The stakes always get raised to the sky when a band-institution sets out to record a new album. There are but a few formations that still work with energy and power no less striking than that of the legends which inspired them in the first place… but that’s exactly what Amorphis
stand for today. They’re worldwide acknowledged experimenters to whom the contemporary scene owes far too much than it could ever admit. The year of 2011 marks their 10th studio release after two decades of successful carrier, an anniversary DVD and a compilation offering a new reading of their biggest classics.
All questions caused by the title "The Beginning of Times" are more or less predictable: how far does the gaze of the Scandinavians reach when it’s directed back to the dawn of their own history? What is the real price of their art and can the essence of such a dynamic legacy find its rightful place after numerous style changes? What position will the new album occupy next to groundbreaking titles as Tales from the Thousand Lakes
, Silent Waters
and other symbolic records of each Amorphis
era? Does the new opus really mark a new beginning?
After its most pretentious times, the band reached a comfortable niche with "Eclipse
", "Silent Waters
" and Skyforger
thanks to Tomi Joutsen, one of the most versatile voices that you’ll ever have the pleasure to hear. The lyrical melancholy and the expressive approach subjected to the laws of the most beautiful music from The Land
of the Thousand Lakes
get a new sharp turn and become a basis for "The Beginning of Times" - a demanding album which might prove quite difficult to chew before you get the message of the Finns. Which is, as always, plain and simple - Amorphis
doesn't acknowledge any limits, not even after a well-guaranteed immortality. In its nature, the album is their most balladic and progressive work to date - at times more touching than the Swan
Song of the "Silent Waters
", more dangerous than the God
" and far more complicated than the fate of the Skyforger
himself. But if "The Beginning of Times" has anything to do with its predecessors, this is namely the previous album with the remark that it tends to get even more wayward and elegiac.
The protagonist here is none other than Vainamoinen - a central figure from the Finnish "Kalevala
" opus, and the links to "Skyforger
" naturally captivate the listeners just as the enchanting songs of the infamous bard were said to have changed the word. The ‘biblical’ opener "Battle for Light" summons the well-known forger Ilmarinen as a companion to the new Amorphis
chosen one and the band starts its pilgrimage anew. There are tons of impressive cascades of keys, stunning melodies, folk elements and thunderous cries of Tomi who stretches his vocal chords to the limit via clamorous growls in nearly 7 out of 12 songs - a tradition that almost died in the last few records of the band. Female backing vocals and virtuoso keyboards by Santeri Kallio forge out "Mermaid" as a future hit classic, crowned with one of many key-solos in the Pink Floyd spirit. The warlike "My Enemy" depicts the rivalry between Vainamoinen and Joukahainen - just like the legendary musicians who measure their skills with each other, Amorphis
challenge their own fans with the nix Aino from the single "You I Need
" as a price. The power metal spirit of "Song of the Sage" is dedicated to the kantele, the instrument made of a giant pike’s jaw with which the immortal bard shapes the world in "Three Words", "Reformation" and the progressive "Soothsayer
" backed up with female chants. The everlasting search for a bride in the ocean’s depths continues in the Elegy
"On a Stranded Shore" which could’ve easily been taken straight off "Skyforger
" for all its aerial beauty while the will to live and death’s denial on "Escape
" yield to a pure symphonic feast on "Crack in a Stone
" - majestically extended and heavy composition combining both past and present of the band. "Beginning of Time" is the last curtain call with its anxiously oldschool prog-rock sound marked by breathtaking keys, guitars, acoustics and vocals changing constantly just as the restless ocean of oblivion engulfs the myth of Vainamoinen… so that he can be born again through Amorphis
’ musical prism.
This is the story of the anniversary album of the Finns - not so different from their own but they’re already past the point of becoming living legends. Such is the privilege of the true storytellers, charged with the responsibility to enrich the entire world’s knowledge in most peculiar ways, keeping the sparkle of the ancient myths as vital as it once was. With "The Beginning of Times", Amorphis
once again concrete their place as a band-leader and add a new chapter to their splendid history for generations to come.