album with a sound still on the forge, metal in the making in a sense.

However, Skyforger proved nonetheless to be an extremely strong record, incidentally one of the best they produced ever since. Oh, and if you look for the best bang for the buck, try to listen to the album in one giant session. That’s when it will deploy its powerful flavors best it can.

Now, have at it. That’s one juicy slab of metal you shouldn’t miss.

Record Rating: 8/10 | LabelNuclear Blast | Web: Official Band Site
Release Date: 27 May 2009


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