AMORPHIS – Skyforger (2009)

Amorphis - Skyforger Like many underground metal bands, Amorphis have changed career paths on more than one occasion. Beginning as a death metal act in the early 1990’s, the band soon expanded into a more proglike ensemble with 1996’s Elegy, an album that was as much Camel as it was Gothenburg death metal, and an album that was peppered with elements of Finnish heritage, be it through the invocation of the epic poetry like the Kalevala and the Kanteletar, or through the use of folk melodies and instrumentation. The band continued down this road for many years, with varying degrees of success (their crowning work, 1999’s Tuonela, was a regal union of of doom metal and progressive rock, while later albums like Far From The Sun and Eclipse fell short), before returning to their death metal roots in Silent Waters in 2007.

There. Now that you’ve gotten a Brief History of Amorphis, I can move on to Skyforger. So, while it may not top Tuonela as their magnum opus, Skyforger is easily the most interesting thing the band have done in many years, and it’s also the most well-rounded album they’ve done since Elegy; the death metal and prog are kept in check here with stirring folk melodies and the occasional neo-classical passages (listen to the middle portion of Sampo, the introduction of From The Heaven of My Heart or the entirety of My Sun to get an idea of the balance that they’ve kept here). None of this is new ground for the band, but they certainly haven’t tilled it in years, and they’ve never sounded better doing it. It’s encouraging to see the band release an album of this caliber at this stage of their career (for some perspective, does anyone remember what fellow Finns Sentenced turned into before they limped offstage with The Funeral Album? Ugh).

Between Skyforger and Silent Waters, I’d say that Amorphis are easily in the midst of what will hopefully be a long second wind. I admit that I had written the band off after Eclipse, but I’ll also admit that I was wrong to do so. It’s never too late for a truly great band to turn things around, be it from a legendary ensemble like Iron Maiden (Brave New World, then Dance of Death) or from a smaller but nonetheless still important group like Amorphis. Skyforger, more than anything else, is the sound of a band moving forward again. And I can’t wait to follow them.

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