Review: Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud

I am not an Amorphis expert. In fact, I haven’t heard most of their pre-Joutsen albums. The only one I own is ‘Tales from the Thousand Lakes’, an album widely hailed as the magnum opus of their early material. It was only a few months ago that my love for them was rekindled by listening to ‘Skyforger’. I consider it a perfect album, and, at least in the last decade, they seem to have a penchant for releasing remarkable albums. ‘Under the Red Cloud’ is certainly no exception. As one might expect based on the band’s releases since ‘Eclipse,’ you’ll find nothing less than their unique blend of gothic, folk and death metal sub-genres interlaced with multi-dimensional, passionate vocals.

The title track, ‘Under the Red Cloud,’ starts off exactly how you would expect. I don’t mean that in a bad way either – just the opposite, in fact. I mean to say that they have truly carved out their own little niche among the giants in and around their sub-genre. I suppose one could say that they play Amorphis Metal. ‘The Four Wise Ones’ is another phenomenal track whose atmosphere and attitude shift periodically. One minute you’re listening to extreme metal, the next you’re listening to something ethereal and distantly sorrowful, but it flows. It’s mystical, it’s aggressive, it’s moody; it’s the very essence of art. With ‘Bad Blood’, the band continues to pummel your ears with yet another lovely track. One of recurring guitar melodies has a Lord of the Rings quality that affords the song an eerie feeling. It’s as infectious as it is ominous, and is pure gold.

‘The Skull’ continues the excellence and heaviness, at least initially, before delving into one of the nicest choruses on the album. ‘Death of a King’ follows what seems to be a nice formula for this album; that formula being to growl or scream the verses and cleanly sing the choruses. I love the song, but it would not have been my first choice to release as the initial single, simply because the sitar, at least I think it’s a sitar, is somehow overwhelmingly dominant. ‘Sacrifice’ is one of my favorite tracks from the album, and one that might rightly be described as gothic from start to finish. There are no growls here, and it helps to balance the rest of the album. It also sounds like it would be right at home on ‘Skyforger’, and that is a definite plus. ‘Dark Path’ starts off in a noticeably Finnish way. Suffice it to say, the song begins with a pretty, piano-driven intro, only to delve into extreme metal brutality, which then morphs back into a cleanly sung, emotive chorus. Like other songs on this album, there are many complex emotions woven into the fabric of this song.

The latter part of the album is filled with songs that compliment the whole perfectly. The mystical sounding ‘Enemy at the Gates’ goes against the aforementioned formula with its clean vocal verses and growled chorus. It may have been unfair earlier to suggest that there was a formula, because there really isn’t one. The vocals are just not predictable. ‘Tree of Ages’ adds a touch of lightness with its happy-go-lucky Celtic melodies and generally cheerful atmosphere. Finally, ‘White Night’ closes the album in an expected way with its out-of-nowhere female vocals. I didn’t receive any information on this album, so I don’t know who it is, but she sounds very soothing on the verses, and she adds just one more element to an already diverse album. From beginning to end this album is an incredible, emotional journey that is most certainly equal to ‘Skyforger’, at least in this non-expert’s opinion. Succinctly, ‘Under the Red Cloud’ is a masterpiece. 10/10

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