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July 2009
Released: 2009, Nuclear Blast Records
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz

17 years ago, I remember walking into my local record store and coming across a cassette (yes, a cassette) from a new band that I hadn’t heard of yet. The band was Finland’s Amorphis and the album was THE KARELIAN ISTHMUS. The band logo looked pretty boss, there was some kind of battle scene on the cover and it had the Relapse Records stamp of approval on the back. In my youth, that was the equivalent of the holy metal trinity, so dropping ten bucks on it was a no brainer. I’ve since worn out the cassette and in the almost two decades since, I’ve faithfully followed Amorphis’ progression with each successive release. 2009 brings us to full length number nine, SKYFORGER. The good? It sounds like classic Amorphis. The bad? It sounds like classic Amorphis.

Though the band has always had varying degrees of melodic, progressive influences, the previous two releases ECLIPSE and SILENT WATERS were the most commercially accessible in the band’s catalog. SKYFORGER continues with that trend of rock driven, progressive melodies while flipping the pages back in their history book to revisit some of the band’s heavier moments as well. SKYFORGER marks vocalist Tomi Joutsen’s third album with the band and his best performance on record yet. While his smooth croon gets better with each album, the real surprise is the return of the death growls into the vocal mix. While Joutsen’s bark isn’t quite as corrosive as Tomi Koivusaari’s from back in the day, it’s a nice retro touch that puts a little “oomph” back into the song arrangements. Its impact on songs like “Silver Bride” and “Majestic Beast” is deceptively simple, but it propels the songs a few steps further and are that much better because of it.

Vocal shake ups aside, the songs sound just like what you’d expect from Amorphis; lots of piano, acoustic guitars, classic progressive rock guitar effects, tempo/tone/key shifts, ethereal reflections, etc, etc. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing as the songs all rock pretty respectively, but there’s not much here that you haven’t already heard from Amorphis. Most of the songs open with a softer, piano/acoustic combination before the balls of the song descend, similar to what Iron Maiden did on A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH. It works to some degree in building anticipation and atmosphere within the song, but ¾ into the disc and you’ll start to ask yourself, “didn’t I just hear this?”

So it’s not a quantum leap from what you’ve heard before and at times it seems a bit formulaic, but it’s still a formula that works for the band. “Sampo,” “From Earth I Rose,” and the title track are all memorable standouts, and I’ve had the chorus of “Silver Bride” rattling in my head for a few days already. Amorphis has traveled a long and storied path throughout their career, diverging stylistically and blending genre lines along the way. There’s probably not much more new territory for the band to explore, but given the creative juices residing between the guys collectively, I can’t help but think that there has to be a few new levers to pull somewhere. My idealistic nitpicking aside, SKYFORGER is still another great album from a great band and is definitely worth checking out.
Track Listing

2.Silver Bride
3.From the Heaven of my Heart
4.Sky is Mine
5.Majestic Beast
6.My Sun
7.Highest Star
9.Curse of Fate
10.From Earth I Rose


Tomi Joutsen - Vocals
Esa Holopainen - Lead Guitars
Tomi Koivusaari - Rhythm Guitars
Niclas Etelävuori - Bass
Santeri Kallio - Keyboards
Jan Rechberger - Drums

Next review: » Amorphis - The Beginning of Time
Previous review: » Amorphis - Silent Waters

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