AMORPHIS — Skyforger

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AMORPHIS - Skyforger cover
3.99 | 39 ratings | 5 reviews
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Album · 2009

Tracklist

1. Sampo (6:08)
2. Silver Bride (4:13)
3. From the Heaven of My Heart (5:20)
4. Sky Is Mine (4:20)
5. Majestic Beast (4:19)
6. My Sun (4:04)
7. Highest Star (4:44)
8. Skyforger (5:15)
9. Course of Fate (4:15)
10. From Earth I Rose (5:00)

Total Time: 47:43

Line-up/Musicians

- Tomi Joutsen / Vocals
- Esa Holopainen / Guitar
- Tomi Koivusaari / Guitar
- Santeri Kallio / Keyboards
- Niclas Etelävuori / Bass
- Jan Rechberger / Drums

Guest members:
Marco Hietala - Backing Vocals
Sakari Kukko - Flute

About this release

Full-length, Nuclear Blast, May 29th, 2009

Music credits:
1, 3, 4, 9 by Kallio
2, 5, 7, 8 by Holopainen
6 by Koivusaari
10 by Joutsen

Lyrics by Pekka Kainulainen (translated by Erkki Virta)

The album was recorded at Sonic Pump Studios in Helsinki, Finland. Produced by Mikko Karmila and Marco Hietala.

Also available as a special digipak edition featuring a bonus track:
11. Godlike Machine (05:18) (Koivusaari)

Bonus tracks for Japan:
11. Godlike Machine (05:18)
12. Separated (04:17)

Thanks to UMUR for the updates

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AMORPHIS SKYFORGER reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

Warthur
Just as Tales From the Thousand Lakes provided, if you'll forgive the pun, the high water mark of Amorphis' melodic death metal era, so too does Skyforger stand out as perhaps one of the more accessible and occasionally even Floydian iterations of their take on progressive metal. Drawing on death metal influences without diluting the cohesiveness of their progressive metal sound, and with excellent keyboard work from Santeri Kallio and dual lead guitar from Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari, the band once again tackle their customary Kalevala stories with style. Take Silent Waters, put the fun back, and you'll get something which sounds a little like this exuberant little number. Nothing to redefine the map, particularly when it comes to Amorphis' particular niche, but those who particularly dig their latter-day style will enjoy it.
Diogenes
In my never ending quest to free my peeps from the mainstream mumbo jumbo that plagues their music libraries, I often lend them whatever I'm listening to that week, if nothing more than to get a reaction of "This is all noise! I can't understand what he's saying WAAAA". Now, Skyforger already holds a special place in my heart for getting the most positive reactions from these little experiments. You might say, "But Diogenes, if people who listen to mainstream hip hop think this is good, doesn't that mean it's really BAD?" Nay, my friends. This is the best release of 2009. This might even be the best release in the past decade.

At this point in their careers, Amorphis had Amorphed from their death metal roots a long time ago and now play an extremely unique hybrid of many different genres. It's melodic, it's proggy, and has a hint of folk influence (with pianos and flutes and what have you), all while maintaining a streamlined, radio-friendly sound. There are still death growls (well-executed ones at that), but those are pretty much all that remains of the band's br00tal beginnings. As such, it's difficult to pigeonhole Skyforger into one metal subgenre, and to do so would be selling the album short anyway, unless you want to be a smartass and say this is "GOOD metal" or something like that.

With Skyforger, Amorphis have done something incredible and made a killer album just by writing good songs. A novel idea! There are no 22-minute wankfests, blast beats, or overly complicated lyrics that make you go, "What?" And yet every song here is sweeter than honey. There is no filler to speak of; from the piano intro in "Sampo" to the final lead of "From Earth I Rose", Skyforger is one thousand percent well-written material, with layers upon layers of musical craftsmanship. You know how it is when you hear a song you like, and then you listen to it again and find something else that you didn't hear the first time? That's what I'm getting at here. Any one of these songs could have been made into a single, or had a video shot for them, or whatever. What's impressive is that Amorphis are able to pull this off while making each song fresh and different from the last. The variety is such that it's impossible for me to pick favorites. If you want a sample, try "From the Heaven of My Heart" (much better than it sounds), or "Highest Star", but really, I'd rather start at track one and go from there.

