Amorphis - Under the Red CloudUnder the Red Cloud marks the 12th studio album from Finland’s grandfathers of extreme metal, the band’s sixth LP with Tomi Joutsen as vocalist and his 10th year in the band. The string of Tomi’s six records started with 2006’s Eclipse and had an absolutely epic beginning. EclipseSilent Waters and Skyforger  showed the band’s new found drive and energy, reclaiming some of their death metal heritage, while veering further into what Nuclear Blast has fittingly labeled ‘melancholy rock.’ Unfortunately, Angry Metal Guy’s Law of Diminishing Recordings™ is a fickle mistress, and The Beginning of Times and Circle were both records that were good, but lacked the urgency of that initial trilogy. These records saw the band pushing into newer territory—heavy Jethro Tull influences bled through on the former, while Circle developed some of the band’s folky elements in cool ways. Neither album gripped me. But when Amorphis releases an album, it’s hard for me not to get excited, and upon seeing the cover art for Under the Red Cloud, all that warm anticipation came back. And fortunately, they didn’t disappoint.

Under the Red Cloud is a return to form for Amorphis, and the most cohesive album the band has released since 2009’s Skyforger. Clocking in at 50 minutes, it’s made of ten thematically cohesive tracks. The album isn’t a story though. Instead, the lyrics (written, as always, by Pekka Kainulainen) are conceptually foreboding; about living under a red cloud in troubled times. The music matches this feel, and while I wouldn’t say the album is necessarily so much heavier than previous records, it may have been influenced by the 20th Anniversary of Tales from the Thousand Lakes, because the band has certainly produced the most growl-heavy material of the Joutsen-era.

You wouldn’t notice that on the opening title track, however. “Under the Red Cloud” starts with an atmospheric piano bolstered by throbbing bass and a clean guitar in harmonic minor before merging into prime Amorphis territory: a chunky, groovy riff with Tomi’s cleans augmenting the sound perfectly. This format—the classic hard rock song-writing—is the stamp with which the band’s newer material has largely been pressed. “Sacrifice” is similar, breaking in with a “House of Sleep” intro, and a heavy, syncopated verse before giving way to a hooky chorus and a slick guitar melody. “Bad Blood” features Tomi’s growl in the verse, but it’s heavy on the groove and light on the melody before giving way to an epic chorus and beautiful bridge.

Amorphis2015dAmorphis isn’t afraid of their death metal side here. Between “The Four Wise Ones” and “Death of a King,” every single track starts with growls, and the former doesn’t feature any clean vocals from Joutsen at all—instead there’s a short bridge with a haunting, effected vocal line that evokes Elegy. “The Four Wise Ones” and “The Dark Path” both feature crescendos with a ’90s black metal feel—wet with keys and a trem-picked melodies—only undermined by Rechberger’s refusal to use blast beats and Tomi’s growls. The death-laden material works well, though moments like the verse in “Bad Blood” or “Death of a King,” which is one of the singles from Under the Red Cloud, are places where I would have chosen clean vocals rather than growls.

There is a danger, however, in Amorphis‘s modern sound, in that it’s pretty easy to fall into a rut. A fairly close listen to Under the Red Cloud reveals that the songs pretty much all follow the same structure, which when the band isn’t producing their sharpest writing can become repetitive. When the album hits its stride, though, it’s an extremely well-crafted record. From “Sacrifice” to “White Night” is a stretch of pure enjoyment—each song flowing into the next, while peaking on the final two tracks. “Tree of Ages” features a folky Celtic theme that has been stuck in my head since the first time I heard it, and “White Night” is a moody track that closes the album out with a surge.

Under the Red Cloud is a very good album and a return to form. The record simply sounds like Amorphis; the band has developed a sound that bridges the gap between their old material and the new—with plenty of moments on here that remind me of Elegy and Tuonela with sitar (“Death of a King”) or bong water keyboard solos (“Enemy at the Gates”). And it’s incredible how the band’s riffing can still be so idiosyncratic. “The Skull” and “Enemy at the Gate” have riffs you only hear in Amorphis and Barren Earth; and after 12 records they still pull them off without feeling like they’re ripping themselves off. Consistency is a virtue for big bands if they’re any good, but I think there are hints on UtRC that Amorphis could get more adventurous going forward, and I hope they do. Until that time, though, I’ll be sitting here enjoying these tunes under the red clouds.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: v0 mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Websites: amorphis.net | facebook.com/amorphis
Releases Worldwide: September 4th, 2015

 

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  • I like the blackened vibe they’ve added in at times. Good stuff!

