Monday, November 6, 2023

Amorphis - Halo (2022)

Coming off a strong stretch of albums like Under the Red Cloud and Queen of Time, I had really high hopes that Halo would ascend to the level of masterpiece Amorphis was putting out in the mid 90s. That was an unrealistic expectation, of course, and in fact this record is a step back even from its predecessors, but that's not to dump on it too hard, because Halo has all the hallmarks you've come to expect from the Finns, and it's nothing less than pleasant to experience, with some heavier material spun in there to create a good balance. In fact, this album has most of the components of an album like Elegy, which I still worship to this day. The mix of cleans and growls, the organs, the combination of prog, folk, and death metal, it's all intact, but for all the effort and professionalism, a lot of these tunes are in one ear and straight out the other.

Don't mistake me, if you want that sensation of sailing through the lakes and rivers, hair blown back as you hallucinate on Finnish myth and history, Halo, like most of the Tomi Joutsen era albums, will warm your ears. Both of his vocal styles are as strong as ever, and the guy's got a powerful projection to his timbre which fits wonderfully over the uplifting, epic nature of the music. But once you dissect the bits of this record, a lot of the chugging low end guitars are dull, the melodies with all their hippie effects seem redundant with others the band has been producing since Elegy and Tuonela, and the chorus hooks just don't have much to stand out to you, although they are always competent and easy on the soul. A lot of the proggier pieces like "The Moon" seem bog standard in tempo and structure, and even the more soothing passages like the intro to "Windmane" just seem to drift on by as mere setups for other, harder rhythms that don't deliver something I'm going to think of in 5 years (or months).

Actually, I couldn't remember a single track on this before I went back to visit it...maybe "Seven Roads Come Together" or "When the Gods Came" left a slight impression, but individual riffs or vocal lines escaped me until I was spinning the disc again, and I do feel like the middle and late tracks are more potent. The production has a great depth to it, but the songs really don't beyond the band bringing together those clean and heavier guitars, synths, etc. I like this one more than a Circle or Far from the Sun, the two Amorphis albums I never revisit, so this comes off like a stronger alternative, but even after giving it several more listens to compose my thoughts, it falls firmly into that 'decent' or 'alright' territory, there is nothing incendiary or distinct when mixed and matched against many of their past works. It's fully safe, there are no surprises to be had, no risks whatsoever waiting in its wings. Likeable enough to spend a little time with, but I wouldn't put a ring on its finger.

Verdict: Win [7/10]

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