As I was preparing to review this album, something occurred to me; In nearly ten years of THKD I’ve never once written about Amorphis (I have no idea why). It also occurred to me that many readers will probably be surprised to find out that I unabashedly love this band, given that their music is pretty much the antithesis of so much of the other metal I love; it’s proggy, folky, pristinely produced and at times poppy as all hell, yet somehow Amorphis makes all these elements that I’m not always such a big fan of (at least not when it comes to metal) palatable, nay downright tasty.
But how do they do it? The answer is twofold: craftsmanship and originality. Amorphis take the best parts of death metal, power metal, folk, progressive rock and straight-up hard rock and fuse them together in a manner that doesn’t sound like anything else out there. Not only that, but their songwriting approach is so skillfully layered that their albums are total environments unto themselves, bringing you into the band’s world of myths and legends. Nowhere is this more evident than on Queen of Time, which not only continues to hone and sharpen the unique blend of styles that the band has become known for ever since bringing vocalist Tomi Joutsen on board for 2006’s mighty Eclipse, but also manages to add even more zesty flavors to this highly engaging musical mixture.
Indeed, Queen of Time sees the band adding choral and orchestral sounds to their arsenal, as well as putting an increased emphasis on synths, making it arguably the most expansive and grandiose album in their catalog. But for all that has changed, many aspects of Amorphis’ approach remain delightfully the same. The band still bases their lyrical content on the Kalevala and their not-so-secret weapon is still the aforementioned Joutsen, aka the modern day bard. This man has one of the best and most versatile voices in metal, breathing new life into these ancient tales of Finland with both crystal clear, soaring clean vocals and deep thunderous growls that many a death metal vocalist would kill for.
Of course, the musicians backing up Joutsen’s immense voice are no slouches either; musically speaking, every note on Queen of Time is played to utter perfection. This is no doubt due at least in part to the return of bassist Olli-Pekka Laine, which serves to restore the musical core of Amorphis to its original lineup. The synergy between the musicians is palpable and the result is great performance after great performance being poured into some of the most dynamic and multifarious music the band has ever written; songs such as “The Bee” “The Golden Elk” and “Amongst Stars” are essentially instant classics. The fact that Amorphis is still in peak playing and songwriting form this deep into their career is nothing short of astounding.
Queen of Time is yet another exercise in excellence from a band that can seemingly do no wrong. In fact, I’d argue that it’s one of best of the Joutsen era, right up there with Eclipse, Skyforger and Under the Red Cloud. It’s the culmination of everything they’ve been working towards over the last six albums, proving once and for all that nearly three decades in, Amorphis is still one of the most captivating bands in all of metal.