Amorphis // The Beginning of Times
Rating: 3.0/5.0 —Angry Amorphis Fanboy = Disappointed
Label: Nuclear Blast [EU | US]
Websites: | |
Release Dates: EU: 2011.05.27 | US: 06.06.2011

Amorphis - The Beginning of TimesI have to say that AmorphisThe Beginning of Times is one of the most anticipated records of the year and it marks a little bit of an Angry Metal Milestone, as it was my review of Skyforger that really was the first review I posted that blew up and attracted a lot of new visitors. It’s been a busy couple years since the band released Skyforger, having released a live DVD and a disc with re-recordings of the band’s older material, they’ve really been everywhere (except here in Sweden playing shows that I could attend). But I think it’s fair to say that my expectations for The Beginning of Times were through the roof and when I finally received the promo I was practically shaking with anticipation to get tracks into iTunes and to slap on the monitors.

Honestly, I think I’ve had reason to have huge expectations of Amorphis as well, as the last three albums have been utterly perfect, high quality records with almost a straight rock approach, but that have just been fantastically engaging and listenable. But Amorphis is, of course, Amorphis and they are known for their experimentation, changes and progression. This has isolated them from their old school fanbase to a large extent because the material from Tuonela onwards (and some people even stopped with Elegy) has not been what gave the guys over at Relapse Moomin fever back in “The Day.” But for more open minded types, Amorphis has been an exemplary case of how a band can get reinvigorated and make amazing records post-“glory days.”

The Beginning of Times, though, is very much in line with the last three records and a continuation of the same kind of material. While not outright heavy, it is driven and catchy and features death metal vocals and even some double kick in a few places to help those of us who enjoy reminiscing a bit about the old days. But mostly, it features vocalist Tomi Joutsen being a fantastic vocalist, with great feeling, good melodies and excellent presence. That said, the vocals on this record aren’t nearly as catchy on Skyforger or, well, the earlier material with him as well. It’s as though the melodies didn’t coalesce into the kind of “House of Sleep” or “The Smoke.” Neither does The Beginnings of Time include a “Majestic Beast” or “Perkele” that really stands out as the dominating, heavy track.

AmorphisInstead, The Beginning of Times is a much more soft, progressive and melancholy record. Songs like “Mermaid” (my favorite song on the album by far) and “Song of the Sage” use female vocals and flutes and even when they get ‘fast,’ there is still a very mid-paced feel. The melodies are good, too, and the use of different layers definitely accentuates the music in entertaining and interesting ways. I particularly enjoyed the harmonies and rhythmic feel on “Soothsayer,” for example and on the final track “Beginning of Time,” which is a truly memorable and enjoyable track.

But this record leaves me largely cold, particularly in comparison to earlier successes. Whatever magic drink these guys have been getting from their shaman buddy and lyricist seems to not be working or to have worn off, because this record lacks the same kind of catchiness and intensity that showed up on the last three records. Sure, this is a continuation of the old style, but it’s more laid back, more melancholy and the melodies don’t stick as well for me. For the most part I thoroughly enjoy the album through “Soothsayer,” and then it kind of trails off for three songs until “Beginning of Time,” which draws me back in. The flow seems to miss the mark this time, and while there are some things that I love, The Beginning of Times is simply pale in comparison to Skyforger, Silent Waters and Eclipse.

When I give a 3.0, I do think the record is good and Amorphis hasn’t produced a stinker like Am Universum or Far from the Sun, but it is sub par compared to their previous three albums and earlier material which all rank in the 4.5 to 5.0 range for me. I’ve had the record for quite some time, and while it’s grown on me some, I don’t find a lot of desire to come back to it right now and that’s disappointing. It’s possible that it got a bit rushed and that the material needed some time to germinate that it didn’t get, or it’s possible that these guys need to change it up a bit to keep things fresh. But whatever the case, I hope that The Beginning of Times isn’t the beginning of a fourth era of not-as-good Amorphis material, because they have been a pillar of consistency in the modern era.

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    I will reserve judgment after I listen to it myself, but this doesn’t sound that promising. Skyforger was the first Amorphis album I listened to and was responsible for getting me into the rest of their catalog. I was really hoping for something as good as, if not better than, Skyforger.

  • ZacP

    Goddess of the sad panda :(

    I really liked the one song that was up on their facebook, “You I Need.” It was another soft ballad, but I thought the keyboard sound at the beginning set it apart from their others. “My Enemy” left me a little cold though, and it made me worry this album would have a “samey” feel to it. I’m still excited to listen to it for myself but…man…I was really looking forward to this

  • Steel Druhm

    It’s not a bad album by any means ZacP, its just not as epic as the last 3 albums were. I enjoy it anyway and the first 3/4th are quite good. AMG is totally right about it dragging toward the back end though.

  • NSX

    A Ghost T-shirt??? Well that sucks.

  • Hmm, I did worry that it was going to be tough to exceed the fairly heady heights set up by Skyforger! Well, I haven’t heard the album myself, so when I eventually get my paws on it, I’ll have to see …. I was, however, thinking that they might need to play with the format a little — not go all emo on us, or even go all death metal, but at least cook a few surprises into the current format ….. A 20+ minute prog-metal epic framed by deathy blasts, an all acoustic + cookie-monster vocals piece, an … I dunno. The approach on the Tomi albums has clearly been a good approach for the band — an approach that fits — and I would hesitate to mess with it too much, but perhaps the latest album is a sign that they need to at least give it a few swift pokes to stir things up a little?

