Reviewed: April 2022
Released: 2022, Atomic Fire Records
Reviewer: Kieron Hayes
Ah, good old Amorphis. Anyone who’s been paying attention to this, one of Finland’s biggest metal exports, knows exactly what sort of sound to expect here. Their own distinct brand of melodic metal that mixes in elements of progressive, symphonic, folk and remaining traces of their melodeath roots. Something bright, vibrant and often catchy, the music of blooming soundscapes and the dances of folklore and mythology.
It’s all Amorphis through and through, and therein lies the sum of the album’s strengths and weaknesses. One the one hand, the band’s sound may suffer from a degree of over-familiarity at this point. Some recent quality releases like Queen of Time and Under the Red Cloud have shown there’s life in it yet when done right, but for me, Halo feels like too much a case of going through the motions. The mixture of styles blends together into a somewhat indistinguishable paste, like vibrant colours mixed into a dull brown. It’s not that it’s a poor sound or particularly badly done, but when it’s a sound they’ve been sticking to for so long, they really need to put out some winners to make it work, and Halo is lacking in that department. While the overall sound may represent a distinct identity, not neatly fitting into any one genre, very rarely does a song on here move beyond the band’s well-worn comfort zone. And similarly, while the album as a whole is a decent representation of that style, it sits in something of a middle ground in terms of comparative quality: it’s a cut above some of their weaker efforts like Circle or Beginning of Time, but sits below more solid works like Skyforger or Queen of Time.
On the other hand, there is something to be said for consistency, and while I would struggle to imagine a fan who has heard those aforementioned solid efforts ranking this above them, anyone who did enjoy them would also still probably find some fun to be had here.
Ultimately, Halo is an alright Amorphis album, but that’s all it ever really tries to be. To quote founding member Holopainen:
It is thoroughly recognizable Amorphis from beginning to end but the general atmosphere is a little bit heavier and more progressive and also organic compared to its predecessor,
Personally, I’d stress the “little bit” part when it comes to this being heavier, more progressive or more organic, but it is certainly thoroughly recognisable Amorphis. Some tracks like “On the Dark Waters” make vague gestures in the direction of greater aggression, but they’re half-hearted honestly, with the band seeming reluctant to commit to anything more adventurous, which it feels like they need to at this point in their career to avoid stagnation. Still, if you’re a big fan of their own particular sound as it stands, Halo will be a pleasant enough if momentary distraction.