Album review: AMORPHIS – Circle

Nuclear Blast – Out Now.

When Pasi Koskinen left Progressive/Melodic/Folk metallers Amorphis back in 2004, after nine years of dedicated service, many of the band’s loyal fans, myself included, were left fearing the worst concerning the band’s future. The addition of Tomi Joutsen (Sinisthra), however, seems to have really invigorated the Finnish band, as suggested by the release of albums of immense quality, such as 2009’s “Skyforger” and 2011’s “The Beginning Of Times”, both of which  reached the top position in the band’s native charts.

Now, with Hypocrisy frontman Peter Tagtgren handling production duties, the band has produced yet another top quality studio release – their eleventh in line, entitled “Circles”.

Keyboards have always been an integral part of the band’s style and sound, and even though they are once again responsible for some of the catchiest and moodiest of themes/melodies, “Circle” is the first Amorphis album in a long time where guitars were given a prominent position, something that will certainly please fans of the band’s earliest material.

Tomi Joutsen, whose unique ability to always provide each Amorphis composition with the right level of vocal intensity, has once again performed miracles here. Each and every of these nine compositions contains at least one highly addictive and pretty memorable melody, whether it is a heavy growl or a sing-along refrain, to the point that it will take only a couple of spins before you realise how well acquainted you are with the album and this bond will only grow stronger.

“Shades Of Grey” is a successfully placed opening track and good at showcasing the band’s duality of character: its brutal vocals and mid tempo heavy riffs offer an impressive contrast to its clean vocal, highly melodic refrain. Santeri Kallio’s opening piano melody in the four and a half minute “Mission” blends very well with Joutsen’s emotional refrain, a process that is repeated in the follow up “The Wanderer”, while “Narrowpath”, with its clear Thin Lizzy melodic references, is perhaps the folkiest of all.

Filled with heavy riffs and dark/atmospheric key melodies à la My Dying Bride, but also heavily reliant on heartfelt clean vocal lines, “Hopeless Days” is by far the best composition of the album, while “Nightbird’s Song” is more straight forward but also more aggressive in comparison. “Into The Abyss” is another true highlight with keyboards reminding us of the band’s past glories (see “Am Universum) while the duet “Enchanted By The Moon” / “A New Day” close the album with more simple, but highly addictive/memorable tunes.

Through sheer talent and hard work, Amorphis have managed to reach such a moment in their career where they are still considered relevant to fans of extreme Metal, whilst at the same time, their appeal amongst fans of Classic Rock & Prog music increases steadily but surely.

It is perhaps this unique position that has provided the Finnish sextet with the passion and inspiration needed to record an album of the quality of “Circle” – an album that you simply have to add to your music collection as soon as possible!

John Stefanis

Rating: ****1/2 (4.5/5.0)


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