  • JL

    Great review. Circle didn’t do much for me despite multiple “study sessions”…I just couldn’t get it to click. I am looking forward to this one though. I lost track of them after Tales…so I need to explore their entire back history.

    • Carl Anderson

      Post-Tales, I’d say “Elegy” at the very least earns its classic status. I like “Tuonela” as well, though I think many would agree that neither “Am Universum” nor “Far from the Sun” are highpoints of the band’s career. On the other hand, as the review above implies, “Eclipse”, “Silent Waters”, and “Skyforger” seem benefit from fresh energy associated with the arrival of Joutsen on vox, and more generally a good balance of the band’s death-metal and prog-rock sides. So, you can choose to let that analysis bias your explorations or not — but the explorations are probably worthwhile in any case. :)

      • I love their early days dearly, but I think Am Universum is a great album. It’s just a very different sound than the melo-death of old.

        • Chris Timbó

          Second that. I actually bought Am Universum and Far From The Sun this year at a good price – argentinian pressed – after knowing them for a long time. As long as you don’t keep thinking “Amorphis should be heavier than that, where are the growls?”, there is a good amount of melancholic rock to be enjoyed. They were just different back then. I think these string of albums beginning with Eclipse are all okay, but usually I feel drawn to those old albums… Far from the sun is a great tune, as is Captured State.

        • Monsterth Goatom

          Woodwinds are difficult to pull off in metal, but I like the Soprano Sax work on that album.

          • Kronos

            Once again; saxophone always works.

          • Carl Anderson

            Sakari Kukko played sax and flute on a couple of albums back then, and I like most of what they had him do. My favorite, though, is his flute in “Rusty Moon” off Tuonela. That track never leaves my phone. :)

          • Monsterth Goatom

            I should really listen to more of their back catalogue. I’ll definitely check out Tuonela. Cheers!

        • Carl Anderson

          Well, I would like to say I’d gone back and given a critical re-listening to Am Universum (and Far from the Sun) — and I probably will, some day — but I’m actually too busy listening to Under the Red Cloud just now! I am quite liking it.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Elegy is an all-time Metal classic. It´s a perfect balance of Death Metal, folk and prog. And lots of awesome.

  • groverXIII

    This review sums things up pretty perfectly. It’s a prototypical Joutsen-era Amorphis album, but it just feels like they’ve been revitalized, possibly because of their recent revisitation of Tales From The Thousand Lakes. I guess it speaks to the strength of their recent albums that an album this damn good is sort of business as usual for them, but I know that I can’t stop listening to it, and that’s probably the most important thing I can say about this album.

    • You hit the nail on the head…this band is revitalized. If I was asked to come up with an explanation of why I like this album better than the last few, I don’t know that I could really say that there is an stylistic chances. This album just FEELS fresh and new. I love this album. I’ve had this on non stop rotation for about the past week and I love it. Death of a King and Bad Blood are two of the best songs released by any band this year! This album will definitely be on my best of year end lists! :)

  • Doomdeathrosh

    Its surprising how easily and brilliantly they combine all the different elements they were exploring so far. In the embed, I heard some Eluveitie-esque flute notes. The sitar, the flute, the synth all wrapped in the death-foil to bring out a quality product!
    I AM SO STOKED!

    • nomrom3

      It actually is the guy from Eluveitie playing flute in that track.

      • I could tell because he only knows a single note pattern.

  • Grumpyrocker

    I liked The Beginning of Times, but The Circle I found less agreeable. Glad to hear the band are back on form. I had high hopes from the two singles and am happy to hear the whole album is worthwhile. I shall get Amazon to send me the CD.

  • Definitely better than Circle. I’d notch it around 3.5.

