Amorphis // Circle
Rating: 3.0/5.0 — Going in circles?
Label: Nuclear Blast [EU] [US]
Websites: amorphis.net  |  myspace.com/amorphis
Release Dates: EU: 2013.04.19  |  NA: 04.30.2013

amorphis-circle-coverIf Amorphis fanboyism was an infectious disease, the AMG offices would surely be quarantined due to the terminal cases both AMG and myself suffer from. I’ve always regarded their Tales From the Thousand Lakes as the greatest melo-death album of all time, and few bands can boast a run of releases as consistently brilliant as Eclipse through Skyforger. The Beginning of Times had some great songs, but was overlong, a bit bloated and dragged badly on the back-end. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in expecting a big bounce back from the Finnish titans, and it was with typically high expectations that I welcomed the Circle promo when it finally arrived. Amorphis certainly took a step back from the oversized approach on Beginning, and Circle is a short, concise, nine song outing with fairly direct writing. There are a few great moments, a slightly more gothy vibe and it’s an enjoyable spin, but again it seems something is amiss in the realm of Sampo. There’s too much filler (though of a higher caliber than last time) and the material lacks that high level punch and addictive quality heard on albums like Silent Waters and Skyforger. While it’s still worth hearing and will appeal to  most fans to a greater or lesser extent, it isn’t anywhere near as good as the early output of the Tomi Joutsen era and that sends Steel Druhm into a sad spiral.

The highlight of Circle comes at the beginning with “Shades of Grey.” This is classic Amorphis through and through and would have fit right in on Silent Water. Tomi flashes his impressive death roar where appropriate and sings the chorus with emotional conviction. The riffing is lively and the writing is crisp and very accessible. They maintain a high level through songs like “Mission” and “The Wanderer,” which has a very big To Die For influence in the writing and especially the chorus (this influence surfaces later in “New Day” as well). “Narrow Path” takes a more folky and festive route which reminds of some of the Skyforger material and so far everything is fine and dandy.

Unfortunately, the album bogs down at the mid-point, with neither “Hopeless Days” or “Nightbird’s Song” really impressing, thoughamorphis2013 the latter is convincingly heavy and incorporates black metal influences nicely. Things improve with “Into the Abyss,” which is another textbook example of why Amorphis is so damn good. Everything about the song pops, the chorus is an instant win and Tomi provides a powerful performance. Sadly, things end on a less than stellar note with “Enchanted by the Moon,” which is a bit lackluster and “New Day,” which is rather forgettable and flat.

While only “New Day” can be called a poor song, four out of nine tracks fall short of vintage Amorphis, despite interesting moments within each. The more troubling issue is the album’s lack of overall staying power. With platters like Silent Waters and Skyforger, I simply could not spin them enough and they dominated my playlists month after month. Even Beginning held me in its sway for a good while, though I usually only listened to the first three-fourths of the album. Though Circle is mostly enjoyable, at no time did I feel that compulsive need to play it over and over. After a week of moderate playing, I was pretty much done and didn’t return to it until I had to review it. I hesitate to say the writing feels stale at times, but it does. I hesitate even more to compare this to the works of inferior bands like Amaranthe, but in the same way you might burn out on their poppy, bubble gum metal choruses after a week of play, so did I lose interest in much of Circle, though this is obviously much better (so hold off on the hate mail and death threats, you internet warlords).

Amorphis 2013 Photo By Terhi YlimäinenPerformance-wise, everyone sounds tight and together. Tomi continues to evolve and improve as a vocalist and he nails both the death vox and the melodic cleans. His delivery is quite poignant and emotional when called for and even his forays into blackened croaks during “Nightbird ‘s Song” are convincing and savage. The riffs from Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari are generally infectious, lively and immediate and though there’s a nod to a more gothic style at times, their riffing style is largely unchanged. The shortcomings are all a matter of writing and maybe this should have been a more crisp seven song affair (I know, I know, then you would be pissed you only got seven measly songs).