The Amorphis lineup has remained stable since 2006, and being the third go with this group of musicians, Skyforger gives the impression that the entire band was feeling it and worked together as one to achieve this product. Tomi Joutsen in particular is just fantastic; his voice is one of a true man, both deep and emotive, with a thick and gutteral growl to boot. He does a remarkable job conveying feeling, especially during the refrains, and telling the heartfelt stories that the lyrics outline. The guitar duo of Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari lay down the folky melodies that Amorphis is known for in spades. The solos flow from their instruments like, well, you can use your own liquid simile here. However, the most important contribution this time around might have come from keyboardist Santeri Kallio, providing an unforgettable atmosphere that soars high above the chaos lower in the mix and tying the music together with a bow. The synth leads are nothing to scoff at, either.

There isn't really much more I can say, other than buy this album if you don't believe the hype. I hate to be the guy that brings up cheesy crap in his reviews, especially since I think I've done enough praising of this album by now, but since I have no real conclusion...There is a line that is crossed when metal becomes music, and when music becomes art. Picasso, eat your heart out; you're looking at it. Skyforger is more than metal. It is perfection. 5 stars and beyond
poslednijat_colobar
Another beautiful chapter in Amorphis history

The newest Amorphis album is another impressive chapter in their (already) long history. It's called Skyforger and is probably their most varied album to date. It contains moments and ideas from all eras of the band without being chaotic. It's "very" progressive, "very" folky and "very" gothic combined in remarkable balance. The death vocals are at the album again, especially in Majestic Beast and Godlike Machine.

The production is very professional and impressive. The musicianship is superb and the songwriting is strong with modern vision and routine accomplishment and without obvious weaknesses. The whole production is fascinating and there's not weak moments. All of the songs are memorable and genuine. In fact, Skyforger can't attracts the listener from the very beginning. It attracts when you've already known the songs.

Skyforger is excellent addition to any progressive-oriented collection. And yet, without the presence of some major highlights it would just have been one very good album. With these highlights (Sampo, Sky Is Mine, Majestic Beast, Highest Star, Godlike Machine and especially the folky-oriented and profound From Earth I Rose) Skyforger is a must! 4,25 stars rounded up to 4 1/2 stars!
UMUR
"Skyforger" is the 9th full-length studio album by Finnish metal act Amorphis. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in May 2009. Like the case were on the last couple of albums the lyrics on the album are English translations of Finnish poems based on the "Kalevala" (a collection of Finnish poetry and myths). This time around the focus is on the "Ilmarinen" (a heroic character from the "Kalevala").

The music on the album is unmistakably the sound of Amorphis. Melodic and epic metal with the occasional harder edged moment and some nods toward ethnic folk. It´s now the third album with lead vocalist Tomi Joutsen behind the microphone and he is still a great asset to the band´s sound as a result of his strong voice and the diversity of his vocal delivery. In addition to his clean vocals, he also growls on the tracks "Sampo", "Majestic Beast" and "From Earth I Rose" which is great for the variation of the vocals on the album. The musicianship are excellent throughout though and with a powerful and polished sound production, I´m sure fans of the band are more than content with "Skyforger". There are many great tracks on the album (and a few decent fillers) but a track like "Sky is Mine" has to be given a special mention. It´s the kind of track that makes me feel alive. Great melodic and energetic track that one. The opening track "Sampo" is also worth a mention. Another really strong track.

All in all "Skyforger" is a very professional product and it´s hard to deny that the catchy and memorable songwriting isn´t something really special. This far into their career Amorphis still sound as fresh and hungry for success as they did back in the early nineties when they had their initial breakthrough. "Skyforger" is another proof of that and it´s overall a great listening experience deserving a 3.5 star (70%) rating.

Members reviews

Gallifrey
Melodic Metal, Part 3

Since Tomi Joutsen joined Amorphis in 2005, the band have more or less created the same album every 2 or so years. From 2006’s Eclipse to 2013’s Circle (and most likely beyond), Amorphis have been consistently cracking out albums of hyper-melodic metal music, smothered in insanely good melodies, piano, folk instruments, synth solos and even occasional death growls. But the strangest thing about this music is that despite its obvious simplicity, it is technically the most genre-defying thing in metal music right now. Because despite having hints of progressive metal and folk metal and melodic death metal, they are none of those. They are just “metal”.

