Amorphis – Halo Review

Halo is Amorphis’s 14th studio album and 2022 marks the 30th anniversary since The Karelian Isthmus first graced this world, and at this point, Amorphis sounds like no one but Amorphis.1 The base of the band’s modern sound hasn’t truly changed since 2006’s Eclipse. Choruses and verses feature a single guitar carrying a simple melody. The band operates with a bass-driven and ebullient feel, with melodies that are just this side of poppy but always subtly memorable. The writing is mid-paced, varied enough to not feel repetitive, while featuring a strong ’60s and ’70s prog feel—Santeri’s keys and organ often sporting a particular patchouli stank—and the delay pedal that made Tuonela and AM Universum special affairs. Halo is the third record in this little trilogy (Under the Red Cloud, Queen of Time, and Halo), and it helps to think of it in this context.

Halo is heavy and bombastic, sounding like the natural conclusion of the band’s two previous albums. The combination of Under the Red Cloud’s heavier approach and Queen of Time’s orchestral adventures offers the base for a very enjoyable listening experience. The first leg of Halo’s sound, then is orchestration. Queen of Time’s orchestrations were dominant in the mix and strongly reminiscent of Orphaned Land. Here, though, the tracks that use orchestras and choirs most effectively are the ones that use them as exclamation points (“Seven Roads Come Together,” “War,” or the end of opener “Northwards”). This adds drama and heft, without making the album feel overwrought. And despite the rumor that this material was “more progressive,” there’s a lot less of the organ-heavy influences or The Beginning of Times-style flute solos here than I had anticipated. Aside from a 7/8 portion in “Windmane” and the bridge in “On the Dark Waters,” however, I’m not sure what people referring to.

Amorphis band photo 2021 by Sam Jamsen

As a continuation of the band’s last two albums, though, Bogren’s production smooths out the edges on Halo too much to make it feel as heavy and epic as it is. During this whole period, one of the defining features of Amorphis has been the increasing prominence of Tomi’s growls, yet at times the production on Halo feels so smooth that one almost doesn’t notice that this album is just as heavy as the band’s classic material (“War,” for example). In fact, there are times when I miss the more raw Peter Tägtgren production and the heft that it lent the genuinely heavy material on Circle. The sparkly, clean tone complemented the songwriting on Queen of Time, but I think that undermines what is, at times, a genuinely dark album.

And Halo is a dark, heavy record whose real motor is in the rhythm section. The band’s death metal riffs are made even stronger when it feels like Jan’s kick drum is actually being triggered by Oppu’s bass (“Northwards,” “A New Land,” or “When the Gods Came”). And throughout my dozens of listens to Halo, I’ve been struck by just how important the rhythm section is to the Amorphis sound. By musical voice, I mean that Oppu has one of the most unique and instantly recognizable approaches to his instrument in metal. I use the words “ebullient” or “buoyant,” because this is part of what gives Amorphis its bouncy, folky feel that they’ve sported since Tales. While the aforementioned tracks find the rhythm section playing it straight, so much of the band’s sound is rooted in unique bass choices. He syncopates and walks where other bassists wouldn’t (the bridge of “Windmane”), uses jazzy “swings” in unexpected places (“When the Gods Came”), and works in lockstep with Jan on every track.

I (or Druhm) have reviewed every Amorphis release since 2011, yet I sometimes have struggled to appreciate the band’s new albums in the moment. This has to do with the band’s craftsman-like consistency. Rather than having a few songs that truly stand out—and then occasionally producing an album where everything is of that same excellent quality—Amorphis drops albums of impressive quality with regularity. Halo is yet another impressive album from one of heavy metal’s premiere acts. Where this album is in the pantheon of Amorphis records will take time to tell. But I worry that I, once again, am not even truly appreciating the brilliance right before my eyes.

Rating: Great!
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3s
Label: Atomic Fire Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: February 11th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. And Barren Earth, but since Oppu was the driving force behind Barren Earth then also it sounds like Amorphis
« »