On April the 19th, 2013, a new form of metal heaviness was unleashed upon the world. We are talking about “Circle”, AMORPHIS’s fresh, yet untainted album.
It must be said that after the criticism received by the band’s previous release, “Beginning of Times” (2011), accused of being a repetitive, cliché album which proved that the band was becoming jaded, everyone had their ears on Amorphis to see whether the dissatisfied listeners were right.
Well poo on you, dear critics, because “Circle” is absolutely fantastic. Probably one of the most progressive Amorphis records to date, it takes everything to a new level – from the songwriting, to production, lyrics and everything in between.
The heavy parts are heavier than ever and the melodic parts are even more melodic. Each song is filled with rich instrumental layers which develop into a grandiose sound-wall. Big choruses and a pop-metal element in the melodies make them catchy to the point of addiction. It is interesting that the band has channeled an old passion for medieval metal (“Nightbird’s Song”, “Narrow Path”) on this record, experimenting with unusual instruments (woodwind instruments & saxophone) and vintage tools.
Tomi Joutsen has also made an effort to detach himself from certain mannerisms and has achieved a more versatile vocal performance. However, at times the voice seems a bit over-processed. Production wise, it was felt that the engineer was a bit more involved this time around. Precision and a bit more technicality weave a more professional thread.
The lyrics have also taken a turn, dealing with a character that has nothing heroic in him and is forced to transcend his limitations in order to become enlightened. Overall, the theme is more relatable and has a deeper, more human message.
Songwriting-wise, the album is extremely complex. While most of the songs are pretty fast, there is so much rhythmic variety within one single piece, that it’s hard not to admire the guys for their compositional skills.
“Shades of Gray” is a classic, headbanging tune with awesome, beastly vocals. “Mission” is one of the most progressive songs on “Circle”, with a rich keyboard beginning. “The Wanderer” brings epic catchiness to the yard, and manifests a clear pop-metal element. “Narrow Path” comes with even more variety, channeling the medieval feeling present in Amorphis’s brand of music.
“Hopeless Days” begins massively with a horror-metal approach, while “Nightbird’s Song” is one of the most unpredictable songs on “Circle” It starts like a medieval ballad, only to sink abruptly into a bombing, transgressive metal hymn, which further develops into complex instrumentals. Pay attention to the woodwind bridge which will blow you away. And the drums…man! Awesome.
“Into the Abyss” brings some peace, with its pleasantly progressive development. “Enchanted by the Moon” delves again into some horror-metal, providing us with the perfect artistic outlet for repressed anger. The drums are once again grandiose. “A New Day” is one of the slowest songs ever done by Amorphis, showing us that the path of equanimity is also possible.
“Dead Man’s Dream” provides a fast, dark, angry ending to an extremely varied record. It leaves us with no doubts regarding the main character’s fate.
“Circle” is most definitely one of Amorphis’s most consistent albums to date. Songwriting-wise, production-wise, theme-wise, and everything-else-you-can-imagine-wise, the record is impeccable and awesome. Perhaps this flawlessness is often confused as a lack of courage to experiment. It is not the case with Amorphis who, record after record, deliver the most amazing and deep melodic metal out there.
Our mark is 9.5 out of 10.
1. Shades Of Gray
3. The Wanderer
4. Narrow Path
5. Hopeless Days
6. Nightbird’s Song
7. Into The Abyss
8. Enchanted By The Moon
9. A New Day
10. Dead Man’s Dream (bonus-track)