Amorphis is a band I hold in the highest regard, so it galls me to see them releasing back-to-back platters that fall short of past brilliance. They maintain a unique style and sound and Circle has some solid moments, but the “Meh” factor cannot be dismissed this time. I’m fervently hoping they re-circle the wagons and give us something better next time, but I suppose this will do for now.

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  • I am disappoint. I agree with your diagnosis, but not with your explanation. I think this record lags on the front end and gets better as it goes on. The songs in the middle and towards the end are stronger as a whole. But still, the result is the same. Not as good as it should be.

    • sathriel

      guess out of you two one could make one happy Amorphis fanboy, eh? :P

      • That’s kinda funny.

        • sathriel

          Interesting is the fact that though you both agree that the album has weak moments you disagree on where those moments appear. Need to give this one a listen and check which one of you is right.

    • From the few tracks available on youtube, I can say I agree with you. That said, this album is still same-old, simple, poppy, sing-along, duple-time, swaying Amorphis with boring instrumentation (no particularly good ideas and technically on the level of something like Nickleback).
      That’s why I am not interested in Amorphis after Elegy. They haven’t come up with anything new or interesting after that, IMHO. Hardly any song impresses or surprises me.

      PS.
      I actually dig Enchanted by the Moon.

      • Nickleback??? Those are fighting words.

        • itsmydamnation

          amorphis are an odd one, its like they get one idea create one awesome lick and that is the basis for the entire song, from that point of view it does get boring. That said you could create the mother of all medleys

          • Tanuki

            Totally agree with that assessment.

      • Clean vocals and catchy choruses do not a Nickleback make, and that comparison shows a certain level of ignorance that make me want to smack you in the face with Skyforger over and over.

  • I haven’t heard this yet, but I’ve been waiting a LONG time for new Amorphis. I always go in expecting something amazing and know I’ll eventually hold it close to my heart like each Amorphis album, but another ‘In The beginning’ type (so-so/meh) album makes me sadface. :(

  • Patrick Thomas

    I’ve only heard the the single and I don’t think I even finished the track before I got bored and shut it off. I don’t get it. I was absolutely addicted like you guys to Eclipse and Skyforger and to a slightly lesser extent Silent Waters, but now these last two have totally lost me. I’m just curious do you think between Beginnings of Times and Circle, it’s possible to pull tracks from both to make one amazing-to-good album? If so, I’d love to see your tracklisting for that! Thanks. Good review btw.

    • That’s funny because I suggested doing exactly that on the AMG Facebook page. Between Circle and Beginning you can craft one solid album for sure. In fact, I plan to do exactly that and skip all the filler.

      • Patrick Thomas

        Oh really? haha. That is funny. Well, I’m going to attempt this at some point. I’ll post mine in the near future. I think sometimes metal fans (myself included) get way too caught up in the album format and forget how easy it is to shuffle some songs around from various releases that would yield some pretty cool playlists.

  • Upon early listens I liked enchanted by the moon more than hopeless days or shades of gray, will have to wait to listen to the album. This is disappointing news though love eclipse-skyforger and times just didn’t have staying power was hoping for a return to form, makes me sadface.

  • Disappointed with your review. No mention of PT production, did he do the mix as well? No mention of any difference in the vocals of Tomi J, it’s Amorphis first album with his vocals, without the involvement of Marco Hietala.

    • Sorry to hear that. I don’t mention production and mix unless it plays a factor and there’s only so much you can cram into 800 words so I thought I’d focus on the actual music.

  • Big Amorphis fan-boy here too! :D I just pre-ordered Circle yesterday, and while the review isn’t as positive as I’d hoped, I’m sure I’ll be able to find something to enjoy in it. As long as it’s not just Pip farting on a snare drum…

  • Oh man, yet another hotly awaited release for this year that does not live to the hype. Sad.

