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Last night we were lucky enough to attend a concert by two top notch artists in the current international metal scene. We are talking about Amorphis, Finnish band with almost three decades in the business (and whose musical style you can’t define with a single word), who had as a guest of honor no less than the Danish artist Amalie Bruun, aka Myrkur, one of the revelations in metal music during the last few years. The Finns were playing as the local team in the context of their successful latest tour called “Queen of Time”, just like their last studio album, which reached number one in the Finnish charts back in May. Meanwhile, the Danish singer and multi-instrumentalist achieved the Best Album award in the last Golden Gods ceremony organized by Metal Hammer magazine with Mareridt, released in 2017.
Given how renowned these artists are, the expectations were extremely high, and the fans reacted in a very impressive way, packing Black Box, a venue that is quite big for a local metal band. This venue is usually reserved for international acts or massive Finnish artists. For you to have an idea about the size of the place, let me tell you that it is originally meant for ice hockey. But Amorphis has a strong reputation built on top of thirteen studio albums, performing also in the main metal music festivals and touring as a headliner around the world. This is the fourth time I’ve seen them live, but never before as the main act, always in a festival or opening for a bigger band. It made a huge difference to see them playing in front of their own audience, full of confidence, knowing that people came just to see them.
The evening started sharp on time at 7 PM. The lights go down, on the stage there is a mysterious microphone which’s stand in surrounded by branches of a tree that entangle and climb as high as a person’s height. On the floor there is a rustic drum and at the background the Danish flag. These are unequivocal signs that Myrkur’s show is coming up soon. The Danish artist enters the stage slowly with her musicians, playing the first chords of “The Serpent”, one of her few songs in English. The atmosphere is very dark, the lighting is kept to the minimum, and shades of purple and blue dominate the mood. As usual, Myrkur has her eyes covered by black paint, and you cannot almost recognize any details from her pale face. The rest of the band remains anonymous, having their heads covered by hoods.
The show continues with “Ulvinde”, a single taken from Mareridt, which trasports us to a gloomy forest. The fact that Myrkur sings in Scandinavian languages instead of English adds mysticism to her performance, because the message in her songs is not literal and remains open to the interpretation each person came make out of those words. A guitar riff together with a marching bass drum indicates the beginning of “Dybt i skoven”, followed by “Onde børn”, with a faster pace. The exquisite mix between lyrical singing, Scandinavian folk and black metal is reflected in titles such as “Vølvens spådom” and “Jeg er guden, i er tjenerne”, taken from her first long play release M, released in 2015. Myrkur’s voice, sometimes angelical and sometimes devilish, hypnotizes and enchants the audience.
One of the highlights of her performance is “De Tre Piker”, a beautiful Norwegian folk song. Myrkur plays her drum for the first time during the show in this song. “Elleskudt”, another one of my favorites, is a perfect example of how eclectic her music can be. Then Myrkur talks to the audience and tells us that they’re going to perform a new song live for the first time. Lucky us! The song is in English, but the title is not revealed. At least it gives us some hope of a possible new release in the near future. (UPDATE: the song is called “Juniper”).“Skøgen skulle dø” is another great moment of the set, with such a dramatic and epic intro. To complete a short but fascinating fifty minute show, they deliver “Måneblôt” and “Villemann og Magnhild”, disappearing into the shadows.
Nevertheless, let’s not forget that what really brought us here was Amorphis. Around 9 PM the background lights allow us to see the curtain at the back of the stage with motifs of the cover of Queen of Time. At this point, the place is pretty much packed and the audience tries to get as close to the stage as possible, in order to grasp every detail. Through the speakers we hear the beginning of the intro of the opening track “The Bee”. Little by little the musicians come to the stage, making the audience go crazy. The sound is very strong but clear, the stage production is simple yet effective. The color pallet is dominated by red and blue. They continue to show some of the best songs from their last album, and they carry on with all the energy and melody of “The Golden Elk”, one of my favorite tracks, with a great job by the rhythm section constituted by Olli-Pekka Laine y Jan Rechberger.
Without taking a breath they strike again with “Sky is Mine”, their first reference to Skyforger, with its catchy riff and rhythm. Tomi Joutsen greets the audience in Finnish and comments how surprised they are to gather so many people in such a big venue. This is the typical modesty of the Finns, telling us that “we aren’t such a big band”. Afterwards they go back to Under the Red Cloud with “Sacrifice”, one of their most commercial songs but not necessarily lacking any merits. They return to their latest album with “Message in the Amber”, a brilliant example of the creative potential of the band. In this song we also get to enjoy some of Tomi’s trademark growls, which have lately given more and more room for clean voices. Next one is “Silver Bride”, another take from Skyforger, just as catchy as the previous one, making the ladies dance to the beat.
“Bad Blood” is another song that engages the audience to clap to the rhythm of the intro. Tomi takes some time to tell us about the plans of the band for next year, they are touring as a headliner but also participating in summer festivals. Then they indulge us with “Wrong Direction”, another single from Queen of Time, which contains one of their most effective and melodic choruses ever. As a detail, before the performance of this song, a mysterious character appear on stage and recites the lyrics in Finnish language, giving the band room for a quick break. “The Smoke”, their first reference to Eclipse, allows Tomi to deliver more of those trademark growls. “Daughter of Hate” is one the heaviest tracks in their last album, including an interesting saxophone interlude and also a narration in Finnish.
Tomi Joutsen asks his namesake Koivusaari if he has an old riff in mind. It doesn’t take very long before we realize it is time for “The Castaway”, taken from the legendary Tales From the Thousand Lakes. A track that takes us back to the original sound of the band, closer to death metal. The evolution of this band has been quite complex but I think they have gone in the right direction, although some may criticize them for becoming more commercial. In my opinion, the band has grown immensely when it comes to their writing skills and creativity. A clear sample of this is “Heart of the Giant”, starting subtly with a clean guitar and evolving into heavenly dimensions through its course. One of the most emotional moments comes with “Hopeless Days”, a song in which Joutsen really pulls off a great performance, full of sentiment and passion, in addition to the great guitar solo by Esa Holopainen.
The band leaves the stage for a brief moment, and then comes backs for more with “Death of a King”, making the audience go nuts once again, shouting out lough the name of the song at the top of their lungs. As if this wasn’t enough, the encore continues immediately with “House of Sleep”, maybe their most popular song. And no wonder why, since it has a melody that sticks into your brain from the first time you hear it. To end a great evening, the band says goodbye with “Black Winter Day”, another reference to their beginnings, with Santeri Kallio stealing the show with his keyboards. After one hour and forty minutes, the band salutes once more the audience and leaves the stage for good, with a cheering crowd praising them for what we just witnessed. Once the band is out, the comical version of “House of Sleep” by Eläkeläiset takes over.
To summarize, this was an unforgettable concert experience. We saw Amorphis playing as the local team, with an audience that was very enthusiastic and engaged from the beginning until the end, something unusual based on my previous experiences in concerts in Finland. I think that Amorphis’ biggest merit is to have forged throughout the years the perfect amalgam between melody and heaviness, combining technique and brutality in the perfect amounts. And last for not least, you have to love them for their exquisite progressive complexity, put together with their catchiness and accessibility, which makes them unique.
Review and photos by David Araneda
Press accreditation courtesy of Grey Beard Concerts & Management