AMORPHIS | CIRCLE | Double LP Vinyl Record
MINT RSD RELEASE
CAT. NUMBER: 28361 29971
LABEL: NUCLEAR BLAST
VINYLS/SLEEVE: MINT: FACTORY SEALED. + POSTER
There's a number of bands who do the whole "discography consistency" shtick very well. Those very bands won't push themselves outside their comfort zone a great deal, but have a strong fanbase who's willing to defend them every step of the way; Amorphis happens to be one of those bands. When you pick up an Amorphis record, you usually know what to expect: melodic death metal with elements of doom metal, folk, and progressive rock. That's been their sound for years, and they haven't seemed to be changing things up very much. This brings us to their newest release, Circle; I'll just say it now... if you're expecting the band's big 180 turn that surprises everyone and brings in a boatload of new fans, you might be pretty disappointed. However, if you want an extremely consistent and expertly-crafted set of melodic metal tunes, stick around.
That's not to say the band have lost any heaviness in their sound; in fact, many of these songs are even heavier than expected. "Hopeless Days" pummels the listener with a percussive guitar assault that's combined with slow-moving drum work similar to "Shades of Gray." The melodic chorus retains this heaviness while having the same climactic soaring vocals you'd generally expect from the band. That, and the growling is GREAT. Tomi Joutsen really outdid himself in the vocal department on this one, and the growling is no exception. My personal favorite songs in terms of his death growls are "Enchanted by the Moon" and "Nightbird's Song"; the former mixes Joutsen's deep devilish growling with a thick riff that's played over a swing-style drumbeat. "Nightbird's Song" both the clean and harsh vocals together over one of the more complex compositions on the record. Joutsen gets the tone just right; he utilizes whichever style fits the mood best, and you can tell that he knew what he was doing.
The most obvious flaw of this record is how predictable it is. There's no going around the fact that these guys know how to cater to their fans, but one must wonder when enough is enough and the group might have to alter their sound a bit. While this record is very well done, there is indeed a distinct feeling of "been-there-done-that" that's hard to ignore; Circle simply sounds like a refined edition of past glories. However, while this formula worked almost flawlessly for an album like Dead End Kings by Katatonia, this one is lacking something that's hard to describe, and it can't be given anything above my 4.2 rating because of it. Maybe it's in the riffs or the instrumentation, but it'd be nice for Amorphis to be a tad more ambitious with their future work. Sure, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," but it still seems like Amorphis could add a few more tricks the next time around. As it stands though, Circle is definitely worth the investment. It's got great melodies, a nice dark atmosphere, good quiet sentimental passages, and a sense of bombast that's more than welcome for a band like this. If you like melodic death metal, progressive metal, folk, or all three together, give this a listen.
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