The mighty Finns AMORPHIS release their majestic new album QUEEN OF TIME on 18th May via Nuclear Blast. Casper spoke to guitarist Tomi Koivusaari about what we might expect!
It’s been 24 years since AMORPHIS changed the metal world forever with their second album Tales From The Thousand Lakes; an epic piece of work that paved the way for one of the most successful Finnish music careers of all time. On twelve albums so far, AMORPHIS has brought us closer to the Finnish national epic, the “Kalevala”, toured the world several times, received countless gold records and managed to achieve success after success with their unmistakable mix of metal, folklore and rock.
Many winters have since passed through Finland but AMORPHIS is still there and is bigger than ever, more important than ever and better than ever! With their fateful thirteenth studio album »Queen Of Time«, the band provides a ground-breaking epic about the rise and fall of civilization. The day has come – the next defining moment in an unprecedented career has arrived.
Attentive listeners may have expected a further rise in the level of heaviness after the release of their last record (culminating in 2015 in the phenomenal and acclaimed Under The Red Cloud), but AMORPHIS has changed the game once more. The band, which in recent years has refined and improved its iconic style, now opens a breathtaking new chapter. One thing is already certain: AMORPHIS has never before told their stories of the thousand lakes as complex, as enthralling, as inventive and monumental as on Queen Of Time.
“The recordings have been a lot more intense and more exhausting this time,” reveals Esa Holopainen. “After couple of hundred concerts in support of »Under The Red Cloud«, we played our last show of this tour on a Saturday in September 2017 in Helsinki. We had an off day on Sunday – and started rehearsals for the new album on Monday!”
For the band, there was no time out, no gap – not the easiest situation, but one that served to inspire AMORPHIS. “We were able to take the energy, the experience and the routine of the tour and put it directly into songwriting. That,” said Holopainen, “has given the process a good boost.”
Shortly after recording their last album Under The Red Cloud, the Finns realized one thing: they would also record their next album with Jens Bogren, a true brother in spirit. “We knew that if we continue to work with him, we can excel ourselves.” And they did. Together with perfectionist Bogren at Fascination Street Studios, who is at least by now the legitimate seventh AMORPHIS member, the band managed to create an album (just in three months) that surpasses all expectations. “This album turned out as a massive surprise to all of us.” says the band founder. “During the rehearsing and pre-production we didn‘t have any idea that Jens had this huge picture inside of his head about the landscape of the album. Sure, he talked a lot about it, but we didn’t know he was actually going to put all the things he had in mind onto the album!”
Guesting on the album is the likes of Chrigel Glanzmann (ELUVEITIE) on pipes, laryngeal singer Albert Kuvezin and saxophonist Jørgen Munkeby, plus an orchestra and a choir (a novelty for a band now in their 30th year)! These elements deliver a dramatic and cinematic depth to the sound, making everything even more epic, even deeper, and even more meaningful than ever before. Most importantly, these additions do not steal the show from the archaic magic that is AMORPHIS. Holopainen nods enthusiastically: “We’ve secretly been looking for this rush, this metamorphosis, for years.”
A good example for this is the first single, triumphant opener ‘The Bee‘: It begins with sonorous laryngeal singing, a siren-like female voice and strikingly shimmering synths, before getting started in the typical AMORPHIS manner. Melodies from another sphere, raw harshness, grandeur, elaborate orchestration and melancholy, flow seamlessly into each other as if these different worlds always belonged to one another. As a symbol of this sublime game of light and shadow, everything is enthroned by Tomi Joutsen’s voice. Sometimes grumbling, sometimes full of mournful fervor, sometimes crystal clear above everything – he is, now more than ever, a skald, a prophet, a storyteller.
And that is just the beginning. The entire album is a ride at full speed through archetypally Finnish metal witchcraft; a dark, mysterious, melancholic evening around the campfire. The fabulous melodies in the fast-paced ‘Message In The Amber‘ are as Nordic as they can be, in ‘Daughter Of Hate‘ aggression and black metal screams unite with oriental melodies into a fire signal of the downfall with dark choirs. ‘Wrong Direction‘, on the other hand, is gentle in nature and intentionally reduced. But just because AMORPHIS now has choirs and strings it does not mean that they completely overburden their sound. ‘We Accursed‘ comes with full energy: Subtle Ennio Morricone flair, majestic, sublime, elegant – already a future classic in the live set! And then, of course, there’s the overarching ‘Amongst Stars‘, another anthem with the fabulous Anneke van Giersbergen contributing a guest appearance.
As always, borne by Pekka Kainulainen‘s poetic lyrics, AMORPHIS penetrate deeper than ever into the thicket of folklore and cosmic contexts. “This time, Pekka tells about the cosmic powers that people believed in long ago in a very universal way: the rise and fall of cultures.” This is also symbolized by the image of the bee on the album cover – the queen of time, as Holopainen explains the title of the album. “It represents the microcosm that can nevertheless trigger cataclysmic changes. The fall of world empires ushered in by a small sprouting seed. The butterfly that causes a hurricane.” And as ‘Daughter Of Hate‘ urgently needed a spoken part, lyricist Kainulainen also appears for the first time as a narrator. An excellent choice: His wise and venerable shaman-like voice is a perfect match to the music.
Queen Of Time is rounded off by the return of the original bassist Olli-Pekka Laine, following the departure of Niclas Etelävuori after 17 years . “When we started to play our first shows together again last summer it all felt so familiar” says Holopainen. Laine is back and ready to fulfill the whole AMORPHIS touring schedule, which is as extensive as usual. Starting with a massive festival season, AMORPHIS will embark on a large US tour (with DARK TRANQUILLITY and MOONSPELL as support acts) in fall, before presenting their latest masterpiece on European stages. “The songs of the new album will also set new standards at our live shows,” says Holopainen. And anyone who has heard Queen Of Time even once will know what he means by that. A new era has begun, a new Tales From The Thousand Lakes is born.