    • OzanCan

      It’s definitely a 4 Mr. Druhm m/

  • Carl Anderson

    I have only the singles, “Death of a King” and “Sacrifice” to go by so far, but I suppose as likewise a longtime Amorphis fanboy, this review seems likely to be spot on to me. The first 3 Joutsen-era albums clearly showed the band rocketing out of the doldrums; as big ol’ Tull fan, I had perhaps a bit more patience for “Beginning of Times”, though “Circle” did less for me “Death of a King” immediately sounded like I thought Amorphis should (though is it very “Better Unborn”-like, or is it just the sitar making me think that?). If the album’s worst sin is unadventurous song structure — well, I can think of worse! Looking forward to the full release. :)

  • doom-erik

    They revisited Tales from the Thousand Lakes? How – like in playing the whole album or something? Why wasn’t I informed? :(

    I actually liked Circle a lot more than the two previous ones, but it was nowhere close to Silent Waters, which is the best Joutsen album in my opinion.

    Looking forward to hear this!

    • Wilhelm

      I too think Circle was way better than their previous two albums.

      • Hulksteraus

        And the 3D representation of a circle is a sphere – need I say more.

      • Ernesto Aimar

        I really liked this album but to me it sound a lot like Circle, which I think it s amazing but the review here didn t seem to like it. To me it was the album of the year 2013. UtRC sounds amazing but somehow fails to hook me like Circle did.

        • Wilhelm

          I need to give it some more listens to form a solid opinion. There’s clearly a push to diversify themselves just a bit, but I was hoping they would go balls out and maybe break from the formula they’ve been using since Joutsen joined up. It’s a decent album with slightly disappointing production (like Circle).

    • JJnetZach

      Likely refers to “Magic & Mayhem – Tales From The Early Years”, which containts re-recorded old Amorphis songs. Or maybe I missed out on something :)

      This album is their best since Silent Waters. Just amazing.

      • Dennis Vague Entity

        They did a tour where they played the whole Tales From A Thousand Lakes album.
        (Celebrating the 20th anniversary of that album)

        First a club tour last winter (i saw them in 013 Tilburg The Netherlands at that show) and last summer a festival Tour (i saw them at Graspop Metal Meeting in Belgium with the same show)

        That is what is being refered to

        • JJnetZach

          Cool, thanks for the clarification. Wish I could have seen it, “Tales” songs really benefit from live audio (the LP is so muddy). At least I’ll have the opportunity to catch them when they support Nightwish in Stockholm.

      • Carl Anderson

        And I actually quite like the re-recordings on “Magic & Mayhem” despite having been a fan since “1000 Lakes” and “Elegy” (though not, admittedly, earlier). I’m less into the “Elegy Medley” played live and appearing on the “Forging” live album/DVD, though that’s because I just don’t like the idea of medleys.

  • mindbleach

    I bloody love me some Amorphis, one of the few bands I’ll buy a CD for rather than just streaming. Roll on Friday.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Slightly off-topic:
    I actually saw Amorphis play Tales live in its entirety about a month ago. They had a pretty good show for the people who knew the album but some of my friends (who attended the festival to see different bands) commented that the album was really tiring to listen to all the way through live. Despite knowing the album before the show, I agreed that the cohesion that the album has in its studio form translated into bland uniformity in the live setting. It didn’t help that Joutsen’s vocals (and attitude in general) didn’t fit the style of the original album.

    • Wilhelm

      From the youtube clips I watched, I would have to agree with you. The aesthetics of the tales album just does not translate well in a 2015 Joutsen setting.

  • Zadion

    Whoa, after the last two records getting fairly lukewarm reviews here I was almost positive this one too. Very content to see the opposite. I loved TBOT and quite enjoyed Circle too, so I’m glad to see this one getting a much better review.

  • I’ve only listened to the singles, but oh man I’m super excited about this!
    Also, I love the album art. Pretty album art on a good album makes my heart warm.

    • The ones that they didn’t release as singles are reeeeeaaally heavy. That’s just a good thing, of course.

      • Carl Anderson

        I thought “Death of a King” was pretty good as singles go, but having now heard the album, I know I would have picked “Bad Blood” — which may prove it’s just as well that I don’t pick anyone’s singles. :D

  • Kmill

    Amorphis was the first band that I discovered via AMG and I have ended up buying about 8 of their cds. I was anxious to hear the new cd and based on this review will immediately purchase!

  • Daughter of Achelous

    Not metal so don’t care. They went soft.

    • Did you hear any of this album?

      • Daughter of Achelous

        Life is too short to spend it not listening to metal.

