Now in their twenty third year as a band, Finnish melancholic dark rock/Metallers Amorphis' latest album, 'Circle', their eleventh full length, encompasses tried and tested elements alongside a few newer elements.
Once again lyricist Pekka Kainulainen, who has worked with the band on previous albums, has been involved in the creation of 'Circle', so there is a familiar feel to the lyrical style.
'Circle' tells a story about an unfortunate man, who is invited to a circle and receives strength from the old Finnish Gods. The plot is set completely between dusk and dawn, giving a dark, melancholic atmosphere.
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Opening with 'Shades Of Gray', an exciting track from the very start, the harsh vocals from Tomi Joutsen sit so well beside the chugging guitars and sinister keyboard segments which give a dark ominous feel and the addition of clean vocals balance the composition of this stunning opening track, my favourite track of the album.
The next few tracks have only clean vocals; however there is a powerful depth to Tomi's cleans, so that keeps me happy. 'The Mission' has a slower tempo and a lamenting, slight folk influence and progressive aspect to the guitars. After a short gentle opener 'The Wanderer' develops into an up tempo but melancholic number, this element is something which develops from the lyrics and vocal intonation.
As with many of their tracks, past and present, 'Narrowpath' has a strong folk influence which is picked up in a repeat pattern from the keyboards and guitars, an up tempo and beautiful track.
On 'Hopeless Days' the combination of chugging guitars mixed with sections where the tempo drops and just reflective gentle keyboards, then powerful cleans, all capped off with a great guitar segment that is interwoven with some excellent keyboards towards the end. All this comes together to form a powerfully emotive track.
The harsh vocals return alongside the cleans and from a vocal perspective, 'Nightbird's Song' is a standout track just for the sheer range used within its construct, extending to an almost gurgling scream at times and powerful enough to make hair stand up on the back of your neck.
Given the title I expected 'Into The Abyss' to be darker but it's actually quite melancholic. It also features a couple of great guitar and keyboard solos which almost seem to compete with each other. 'Enchanted By The Moon' has great soaring, spiralling opener and more splendid deep harsh vocals mixed with powerful cleans.
The final track, 'A New Day', has a beautiful extended emotive guitar opener before the clean vocals begin, continuing in a slower tempo and maintaining the emotive feel, the track takes on a folk influenced melancholic element towards the end.
Although 'Circle' does fit into that tried and tested Amorphis formula that has been present over the last few albums, it also has a little something extra not found on its predecessors, maybe a little punchier, but whatever it is, for certain it's an absolutely great album with a polished finish and a first rate production.
The album was produced by Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy, Pain), and recorded at Petrax Studio, Finland. The cover artwork is by British artist Tom Bates.