Amorphis: The Beginning of Times

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Amorphis: The Beginning of Times
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Amorphis: The Beginning of Times
Melodic Death Metal, Hard Rock
Nuclear Blast Records
June 7th, 2011
Release length: 54:44
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Riding off the immense success of their previous full-length effort Skyforger, Amorphis return from the studio to bring us their follow-up release The Beginning of Times. The heavily anticipated release marks the tenth full-length studio effort from Finland Metal legends, and celebrates Amorphis having been a group for over twenty years, originally forming back in 1990. But, the main question is whether or not the band can capitalize off the success of their last album while not doing a carbon copy of the previous album like so many acts who reach a level of success as this band has. And, with The Beginning of Times, Amorphis weave a whole new tale, while not forgetting exactly what threw them into the spotlight all across the globe.

The Beginning of Times opens with a set of piano chords introducing a beautiful folk-like setting to the group’s Melodic Death and Modern Rock signature sound, and with those, the album seems to be set in stone as far as the atmosphere goes. However, this track quickly dismisses the last release, and creates a whole new atmosphere. This song, for the most part, does seem to go on the more traditional mid-tempo pace from the group, but the music itself is far more energetic, and despite the heavy use of gutterals through the track and some of the more menacing guitar work that does creep up, the song is more of an upbeat sounding release then a darker, somewhat melancholic beauty like the previous effort was. It’s as if the band took us deep into a forest for Skyforger, and with this release slowly brings us out, showing us the light as it is cast through the trees set in place by a band who has reached success, and shows pride in their work to keep it that way, and not out of egotism or greed. But, this track is one of the more somber recordings of the lot, as other tracks are definitely more upbeat and energetic by comparison, while still retaining that slight folk feel to them that the band has been known for.

But, while the songs are more upbeat, that doesn’t mean that they are meant to be fun. In fact, aside a few songs, it’s quite the opposite here. Much of The Beginning of Times has a pretty strong beauty to it that is created through the more Modern Rock inputs against the signature Folk influences, but the band seems to also be looking to their roots for more inspiration, and are becoming a little more adventurous. Many of these tracks have a strong aggression that one might expect from a more straight-forward Death Metal approach, and given their recent re-recordings of their early Death Metal songs on a recent compilation, this actually doesn’t seem too far fetched and makes for one fantastic listen. “Battle for Light” really has a large amount of gutturals utilized through the song, but “My Enemy” completely dwarfs that by having entire passages consist of these deep gutturals as well as introduces some saxophone in the background at key times. This vocal approach, coupled with the more soothing clean singing at times, primarily for the chorus, while the music just feels heavy and more aggressive. Of course, this isn’t the only approach available on the release, though it is how the band starts off The Beginning of Times, a clever name to perhaps bring this Death Metal input to the listener’s attention, but still has some of the more darker and beautifully artistic type of songs that are far from aggressive, such as “You I Need”. There’s also “Three Words” which, of all the songs, feels a little more like a traditional Modern Rock song then anything, and at times has a decent beauty vibe to it, and a has some very random aggressive passages with gutturals. The song itself isn’t the most outstanding track on the release, but because of it’s simpler composition and catchier music, it becomes more of an accessable track for all walks of life, despite their taste in Metal or Rock.

One of the most ear-catching elements of this recording is the elements int he music that can instantly turn a song into a very adventurous Space Rock experience for short periods of time. This seems to show up right away in the earlier tracks, though it’s not as prominant as towards the end of “Reformation”. The end of the song essentially leads into what seems like a piano solo, but while they seem to pick up, out of nowhere comes the Space Rock effects that change the whole atmosphere of the song and really seem to take center stage this time around. It becomes an interesting additional that does add a little extra kick to the music. But for as interesting as they can be to the music, that’s not the only time the music seems to change pace. As mentioned, the track “My Enemy” has a little bit of saxophone in it, appearing a few times just for very brief amounts of time that, if not paying attention, can very well pass over the listener. On top of that you have the song “Soothsayer”, which is another more aggressive track, but the ending completely departs from that vibe and seems to close things out as a duet with a performance in the vocals, as well as the music, like one might expect from some Broadway musical. It becomes interesting and shows some innovation to the sound, but also just makes the song sound a little more intriguing, as if the song was always meant to go that way, though it did not start out that way. “Crack in a Stone” also has that Space Rock feel to it from the keyboards, but at the same time the song has a strong focus at using the keyboards to set up more of a Psychadelic Rock setting working in the background of the song, all working together to make a jaw-droppingly stunning track.

Overall, there’s nothing really wrong with the album. The production feels modern and rich, and it captures this more modern approach to Melodic Death Metal and Rock. As a whole, the album feels a lot more aggressive, and is the band has looked to their history to create a unique approach to the sound that made Amorphis a recently reinvigorated household name in the Metal scene, seperating itself from the previous two releases issued with a more upbeat sound. The only problem is that, in the effort to do this, the album kind of feels cluttered. The basic Melodic Death Metal meets Modern Rock sound is there, the signature Folk and beauty vibe to the songs are present as well, but at the same time, as outlined above, many tracks seem to take the release into various directions. While they aren’t bad, it can just feel a bit too much when in the background of the more aggressive music that comes to the forefront, and for that it winds up losing a little bite from becoming a bit too over-the-top. Songs like “Battle for Light” and “Three Words” do a lot less with the music as far as adventuring and exploration goes, and these are the instant hits on the album, whereas the other songs that seem to do more in the background feel a little too far out there at times to really create a concrete presence that doesn’t feel strickly limited to eventually seems like gimmicky additional background elements. Even “Beginning of Time” is a good step away from the over-the-top sound Amorphis bring with them to this release, but it too also includes some of that Space Rock sound that randomly appears, though only for a solo like some of the other tracks.

The Beginning of Times is a good album, and it’s clear Amorphis is looking to expand on the sound that has defined their more recent works. But, by doing that, they have also alienated some of what made their previous efforts so great. This new aggressive sound with a strong Death Metal is great, but it should have remained there. While additional elements from such styles as Psychadelic Rock, Space Rock, even what feels like an entry into an actual musical with “Soothsayer” all sound great at first, and really shine through, but in the end feels like Amorphis is trying too hard to make this release unique, and with repeat listens these additional kicks end up sounding more like gimmicks to ensure this album doesn’t sound like Skyforger or Silent Waters. It’s another stunning work by Amorphis, but sadly pushes the envelope just a bit too far.

01. Battle for Light – 5:35
02. Mermaid – 4:24
03. My Enemy – 3:25
04. You I Need – 4:23
05. Song of the Sage – 5:27
06. Three Words – 3:56
07. Reformation – 4:34
08. Soothsayer – 4:09
09. On a Stranded Shore – 4:13
10. Escape – 3:52
11. Crack in a Stone – 4:56
12. Beginning of Time – 5:51
Overall Score: 9/10


Digital review copy of this release provided by Nuclear Blast Records.