Talk about second youth. The advent of Tomi Joutsen has brought a revitalization like none other to my favourite Finnish outfit Amorphis.
'Eclipse', 'Silent Water', 'Skyforger' and 'The Beginning of Times' were all excellent releases nailed with Joutsen, but with 'Circle', the sympathetic northerners have topped them all. The album is not only diverse and beautiful as we're accustomed to with Amorphis, it's harder in instances than we're used to. It's clear from the very first song that it's as if a cloak of cautiousness has been shed by Joutsen and he has taken a step further into the Finnish darkness with more brutal vocals than ever alongside his clear vocals. Shades of Gray simply takes no prisoners when it comes to death metal growls and big, mid-tempo riffing with a folk touch and double bass drum massacres.
Mission is one of the typical ballady, twin harmony pieces Amorphis are experts at, whereas The Wanderer is a downright epic, heavy folk rock song with clean vocals.
Narrowpath begins with a nice whistle and turns into a brilliant folk metal riff fest. One of the strongest songs of the album. After Narrowpath comes one of the heaviest pieces of the album; the intro to Hopeless Days is hammer strong and majestic, only to be replaced by a mild, deceiving piece which lures you into thinking for a minute that there is piece and no danger.
Just as deceiving is Nightbird's Song. A soft and gentle intro, then a black metal like fury by Joutsen, and then again the typical Amorphis melodic approach, even a frigging flute. Schizophrenic, unexpected, great.
Into the Abyss is more down the alley we're used to, but less great. A staccato rocker with piano and clean vocal, a beautiful chorus, lots of atmosphere, very much something we've learned to love from Amorphis. Enchanted by the Moon brings back the double bass drumming and a riff that is pure magic - oh, and Joutsen's growling again, by the way. This song brings together a lot of the things that are Amorphis - old and new. Greatness.
The slow to mid-tempo epic rock tune A New Day concludes 'Circle'. Joutsen sings slightly differently on this one than he usually does. Still a clean vocal, but differently. It's good to hear that the man has several strings to play on vocally - there is no doubt at this point in time that he in truth has become a joker for Amorphis and has helped boost their creative platform. More power to the Finns.
'Circle' is going to be one of the grandest metal albums of 2013, I can feel it in my old bones. A must-buy.