Amorphis: Keeping metal hot since the Cold War

Sunday 09th, September 2018 / 10:00
By Matty Hume

What was old is new again.

CALGARY – The most epic of timeless fables may have been scribed by the minds of centuries past, but some legends are made in real time – here and now.

Hailing from Helsinki, Finland, Amorphis are herculean cartographers of metal’s diverse subgenres. Destined for greatness from the moment the moment their 1992 debut, The Karelian Isthmus, hit shelves, their masterwork rests comfortably in death metal’s canon. But after 28 years, 13 studio albums and a mastery of styles from prog metal to doom-folk, the greatest influence on today’s Amorphis is… Amorphis.

We were very young when we started so obviously our music-style has been changed once in awhile a bit, plus we have tried different things as we have grown up as well as musicians and as persons,” says guitarist and resident banshee Tomi Koivusaari.

“I’d like to say we sound like Amorphis.”

Though a strong gallery of talented musicians can proudly claim the bounty of Amorphis membership, Koivusaari is currently joined by Esa Holopainen on guitar; Santeri Kallio on keys; Jan Rechberger on sticks n’ skins; Tomi Joutsen on soaring vocals and acoustic strings; and Olli-Pekka Laine holding down the bass.

Together, they’ve casted their most recent saga, Queen of Time (2018, Nuclear Blast). The record is a technical display of symphonic metal, hoisting soaring orchestral crescendos over subtle breakdowns that scratch itches from traditional Nordic folk to adeptly perfected death-metal speed. Lyrically, Amorphis focuses on epic tales of old, battles of clashing iron, mighty victories and poetic defeats. The Kalevala, a 19th-century collection of oral Finnish folklore, is a carefully considered point of reference for Amorphis’ own storytelling.

When we were young it was teached at schools and of course, at the time, it felt boring as hell. Later on it became more interesting, as different normal life situations are handled very metaphoric way. And it is something which feels like our own cultural thing, roots in some way,” Koivusaari says. “I think those lyrics and stories fit very well to our music, as it is basically about nature and beliefs before Christianity came to Europe. Pagan stuff, yes. So we are not using those texts to spread the thing or in patriotic way. We could sing about dragons, but this feels more real and [our] own.”

Despite some inspiration from the yarns of old in their content, the adventure of Amorphis is one for the ages in its own right. Notably, you’d be remiss to tell the tale of Amorphis without exploring Koivusaari’s death-metal-proper project, Abhorrence. Originally formed in the fires of 1989, Abhorrence disbanded in 1991 following a demo recording that was Relapse Records’ original point of attention. Since Abhorrence slayed no more, it was Amorphis satiated the label’s hunger at the time. Thankfully, the resulting decades of Amorphis’ success prove the band was far from a mere substitute. But in our own decade, the phoenix of Abhorrence rises free of conflict.

We are still very good friends with all Abhorrence guys, as we [grew] up together in same area and have known each other from when we were children. So [in] 2013 [when] Svart Records asked if [Abhorrence was] interested that they’ll release compilation vinyl and CD from our demo, EP and some rehearsing tapes, we were like, ‘Why not,’ “ Koivusaari says. “Abhorrence only works when Amorphis is having some break, which is quite rare. So no problems really.”

As of right now, Amorphis is far from taking a break, which is damn exciting if you’ve yet to see these living legends grace the stage. Between epic instrumentation and an almost unparalleled reputation in the world of metal, you sure as hell won’t be thinking about tomorrow’s shopping list when Amorphis guides you through the Kalavela with axes in hand.

Amorphis shreds on September 17 at the Starlite Room (Edmonton), September 18 at Dickens Pub (Calgary) and September 19 at the Rickshaw Theatre (Vancouver)

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