Amorphis // The Beginning of Times
Rating: 3.0/5.0 —Angry Amorphis Fanboy = Disappointed
Label: Nuclear Blast [EU | US]
Websites: amorphis.net | myspace.com/amorphis | facebook.com/amorphis
Release Dates: EU: 2011.05.27 | US: 06.06.2011
I have to say that Amorphis‘ The 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.
Instead, 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.