Company: Nuclear Blast Release: 2009 Genre: Progressive Reviewer: Raising Iron
Every song relishes and regales in its purpose
Amorphis have always been a band who've defied metalheads' desire to pigeonhole a group into a certain style – yeah, I know, the first couple o' releases were mostly straight up death metal, though of a certain progressive and unique bent – but it can now be said that the guys have quintessentially transcended all genre defining borders. Hell, this argument could be made going all the way back to Elegy really, but with their latest effort, Skyforger, any vestige of confines that may have yet remained are stripped; the sextet casting aside any temptation to rest on laurels; pushing and pressing for perfect proclamations of song-craft the likes of which are rarely achieved.
Many questioned Tomi Joutsen's ability to fill the shoes of longtime vocalist Pasi Koskinen after his departure in 2004, but 2006's Eclipse and especially 2007's Silent Waters proved him more than capable, and now with this latest release, those fears are permanently laid to rest; the man once again throwing every ounce of emotion and resplendent dynamism into his singing. Not sure who's doing the death growls on this release – possibly guitarist Tomi Koivusaari, who served as the guttural guide of the band in the early years, but it sounds like Tomi Joutsen – no matter though, as they are somewhat sparse throughout the disc, though used to precise and desired effect.
It's an absolutely unbelievable level of compositional creativity these guys are now peaking at; the multitudinal layers of melodies and riffs found within each piece coalescing into a singular work of measured warmth, blending fury and melancholy into a consummate whole. There isn't a moment of filler to be found on Skyforger; every song relishes and regales in its purpose, leaving the listener filled with a renewed sense of animus. Keyboard interlacing is of course once again prominent within the constructs, judiciously used to impeccable effect, morphing the dimensions in which these refrains reside.
Once again being mixed and mastered at the monumental Finnvox Studios, you'd be hard-pressed to find a gripe about the production (warning: ironically enough the initial pressing of the digipak version did contain volume anomalies on a couple of songs that are being rectified via subsequent pressings; Nuclear Blast has available at their website correct versions of these songs until the problem is fixed), and the clarity enjoyed on previous releases is still present for all to absorb.
For those who simply enjoy well-written and superbly performed music, no matter what the genre or style, I implore you, if you only purchase a small handful cds this year, make Skyforger one of them, it'll be money well-spent, guaranteed.