Sound — 8
Amorphis have got to be pleased with where they are at the moment. Their new album Skyforger rides on the momentum they've built up with their last two excellent releases, Eclipse and Silent Waters. Nuclear Blast are certainly hoping this will be a huge album for them, considering the strict policies they set regarding who gets to hear the promotional copies, and yours truly must say that the wait to hear Skyforger was at times pretty darn painful.
If you are familiar with Amorphis' recent output, then the sound of Skyforger won't come as much of a surprise. It's melodic, melancholic, mostly heavy and song-oriented metal. The folk element is on display for all to see, but not in the, say, Finntroll-way. We're treated to subtle melodies and folkier outings on piano and acoustic guitar, but never is it it overdone. It adds a certain shimmer to the whole product, rather than tarnish it with overexposure.
In terms of production, as most albums released in this day and age, there's little to say. It's very well produced and perhaps a bit slicker than most metal albums, but there's sufficient grit and dirt on there to please those of us who prefer our sounds unpolished and raw.
Lyrics — 9
The lyrical themes for Amorphis are often brought in from Finnish mythology, and Skyforger is no different. I am no expert on the Kalevala, but I dare say that the album tells the story of Seppo Ilmarinen, who is credited with crafting the sky and forging the Sampo (a magic artifact of some sort). The language isn't overly rich, but the storyline is more than enough to please those of us interested in quality lyricism and storytelling.
Tomi Joutsen is, quite bluntly, the best damn thing that could happen to Amorphis. He can go from super-sweet, gentle and emotional vocals to deep growls at will and he certainly uses that ability to great effect on Skyforger. The versatility that his vocals lend the music are priceless and I can't for the life of me think of someone who could fit this band and sound better than him.
Overall Impression — 9
Amorphis is one of those bands that attempt to set a certain vibe, and then manage to execute it while sounding sincere and honest. There are bands that try to implement soft passages only to sound uncomfortable doing so, and vice versa. Amorphis' sound flows like a river with seamless shifts in mood and intensity, which makes Skyforger such a pleasing listen. The songs are all around 4-6 minutes long, which lends itself well to a pop-formula with intros, verses and choruses coming at expected times. The core of Amorphis' sound is basically a regular hard rock/metal formula, with a rhythm guitar accompanying a lead guitar, but that'd be dumbing things down a tad too much. Joutsen's vocal melodies, as well as Kallio's keys play a huge rule in adding splashes to the canvas to help round things out and give them detail.
There're several songs on Skyforger that will no doubt manage to stick in your head, like Silver Bride, Skyforger and Majestic Beast. Skyforger is filled with quality songwriting that manages to push the right buttons at the right time. Occasionally I kept thinking to myself that things have been a bit too cute and sweet for awhile now and then at the exact right time they drop the sonic anvil in my crotch. A perfect example of such a moment is when the title track goes off, around the 4:30 mark after the bridge, when a choir sings I am and Juotsen replies with the forger of the earth in a deep growl.
Skyforger will no doubt be high on the lists that aim to pick out the ten best albums of 2009, and it deserves it. The album peaks at the right time, and holds a high standard all the way, from the opening piano melody to the closing acoustic outro. Amorphis are firing at all cylinders and the sky is the limit for them.