Established bands’ latter-day musical output can go one of several ways, with a continued evolution or resolutely sticking to a formula being the most common routes. Either is fine, providing the results are worthwhile. From the evidence of their last few records, Amorphis seem happy to follow the second path, having found a unique niche with their fusion of styles. 2018’s Queen Of Time certainly threw more caution to the wind with its implementation of sax and ever-more obscure folk melodies, but ultimately it was another triumph of familiarity and excellent songcraft.
Though album 14 is undoubtedly progressively minded, its increased focus on recognisable structures and unashamedly enticing hooks results in a host of anthems that the Finns’ diehard admirers will take enormous delight in. In fact, the intriguing amalgamation of sweeping melodeath, traditional Scandinavian instruments and prog rock tropes has rarely sounded as assured as on Halo. Regal leads and Hammond organ melt away into the gorgeous stripped-back choruses of Northwards, A New Land and the title track, while Windmane’s determined stomp reaches its zenith with battling twin solos on both string and keys.
Tomi Joutsen may not have a voice sent from Olympus on his own, but such is the majesty of The Moon’s ethereal evolution and serene backing vocals that he sounds nothing less than imperious. Even from the nefarious stabs of Seven Roads Come Together spring a sense of grandiosity and an earworm that stealthily takes hold. The Eastern refrains of War and On The Dark Waters are the scenes of the most obvious experimentation, with neither losing the crucial criteria of providing an instantaneous rush. Many have argued that veteran bands continuing often tarnishes their impeccable legacy, but with Amorphis and their ilk continuing to deliver the goods, there’ll always be an iron-clad defence.
Halo is out February 11 via Atomic Fire