Just when you thought AMORPHIS couldn’t get any more progressive after their previous album ‘Under The Red Cloud’, the ‘QUEEN OF TIME’ comes out to sting you in the face! This marks the Finns’ thirteenth album and it was produced by Jens Bogren, which is important to mention because he’s produced a whole bunch of iconic albums including their previous one. Actually, maybe this is Amorphis’ secret to always having great music – to stick by people who they know and have history with.
It is amazing that after a few lineup changes over their almost 30 year history, they’re back at square one with almost the same lineup to that of their formation in 1990 – Esa Holopainen, Tomi Koivusaari, Jan Rechberger, and Olli-Pekka Laine. The only change is Santeri Kallio – who has been with them almost 20 years already and of course, the addition of their current frontman Tomi Joutsen, who joined in 2005. I almost feel as if this album is evidence that this is the lineup that was meant to be AMORPHIS. How else could this phenomenon of an album be explained?
The album starts off with a trancy-sort of electronic buzz that goes back and forth along with a female voice in the background and a very obvious Tomi Joutsen growl from a distance. What is this? It is most certainly Amorphis, but unlike any Amorphis I’ve heard before! The name of the opening song is ‘The Bee‘ and the buzzy sound in the beginning doesn’t let you forget that. It is not long before Mr. Joutsen punches you in the gut – “A fire in the sky!!!!!!!!” If you’ve followed the band for a while, you know of Tomi’s versatility as a vocalist. His deep clean singing is often compared to Peter Steele but he is also known for his really aggressive death metal style growls. Although this is not the darkest or heaviest Amorphis song, it is a great example of that and there is no question why it was chosen as the first single of the album as well as the opening track. A lyric video was also made for it, you can see it here:
The second track, ‘Message In The Amber’, is one of those that take you on quite a ride, so buckle up! The song begins with a sound that is folky but quickly changes to what sounds like a clock quickly ticking through time travel with melancholic singing. It’s not long before the signature growls take over followed by an oriental sound and choirs. Yes, you read that right, CHOIRS! Let’s talk about the guests for ‘QUEEN OF TIME’ for a second. Choirs in this album were performed by HELLSCORE, the eighteen- member vocal ensemble from Israel led and conducted by Noa Gruman. The oriental strings came from ORPHANED LAND’s Oriental Orchestra, which was conducted by Mumin Sesler. Other guests include CHRIGEL GLANZMANN of ELUVEITIE, FRANCESCO FERRINI of FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE, Lebanese band OSTURA, and of course, ANNEKE VAN GIERSBERGEN, and more! All these amazing artists made incredible contributions to ‘QUEEN OF TIME’ and perhaps is one of the reasons for the album’s uniqueness.
‘Daughter Of Hate’ is what may be considered Amorphis à la ‘Circle’ because of it’s intense vocals, dark sound, signature Amorphis-style guitars, until – more choirs! The choirs in this song really take it to the next level of epic. The contrast between extreme and angelic builds and builds until you get peace almost four minutes in. Acoustic serenity and a soft saxophone allow you to feel guarded until the next surprise, which is the band’s long-time lyricist Pekka Kainulainen, actually speaking in the in the song. The words spoken are in his and the band’s native language Finnish, but even for those who don’t understand, listening to his soft words tell a story is a soothing experience. I’ve found myself rewinding back to that part over and over. The song ends with growls, epic choirs, and with that guitar riff that I can’t get out of my head. One of my favourites in this album!
‘The Golden Elk’ starts off like a dark lullaby. Like opening a music box inside a Tim Burton film. Then it’s classic Amorphis all the way. Melodic guitars, a mix between clean and extreme vocals, but then you get what sounds like very Middle Eastern guitars for a bit, before returning to their classic sound. Interesting!
‘Wrong Direction’ was the second single of the album and the one that was chosen for the first music video. You can watch the amazing scenic video, here:
This song is mostly clean singing but very Amorphis, with its catchy elements and folk sounds. Great things are worth waiting for, as are Tomi Jousten’s signature growls at the end of the song! If there was such a thing as a ‘radio friendly’ song, this might be it, but definitely not in a bad way. It is one of the simpler songs on the album and just over five minutes long. Less is more sometimes! It’s one of my favourites in the album and I can see it being a live fan favourite as well. They made a great choice with this one and it’s great balance with the more complex songs.
Another one that I’m looking forward to seeing live is ‘Heart Of The Giant’. I can picture it now – hordes of fans chanting along to the brutal chorus “Through a deep crack in the mountain I slipped.” This song has a very large, epic sound but also the traditional Amorphis catchy riffs and great balance between the clean and brutal vocals and choir. ‘We Accursed’ also falls under this category of looking-forward-to live songs. It has a great solo and light folky melody, really brutal grunts that will have everyone giving it their best shot at the shows – “WE ACCURSED!!!!”
‘Grain Of Sand’ sounds kind of Middle Eastern inspired. Which is a little ironic, considering that the song talks about Tuonela. It just goes to show that there is no impossible for Amorphis, because it sounds awesome! This is the shortest song on the album at ‘just’ 4:45, but it still manages to fit several elements without being overwhelming. The Middle Eastern sound I spoke about earlier, a spotlight on the choir gives this song a lot of mysticism, and the psychedelic touch towards the end make this a pretty unique piece. I really dig it!
Like a fresh breeze, a familiar voice – “It’s ANNEKE!!!” was my very first impression within the first few moments of ‘Amongst Stars’, before I even officially knew she was one of the guests. It’s no surprise that she participated on the album – she’s performed with them before, including the performance used for their live release ‘An Evening With Friends At Huvila’. They couldn’t have chosen a better song for Anneke to join forces with, the song sheds a positive light which goes perfectly with her buoyant, unique voice and energy. It would be amazing to see this song live with the duo singing together. The placement of this song, in the second to last slot, was also very clearly thought out. After all the intensity, comes the light, right before the end. It is not a surprise this song was chosen for another beautiful music video:
Last, but most certainly not least, ‘Pyres On The Coast’. With a title like that it’s not a wonder why this was chosen the closing track. Although likely unrelated, I can picture midsummer bonfires ‘kokko’ as the fires that were “lit in the night”. However, if you read the lyrics, you might feel this song is a cliffhanger. “We know they are coming!” are the last words and a long note on an organ which makes you curious as to what will exactly happen when ‘they’ arrive. I guess we’ll find out on the next Amorphis album (unless you have the bonus tracks, which might answer some questions!)
It is not easy to put ‘QUEEN OF TIME’ into a few words. ‘Amorphis on steroids’ (Jens Bogren) is probably the best way to put it. As a long time Amorphis fan, I am once again, truly impressed. There are not many artists who can continue setting the bar for themselves higher and higher each time, but these gentlemen have managed to continuously reinvent themselves while keeping their signature sound alive. For me, ‘QUEEN OF TIME’ is the entire package. Starting from the insanely detailed artwork, which you can spend hours dissecting, to the destined-to-become-classic songs, the amazing guests, the incredible message behind the album – there’s nothing else I can ask from Amorphis. THANK YOU, AMORPHIS, for sharing your masterpiece with the world!
Nuclear Blast Records
01. The Bee
02. Message In The Amber
03. Daughter Of Hate
04. The Golden Elk
05. Wrong Direction
06. Heart Of The Giant
07. We Accursed
08. Grain Of Sand
09. Amongst Stars
10. Pyres On The Coast