The description of this band that I just gave is nearly a recipe of how to impress me. I love melodies. I love metal. I love piano. I love piano in metal more than anything. Folk instruments, synth solos. Jesus, I should love this band. And in a way, I do. Amorphis are one of the most talented bands on the planet at creating deliciously good melodies, and they’re also one of the best bands in the world at perfectly mixing two guitars and piano into metal. The way the rhythm and backing parts of these songs intertwine the sounds is just masterful, using wonderful counterpoint to create an illusion that there are dozens of instruments playing at once. But Amorphis’ problem has never been that, at least not since 2005. This band has a near-perfect sound, and they create stunningly good songs, but that’s really it. Skyforger is regularly considered to be the best of modern Amorphis (although I am slightly more partial to The Beginning of Times), but it’s really just the most consistent of a string of near-identical albums.

And the most frustrating thing about this is that this record still is far from perfection. Amorphis have written five full albums worth of this style of metal, so logically, if they were to pick the best from each, they’d have one of the best metal albums ever. But the truth is that every one of these albums have standouts and duds. There are no true duds on this album, once you give it enough listens, but there are certainly weaker tracks, and the fact that they sound identical to the stronger ones mean they feel like duds. And the worst part about Skyforger is that the band decided to throw them all at you straight up.

The first four songs on this record are amongst the best Amorphis have done. Melodic, memorable, epic, intricate, and just generally fantastic. Funny though, when I saw the track ratings here on RYM during my first listen, I didn’t really get why they were considered much higher, but after several listens, the drop in consistency becomes completely clear. “Sampo” is the longest and best of the four, designing the entire track around an absolutely wonderful little lick that comes on the piano at the start, and guitar later. There are obvious parallels to “Battle For Light” (my favourite Amorphis song) from the following album, showing that Amorphis are definitely one of the most formulaic bands there are, but the combination of that wonderful piano with the majestic chorus with the strings and flute in the bridge with the synth solo that closes it is just too much for me to bother thinking about how formulaic it is.

The song transitions very smoothly into “Silver Bride”, so that the energy of the opener doesn’t truly die, and the song breaks into a great riff with even better counterpoint being played by the piano. This song is definitely not as strong, I’m not too keen on the first part of the chorus, but the second part (“...from the northern summer night from the winter moon”) is gorgeous, especially with the song’s opening riff playing in true melodeath style underneath it. The song also features a wonderful key change near the end, which again is one of Amorphis’ copying-themselves characteristics, but I love it nonetheless.

“From The Heaven of My Heart” is a softer track for the most part, bringing forward Amorphis’ influences in progressive rock. The song features some more great counterpoint, with the piano and the acoustic guitar in the intro, then again with the acoustic and electric guitars in the verse. But what I love the most about this song is the use of more subdued, low-register vocals, giving the song a different texture to the first two (although don’t go thinking Amorphis aren’t being formulaic). The chorus is one again admirably fantastic, but less over-the-top like in the first two.

“Sky Is Mine” is the last truly fantastic track here, containing some excellent use of delay-soaked electric leads, that remind me a whole lot of Dead Letter Circus (although this album is before their time). This song has an unparalleled energy running through it, with the song building up wonderfully to the two marvellous melodies that make up the chorus. And actually, I don’t mind the solos here, although I’ve been known to not be a big fan of soloing in metal - both the synth and guitar solos are melodic and strong, keeping the energy without dissolving into wanky madness.

And then it’s gone. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the rest of the album, and in fact pretty much every track has at least one part I quite enjoy, but they just aren’t as good. The title track and the album closer “From Earth I Rose” are the best of the remainder, and both could be great songs if they were a bit more focused. The title track has some excellent melodies in the verses, but has a comparatively weak chorus that results in the song feeling half-baked and empty. And the closer is the opposite - its chorus is relatively strong, but not much else surrounding it is. I enjoy the use of flute in the track, but on the whole, it could be so much greater with a bit more oomph.

Skyforger is a great album, I won’t deny that, but it could have been so much better. For one, Amorphis could have done a better job with diversity - if the first four songs nailed the “Amorphis sound”, the rest of the album could have developed some other stuff. And I really don’t get the reasoning behind chucking them all at the front, surely this album would flow better if the standouts were more spread out. And then there’s the matter of the songs sounding the same - why on earth does every damn track (including the good ones) end with that bloody slow-it-down-for-the-finish finale. I mean come on, it’s as weak as fading the songs out. But on the whole, Skyforger is a rather fantastic record, above all the flaws that it has. If you’re a fan of the musical elements I listed at the start, but most specifically great melodies, 21st century Amorphis will be one of your favourite bands, and Skyforger is definitely one of their best efforts.

7.6

Originally written for my facebook page/blog: facebook.com/neoprogisbestprog

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