    • AlphaBetaFoxface

      I am curious to know what you think metal is then. I am assuming either 7+ strings or minimal production and blast beats

      • Daughter of Achelous

        If you’re accusing me of being a metalcore fan then no.

        • AlphaBetaFoxface

          Actually, if I were accusing you of anything, it would have been you being either a modern progressive metal fan or a black metal fan (in jest of course, both types are filled with great music). I was actually simply asking what ‘metal’ is to you. How is this not metal?

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      is too

      • Daughter of Achelous

        He literally says in the review its not a metal album.

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          No he doesn’t, yes it is

    • Gabriel PérezMolphe

      Obvious troll is obvious.

      • Daughter of Achelous

        I’m not trolling, just sharing my comments which is what you tend to do in a comments section. Rename it the circle jerk section otherwise.

    • Dan

      Is metal. So maybe you went deaf.

  • sui

    You know how reading an album review is comparable to watching a live game, while there is some hiccup the plot goes as you hope for and your supported team win? That’s how I feel reading this one.

  • Kryopsis

    I find it interesting now Amorphis err… morphed into a Rock band because they pretty much retained what originally made them such an excellent Metal band. ‘Death of a King’ just blows me away on every subsequent listen! Meanwhile, In Flames and Soilwork took a detour through Metalcore and emerged on the other side with very little of their essence intact. I mean ‘The Ride Majestic’ is arguably still Metal but it’s toothless and fluffy. If anything, the two singles currently available from this Amorphis album show that going for accessibility isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it’s part of the band’s natural evolution (see Anathema and Opeth). It is far more laudable than stagnation and there is no artistic merit to producing cassette tape after cassette tape of badly-recorded monotonous droning simply because it’s trve kvlt.

    • The funny thing is that Amorphis HAD to release killer record now. If they bombed here, it might have been career-shattering. They don’t have nearly that much fame as you would imagine, and they don’t receive ANY profits from their first (3?) albums.

    • Opeth360

      Excellent point…Bad blood too and Enemies of the gate stand out also..should have ben album of the year(so far) let alone album of the month

  • Been looking forward to this one for a while now. I’ve been a fan of Amorphis since Elegy… (with a retro-stint after I discovered that one). Amorphis always gets a spin in the music rotation for me.

    I didn’t mind their shift from death metal to more hard rock. Their subject matter and lyrical depth makes Amorphis a wonderfully complex and fun to listen to band.

  • I’m really excited about this. I’ve been wanting to get into amorphis again.

  • Hulksteraus

    So it looks like Friday is going to be a very expensive day for me:

    Amorphis CD digipack (or potentially CD and Tshirt…)
    Iron Maiden Digipack
    Anathema Blue Ray…

    Oh well, looks like it’s mouldy artisan bread and water for the rest of the month…

    • Danny Becker

      nice

    • Bogdan

      You should add Riverside to that list.

  • OzanCan

    Finally some high quality metal!! Who doesn’t like this band anyway?
    :)

  • Danny Becker

    I love amorphis, and sky forger and dare I say Am Universum are my favorite albums of amorphis. For all of you am universum haters, take a gander at that album, and listen to it around three times before formulating your opinion. Crimson Wave, Alone, shatter within, grief stricken heart, etc. The album has only really 2 or 3 filler tracks. My favorite amorphis albums from best to worst:

    Skyforger
    Am Universum
    Eclipse
    Silent Waters
    Tales from The Thousand Lakes
    Tuonela
    Beginning of Times
    Circle
    Elergy
    Far From the Sun
    The Karleian Isthmus

    I”m definitely getting this alongside the new Iron Maiden!

    • So, its been 2 months…did you get it and what did you think about it?

      • Danny Becker

        still have not bought it yet :(

        • The Nerd.

          Well it’s been 9 months, have you gotten it yet?

          • Danny Becker

            yes, got it. Love it

          • METAL OTTER

            Alor it’s been 5 months since you said you loved it, what’s your favorite amorphis albums from best to worst now?

  • Deelirious

    Circle was pretty underwhelming in comparison to their previous stuff so this one has high stakes. Also, whatever happened to Tomi’s dreadlocks?

  • O. Yes. Panties bunched. Great review, can’t wait for this! I thought Circle was pretty damn good, but the two tracks I’ve heard from this new one online reminded me more of Tales and Elegy. And that cover art… THAT COVER ART…

  • Excentric_1307

    RECORD OF THE MONTH!!! …Wait, too early? Too early…

    • I think a certain british band is almost secure on that place if the hype is true.

