Man I love Amorphis. This Finnish band have created so many master works over their career, constantly evolving and developing into something truly creative and genre defying. Eleven albums total thus far and the band is still consistently injecting different aspects into each release, the beautiful poetic nuances that fulfill each release is just awe inspiring. Few bands of any genre can stay important and prominent their whole career yet Amorphis seem to have that uncanny ability to manifest in new and exciting ways. Thus "Circle" continues to display the dedication and extraordinary passion the band has exhibited over their lifespan.
The album appears courtesy of Nuclear Blast and produced by Peter Tagtgren (Hypocrisy, Pain) at Petrax Studio. This is the only time that I have seen Tagtgren produce a band outside of his Abyss Studio. The production is really raw with highs being slightly edgy and bordering on static while the lows really enhance the death metal moments of the album. This is a much more "pushed in" sound when compared to the group's previous efforts and is akin to what Paradise Lost recently did with their raw bottom heavy "Tragic Idol".
Obviously Amorphis have been exploring their early roots with recent re-recordings of earlier songs from "Karelian Istmus" (1992) and "Tales From The Thousand Lakes" (1994). The band showed off those extreme elements on the diverse "Beginning Of Times" in 2011 and follow that same format for this new venture. The album's opener, "Shades Of Gray"' is a brutally heavy number that has vocalist Tomi Joutsen utilizing his death vocals before soulfully bringing in a clean voice through the chorus. That same formula works perfectly on "Enchanted By The Moon" as well, a moving track that grows in intensity and shows Joutsen in rare form with some higher death vocals (conveniently similar to Peter Tagtgren). "Mission" is very similar to "Elegy" and "Eclipse", a mid-tempo track that has stirring melodies that are complimented by well placed cymbals and some backing keys. "Narrowpath" is signature Amorphis, an addictive melody that uses dual output from flutes and rhythm guitar (something Blind Guardian utilizes).
I can see a few new influences here as well, evident on "Hopeless Days" with its sinister keyboard notes that recalls Dark Tranquility, Cradle Of Filth or something ominous. That same sort of anxiety runs rampant on "Nightbird's Song", fast double bass and huge sweeping grooves that writes 90s Swedish death metal with Joutsen's guttural growls.
Overall this is yet another masterpiece and even better than the group's highly rated "Beginning Of Times". I rated that album a four and I am going to step up another half star to give this a near perfect. What is neglected? Well, just simply more songs are needed. This album runs nine tracks only and surely a band this talented and original can come up with a few more cuts. Nonetheless this is a masterpiece of epic proportions and would write the Finns into the hallowed halls on this record alone. At some point you would think the US would notice. Amorphis, Soilwork, Paradise Lost and Mustasch are the European purveyors of perfection and doing it by re-inventing the wheel.