Under the Red Cloud
Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: September 4, 2015
Come, gather around, my minions of metal and let me give to you a gift. A gift of sound from the gods themselves. I feel like Joseph Smith bringing the golden plates to the masses only in this instance the plates are Amorphis’ newest CD Under the Red Cloud and thankfully it’s not likely to mysteriously evaporate upon the first listen.
Let me bring you up to speed in case you need a history lesson (regarding Amorphis, not Mormonism, but that’s an interesting read too). Amorphis, a Finnish band, began their foray into professional music in the early 90’s. Initially a rather straight forward death metal act, they branched out with their second studio album Tales From The Thousand Lakes which incorporated clean, melodic vocals juxtaposed with the guttural utterances of their initial album. This is a formula that was not unheard of at the time, of course. But what is unique about Amorphis’ sound, especially as the band evolved and progressed through this, their 12th full length release, is the sublime atmospheric elements that they incorporate into their work. They have developed into something that is both majestic and morose, like a sunrise in a cemetery. Their sound still retains significant death metal facets but has also adopted gothic elements, such as the clean vocals, moving keyboard work, as well as a definite flair varied instrumentation with a penchant for incorporating various folk metal elements in their songs. They blend these genres together so seamlessly as to nearly create their very own. Gothic-Folk-Death? Eh… so the name needs work. Regardless, Under the Red Cloud is a masterpiece of both aggression and nuance. From it’s sublime piano driven opening, which leads to a hook that will embed itself in your grey matter instantaneously, the album traverses landscapes of death metal’s ferocity, gothic metal’s somber introspection, and progressive metal’s musical exploration. To make things even more profoundly epic, the band has enlisted some high ranking help in recording this album: Chrigel Glanzmann (ELUVEITIE) played flutes on “The Four Wise Ones”, “Death Of A King” and “Tree Of Ages”, Martin Lopez (ex-OPETH drummer) played percussion on “Death Of A King” and Aleah Stanbridge (TREES OF ETERNITY) sang guest vocals on “The Four Wise Ones”, '”Sacrifice” and “White Night”.
And speaking of “Death Of A King”, there are two possibilities regarding your opinion of this song: either it’s one of the greatest things you’ve ever heard or you are dead wrong. It’s really that simple. It opens with what sounds like a sitar and before long breaks into one of the most eclectic and full on awesome amalgams of metal and folk that I’ve ever witnessed, vastly supported by the aforementioned flute work by Glanzmann. Everything about this song is exquisite: the vocals, the musicianship, the songwriting. Truly a work of brilliance.
If you appreciate bands like Moonspell or Paradise Lost then you’ll shit yourself with glee over Under the Red Cloud. You might ruin a pair of pants, but it will be well worth it. Trust me on this one.
Reviewed by: Farron 1340