    Well, as long as we are not all the way back to Am Universum or Far from the Sun, I’ll probably still enjoy it in any case. :)

  • ZacP

    What’s with all the Am Universum hate? There are several 10/10 songs on that album, and the rest range from solid to at least listenable. But then I suppose I like it so because I only really got into Amorphis about five years ago, so I had heard what a stinker AU was and had low expectations. On the other hand, I had such sky(forger) high hopes for this one. I’ve listened a couple times through now and the coldness of disappointment has set in. But there’s still a lot of killer songs on here, especially that Mermaid song and You I Need! So I’ll get over it:)

  • TimD

    I have listened to Amorphis for around 12 years now and I actually liked Am Universum as well. Far from the Sun on the other hand was a very weak album in general.

    I will have to see how this album ages but at the moment, I think I actually may like it more than Skyforger. Mermaid, Song of the Sages and Soothsayer stand out as very good tracks. As for the end of the album dragging after Soothsayer, I have to say that On a stranded shore really does seem like one I am going to constantly skip as I listen to the album more.

  • Steve

    I very much agree with the review and you hit the nail on the head with a lot of your comments. I was thinking the whole way through this album that the vocals just aren’t catchy enough, the melodies don’t stand out as much and there seems to be an overly laid back feel. That said, it’s growing with every listen and I do enjoy the album, but like you said it just pales in comparison to their previous three.

    I hope this isn’t the beginning of the end for this band in terms of their high quality output.

  • Hmm, now that I’ve heard the album … I disagree with the final rating :) even though I think criticisms remain relatively valid. OK, it’s not Skyforger — which is a damn fine album, and would be tough to better! — but I think I would rate it more around a 4 than a 3. It’s not the best of the Joutsen era, perhaps, but it still seems pretty good to me. Mind you, I’ve always been more attracted to the folky, proggy, classic metally side of Amorphis, so that may colour my relatively positive opinion — or maybe I just lowered my expectations after reading AMG’s review … ;) Bottom line: I’m still an Amorphis fanboy, I would still go see them in the unlikely event they came to my town, and TBoT is still better than FftS or AmU … IMO. :)

  • Neltah

    3/5!!! What the hell? This album is amazing from start to finish and better than skyforger in my opinion. The Beginning Of Times did take a few listens before it really set in but the best albums usually do. I think you should give this album a few more listens and then post a more accurate review. I give it a 4.5

    • Yeah, I don’t agree. And I think a lot of fans that I’ve communicated with feel exactly the same. It’s got moments, but it’s not brilliant. It’s just good.

  • rsz

    Hah, this is a surprise to me. As always with musical opinion, I think this is pretty highly subjective – I find myself feeling like this review was written about Skyforger, which after being introduced to Amorphis in the days of Silent Waters, left me feeling cold. On the other hand, I could not have asked for more with this album. I can’t fault it, and I definitely prefer it to Skyforger.

    • Funny, that’s exactly the opposite of how I feel. But so it goes. :)

  • Nah, though I don’t think TBoT is quite as dodgy as the mighty AMG does (and I do find it’s grown on me), surely Skyforger remains (from the loftiness of my subjective throne) better than TBoT!? I mean: Sampo! the title track! ‘Nuff said!

  • Zadion

    Admittedly I had little hope for this album after hearing so many people say how “bad” it is compared to their last three, but honestly.. it didn’t even have to grow on me. I’m wholeheartedly enjoying this album. Perhaps even more than Skyforger – which, while being a solid album, I did not appreciate nearly as much as Silent Waters myself. Only song on here I lose interest in is Escape… and the bonus track is kind of lousy as well.

  • AMC_Unlimited

    Been a fan of Amorphis since “Tuonela” and the only disappointment was “Far From the Sun” since then. “Skyforger” was amazing so yeah “The Beginning of Times” isnt quite up to par, still tho it has plenty of amazing tracks (Seems a bit softer to me) Mermaid, You I Need, Reformation, and my definite favorite On a Stranded shore are great tunes, very melodic, they blend the guitars and piano nicely, also its not too heavy so anyone can really get into it. Lots of bad reviews but keep listening to it, it may grow on ya.

  • TheOutlawXanadu

    I would score the album a little higher than you, AMG, but the gist of my opinion is pretty much the same as yours: good, not great because it drags. Then again, I didn’t find Skyforger great either. I think this is on the same level as Skyforger, with Eclipse, Silent Waters and Tales from the Thousand Lakes a couple of levels above, and Elegy and Tuonela above that.

  • chrome

    Ive listened to it 3 times through now, and i must say, i think i prefer the previous 3 efforts. This album is still quality though, i just feel theres a few tracks that could have been done better.
    All in all, for now, like the review – id give it a 3.5 . But thats for now, music grows on you so in a few more weeks i might have a totally different opinion…

  • 3/5 is a way too low for this album. 
    Sure, it’s not as great as Eclipse, but it’s still excellent.
    The only problem is that it’s too similar to the previous one. The only “innovation” I found was the inclusion of some metal cliches, such as double bass drumming, which was absent in the last bunch of albums.
    It’s still worth at least 4/5!

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