I have to admit that, until quite recently, Amorphis are a band I have been largely unfamiliar with. Wrongly put off by the death/progressive/folk metal labels associated with them, I was convinced they wouldn’t be my ‘cup of tea’.
To the total disgust of my friends, I failed to catch the Finnish metal giants on the main stage at Bloodstock this year and there ensued days of being ribbed relentlessly that I had missed out on one of the ‘performances of the weekend’. So, I caved in and decided to give the band a listen, whilst also placing them on my ‘gigs-to-do-in-the-near-future’ list.
Being formed in the early ‘90s, Amorphis’ back-catalogue has an impressive number of albums and EPs for me to get my teeth into and, whilst I struggle to get my head around the seemingly incoherent death metal growling on the earlier albums, there is no denying that, musically, a fair amount of these works are utterly stunning.
I find that, for once, I am glad to be proved wrong and over the course of the last few months, with their fascinating lyrical content – a lot of which is based on Finnish legend and poetry - superb musicianship, exquisite and hauntingly beautiful melodies, Amorphis have stealthily crept in and captured my heart.
Suffice to say, I now find there is a lot of weight hanging on tonight’s show at the O2 Academy Islington.
When we arrive shortly after doors open there is already a sizable crowd, meaning that support band, death-metal act Starkill, have their work cut out. The four-piece from Chicago make a valiant attempt to draw the crowd in and on the whole they go down well, but disappointingly, in what I usually find to be a good venue sound-wise, the guitars and a large amount of the vocals (for the most part) are completely lost in the mix. In spite of this I can tell there’s something there worth listening to and will definitely check them out again in the future. But, sadly, tonight they lost me and barely being able to hear any discernable melody or lyrics left me even more impatient to see the main act.
By the time Amorphis are due to appear, the place is packed and as the buzz of anticipation builds there is an amazing vibe in the room. When, finally, an atmospheric instrumental fills the air the band come out, one by one, to rapturous applause and cheering and get straight into the first track from their latest album Circle - Shade of Grey – they follow with Narrow Path; both of which go down a storm. They continue with a couple of songs from the Skyforger album – Sampo and Silver Bride – the latter of which has the crowd singing along at the top of their voices and they then go on to perform a great blend of old and new songs, with enigmatic front man Tomi Joutsen seeming as comfortable performing the older stuff as he is more recent. Many of the earlier tracks receive an especially hearty welcome and in particular, Vulgar Necrolatry from the first album ‘The Karelian Isthmus’ gets a great reaction.
Ending the main set with Hopeless Days the audience (myself included) are not shy in making their voices heard during the choruses and following one of the most hearty cries for an encore I’ve heard in ages, the guys come back out for a trio of absolute belters - including Black Winter Day and the amazing House of Sleep. My one and only, tiny, criticism of the gig tonight would be that the lighting, was a bit too ‘in my face’ at times. However, overall I am enthralled and seeing Amorphis live has far exceeded my expectations. I never thought I’d say it – but consider me a (huge) fan. 9/10