      • Mark Hunt

        New Wodensthrone album? Great, I’ve been waiting for years! :-))))

      • (Sung to the melody of a certain song from BNW) “The hype ain’t truuuuue… the hyyyype ain’t truuuuuuue…”

        • And we’re all a little bit poorer because of it :(

          • Yeah 50 euros poorer! Bought both the special ed CD and the vinyl.

    • Ehm, probably the toughest month of last 5 years to gain title of the month, to be honest.

  • Steve

    Everything from Eclipse onwards is pure gold, but they reached the pinacle of their sound with Skyforger. Everything after is going to be inferior no matter what they do. Looking forward to it though, should be thankful there’s a reliable band like these guys around.

    • Carl Anderson

      As good as Eclipse and Silent Waters are, I’d agree that Skyforger is a post-Elegy highpoint — arguably a career highpoint, depending on one’s tastes. I’m not yet sure whether Under a Red Cloud scales such heights, though I’d say it’s certainly pretty darned good, at the very least.

  • Wilhelm

    I thought Skyforger and Beginning of Times were too redundant and formulaic – Circle really invigorated the sound that I had been waiting for Amorphis to do for a while. I’m hoping this album brings a bit more variety in their sound (the first single sounded very promising).

    • Ywen

      Finally! Someone else who liked Circle!

  • Christian P

    Who’s the female singer on ‘White Night’? She gives the song an ‘At Sixes and Sevens’ vibe.

    • angel

      Its Trees of Eternity’s Aleah Stanbridge

  • Refined-Iron Cranium

    I can’t believe this slipped under my radar! When I saw the album cover I almost thought it was another Solefald album (very similar art style to the previous 2 album covers). Will be giving this a good listen after my Maiden hype dies down.

    • Ywen

      The last Solefald (World Metal) is awesome too. I can’t believe AMG hasn’t reviewed it yet!

  • tomasjacobi

    Sometimes the internet disappoints me.
    You’d think that by now someone would’ve done a mash-up of “Skyforger” and “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)”, but it hasn’t happened.

    • That’s… an oddly specific request.

      • tomasjacobi

        Seems like a no-brainer to me…

  • Luciano

    I’m the guy who really enjoys Am Universum and considers Tuonela a masterpiece and, as much as Joutsen’s vocals have brought the band to a new era of heaviness, I tend to consider the last six albums a bit repetitive. I mean, Eclipse was a very good surprise, but the following efforts sort of revolved around similar ideas, at least musically. Also the innovative and progressive elements which gave Amorphis their reputation became less present in Joutsen’s era.
    Having said that, Under the Red Cloud sounds very sweet to my years due to the clear intention of dealing with new toys (such as the black metal vocals) and bringing back old tricks, like the sitar.
    Way to go, Amorphis, way to fucking go…

  • Farrukh

    Well …shit. I was wiling to bet money that this record would be as lame as the last two ….but after reading the review and listening to the album. Pleasant surprise! This is a return to form and has all the stuff i loved about Amorphis. As always …great review. Thanks AMG

  • Big Hamuster

    I quit listening metal in 2008 when a lot of my favorite bands begin to falls appart. and play some sh. This year have return, and i’m not regret. Amorphis wonders me before and now, so i just load to playlist : Beggining of times, Circle, Eclipce, Skyforger and Under Red Cloud and listen them like a whole one huge album, it’s awesome!

  • Opeth360

    For anyone who hasn’t bought the new Amorphis album Under the Red cloud. Ex Opeth.Martin Lopez plays the drums on Death of A King. Best album of the year so far by far..

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    This album is fucking brilliant! AOTY material?

  • Nick Maestas

    Such a good Amorphis album. Even though Circle didn’t live up to my expectations I saw that it was a new sound coming to them. I’m glad they grew on that sound because it sounds damn good.

  • Wow, I finally came back to this. Almost forgot it was out. This is hands down the best Amorphis has sounded to me in a long time. Everything after Skyforger has been rather hu-hum for me, but this is goooood! :)

  • Ywen

    Amorphis. And nothing else matters.
    Except maybe another album, equally covered in red: Solefald’s World Metal Kosmopolis Sud, which apparently went under the radar.