  • OzanCan

    Hopefully, at least, this won’t disappoint me like the last Opeth album, Heritage…

    • I highly doubt it. It’s good, just not very good or great.

      • Pale Orchid

        It definitely deserved a higher score than 2 that it got here IMO..i enjoyed it more than the recent amorphis albums

    • James Taylor

      I actually liked Heritage… It was a departure to be sure, but there is some genius writing in there that takes several listens to appreciate fully…

  • I heard both singles from this album and wasn’t really impressed. I mean, I love Silent Waters from their ‘new’ era but the choruses here seemed awkward and choppy.
    And I was kind of turned off in that part in ‘Hopeless Days’ where Tomi said ‘an union’… I know he’s Finnish but the grammar Nazi in me said ‘Hopeless days indeed.’
    Also, glad someone shares my opinion about ‘Tales From a Thousand Lakes’ (even though it’s tied in the top 3 position) :P

  • I’m not sure yet on this one from the videos I’ve seen on youtube. I’ve been a huge Amophis fan since I heard Land of a Thousand Lakes oh so long ago. They seem to produce albums in bunches, 2-3 killer, 2-3 meh, then 2-3 killer, rinse repeat. After Elegy we had 3 releases that are pretty hit/miss with a few solid tunes each and lots of filler. I love their experimentation with songs like Rusty Moon but uneven overall. After that we have 3 top shelf releases with Eclipse, Silent Waters and Skyforger. Looks like we are in a lul again. Not that this is bad really considering a good Amporphis release is better than most of the rest.

  • There’s too much Nightwish in my Amorphis. This feels more inspired than their last two albums though (as poppy as Skyforger but with less cheese).

  • Ernesto Aimar

    Well, Now that I’ve listened to the album a few times, I can say I do not entirely agree with you. I do Agree “Beginning…” had some good songs but was very long and dissapointing as a whole. “Circle” IMO, nails it with every song. I listened “New Day” somewhat with fear of what I would find after readinyour review, but even that song seemed a nce piece to me ( reminds me of “Am Universum” era….not that I want those times to come back, but it’s nice to know that they can manage a good song out of those elements). I didn’t like “Hopeless Days” when I first listened to it as the preview, but in the context of the album sound even better.
    I don’t know why, but this album appealed to me as good as “Eclipse” did (though not as “Skyforger”). I guess it will definetly be in my top of the year list.

    • I agree with your statement about Hopeless Days. Its a bit repetitive and the lyrics feel childish (though they could have been improved seeing as how it is intended to go with this Kalevala inspired concept). After listening to it with the album however it really fits into place.

  • Mike Eckman

    Man, you weren’t kidding. I just picked up Circle yesterday and after a first listen, its extremely “meh”. Not bad, mind you. Most of the elements that I’ve love about Amorphis are still there, so I cant put my finger on why this is such an unexciting album, but the whole album seems to be average. I was really looking forward to this too. Maybe Amorphis has settled into a Dream Theater like pattern and every other album will be good! :)

  • donno man at first I liked most Hopeless Days and Nightbird’s Song
    now I like most Hopeless Days and Nightbird’s Song
    weird
    but I also like a shade of grey, and a new day
    and into the abyss
    ah, I better shut up

  • So Steel Druhm, have you heard this album with all 5 bonus tracks? After giving it and the five bonus tracks about a month to sink in I’d have to say this might be my favorite Amorphis record of the newer era. I don’t know why they didn’t include the bonus tracks on the album because most of them are better than the majority of the album tracks. New Song, Dead Man’s Dream, and My Future in particular are pretty amazing. Any thoughts after some time, or are you still in the “meh” category with this one?

    • I have not heard the bonus tracks yet,, but heard they are pretty righteous. Even with them though, the album itself is good, but not great. I really don’t go back to it at all, which is a fookin shame since I love these guys!

  • Nick Maestas

    And I thought this album is pretty tits. Not as good as Silent Waters or Skyforger but better than A Beggining of Times