Friday, November 3, 2023

Amorphis - Live at Helsinki Ice Hall (2021)

It was about the time I started listening through Live at Helsinki Ice Hall that I realized I don't think I've heard a full-length live record before from Amorphis. I've SEEN them live, a few times, sure, and I thought I could recall them putting out another live a few years before this one, but I must never have gotten around to it. It turns out that this one is quite substantial, recorded in their home turf, with two discs of tunes totaling almost 90 minutes. The caveat here is that the majority of the material is taken from the Tomi Joutsen years of the band, with a few treats for the older fans, so if you're expecting a run through of The Karelian Isthmus and Tales from the Thousand Lakes, you might come away disappointed, but this is really to be expected as they would focus on the records they're currently writing and selling.

The mix is pretty good, there's a great atmosphere created by the synthesizers and faint audience noise or feedback, so that you get this huge amphitheater-like shell of sound. Guitars sparkle along at their most melodic, but don't pack a lot of punch when they hit the lower end, but fortunately the bass and drums bulk the whole mix up. I actually think Tomi sounds off in some places, his delivery is powerful in both the cleans and growls, but especially on the later content it just sounds like he wavers a fraction off some of the desired notes, or my ears are playing tricks on me. His growling on some of the older Elegy or Tales material is pretty good though, and like I hinted, he can certainly carry the show with the pure belting he gives out. There are some nuances, effects and such here too that come off quite nice, but the album soars most when they hit upon that super atmospheric material like "The Four Wise Ones" where the synths are striking, Tomi is grunting and the leads are ringing out. Where it needs to be climactic, it delivers well enough, especially since I don't have much to compare it with!.

I'm a fan of most eras of this band, with the exception of Far from the Sun, and they seemed to have skipped that one here, as well as Circle, another that I just found mediocre. So I'm all in with the track selections, and I think they do a fairly apt job of mixing in the heaviness to remind us of their roots, especially when they take on an older number like "Into Hiding" and mix and modernize it so well alongside the more recent, progressive, mellower pieces. I don't know that Live at Helsinki Ice Hall captures the perfect Amorphis experience, or if any live recording ever could, but it's a good enough showcase to remind you of why you've enjoyed the wonderful band for three whole decades and counting.

Verdict: Win [7.25/10]

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