Under the Red Cloud reviews
Blackmetalman666 on May 7th, 2017
Their best yet (I was wrong)
I'm not going to lie - when this album first came out, I hated it. With a passion. I found parts of it to be kind of tedious, while others seemed to be heavy just for the sake of being heavy. An odd opinion, considering the fact that I completed my Cannibal Corpse CD collection around the same time as this album came out. Now, that being said, I recently re-visited this album about a week before I saw Amorphis play their first ever show in my city, and dear god was I wrong about this album.
There is so much to love about this album - even the bonus tracks are phenomenal. The album opens with the epic, and utterly majestic title track before launching into The 4 Wise Ones, probably the closest Amorphis have been to straight up melodic death metal in their career. By this point it's already obvious that the band has really stepped up their game, with even more keyboard solos, intricate guitar runs and faster song paces than ever before. The first half of the album is actually my least favourite part, although it's still nearly flawless. The Skull is a perfect example of what the first half of Under The Red Cloud is - Heavy, head-bang-worthy, and ultimately kick ass while still retaining the diversity that makes Amorphis what they are.
The second half of the album begins, in my opinion, with Death Of A King, with a fantastic middle-eastern style main riff that wouldn't feel out of place on 1996's Elegy, as well as a melodic, incredibly powerful chorus. As I said before, the second half of the album is where things really get interesting. Highlights being, the awesome keyboard solo & grooves of The Enemy At The Gate, as well as the Chorus of White Night. Enemy At The Gate, in my opinion, is one of the best songs Amorphis has written to date. It's easily the most diverse song on the album, as well as probably the most fun to listen to. When the aforementioned keyboard solo kicks in, just TRY not to headbang. It's damn near impossible.
Under The Red Cloud is probably also one of the best produced albums I've ever heard. Every instrument not only sounds great, but they're all almost always clearly audible through the wall of Amorphis' epic, adventurous music. Speaking of which, everyone has their time to shine. There are moments where each and every instrument is in the spotlight, as well as some guest appearances from other musicians such as Chrigel Glanzmann on the flute, and Aleah Stanbridge (RIP) on guest vocals.
I could talk about this album for hours on end. It's definitely an improvement over 2013's Circle, which I found kind of inconsistent, as well as having a pretty flat production style, and I really think that Under The Red Cloud holds up against even classic Amorphis, you know, the supposedly un-matched Thousand Lakes-Am Universum era. I think these guys have finally found the sound that suits them best, and really, from here on out, I think we're gonna be getting some damn great albums from these guys, at least for the foreseeable future.
Caleb9000 on March 16th, 2016
A Hellava Metal Mashup
There have only been a few acts in heavy metal music, as well as the rest of the rock genre, to alter their sound as much as Finland's Amorphis. Eventually, they did what many bands who actually DO change this much are quite frightened to do what they have done in the more modern days. They have taken all that they have done over their career and put it into a blender. However, even thought they have put it all into one, they continue to make certain elements more prominent in their music. For example, on "Silent Waters", they were a bit more power-metal-oriented and there was very little melodic death metal. Every time that they do something like this, it causes them to better their sound. While I personally believe that the best in their discography is "Tales From The Thousand Lakes", this is their second best since that effort (best being Silent Waters). Every time that they explore the elements that they have and experiment on them, it causes their sound to evolve and better itself.
Here, they seem to have increased the folk element a bit, as well as the progressive one. The power metal has stayed about on the same level. Still very prominent throughout their music, which is good for them. The melodic death metal is only on a couple of tracks, but the death growls are on all tracks, except for the folk/power metal track, "Sacrifice". That is probably one of the lightest songs on the album and it is very keyboard-oriented. It shows the heavier, as well as the experimental side of their music on "Death of a King", which features guitar work that is very reminiscent of the music of ancient Egypt. The rest of the guitar work consists of melodic, yet down-tuned chugging riffs. With mainly guttural vocals, this will most likely be the most pleasing to fans of the style that was used by the band in the late 1990s. That is not to say that the track, "Bad Blood" will not do the same. Very heavy riffing is seen here, especially with the verses, but the chorus is quite similar to something that Hammerfall would do on "No Sacrifice, No Victory". It is a highlight for me, despite its downright silly lyrics. Still way better than the Taylor Swift song of the same name. Experimentation is prominent on the lead guitar work and it is nice to know that they are not just worried about eargasms.
Experimentation is also seen on the final track of the album, "White Night". Although this is a rather atmospheric, almost gothic track with some very soft vocals on it, there is still a marriage between that and their usual style. The guttural vocals do seem a little out of place for something like this. I imagine that if the vocals were more of a screech, they would fit more, but this just seems a little bit unfitting. Needless to say, this is a track that works with what it does. I love how the grand piano flows with what key that the song is in. Very phenomenal clean vocals here. One other track that seems to be a little off is the second track from the album, "The Four Wise Ones", which is a very power/folk metal-oriented track and it has a very uplifting sound, but the guttural vocals seem like they should have been replaced with clean singing. After all, nothing's superior in terms of this music to the beautiful clean vocals that Tomi Joutsen is known for possessing. It is musically a great song, but I feel like it has the vocals of a track like, "Death of a King", where they were extremely appropriate. This track did what I'm glad that one did not do, vocally.
The only other problem that I have with this album is some of the lyrics. Sometimes, they just seem poorly written and just nothing short of silly. It is needless to say that Amorphis have written out some rather enjoyable lyrics, but a couple of lyrical moments on here either just get a little too repetitive, or they just don't make a whole lot of sense, in a not-so-good way.
"The bad blood cut off my ears
The bad blood blinded my eyes
The bad blood choked up my mouth"
I guess that this means that the protagonist in this song is somehow poisoned, but this seems like an unfitting subject for the music and it doesn't seem very well-written. However, some of the lyrics on here are amazing. Particularly, the lyrics on "Dark Path" are very well thought out. Some great insight is seen within them about the betrayal of even the most constricted bonds. They are full of rich metaphor that just could not be more effective for the music.
"And in the dead of a moonless night
As your path turns into the black
You become one with the darkness
And in the dead of a moonless night
Who knows if you are brothers
Or if you will turn against each other"
It may be a little difficult to comprehend when you first read them or hear them, but when you do get it, there is a very powerful message that is bestowed upon you. The voice that sings all these lyrics is absolutely phenomenal. Tomi is a vocalist that may not exactly have the widest clean vocal range of all time, but he is able to make his voice go up on a level of richness, more so than many other operatic vocalists, certainly in what he does. His guttural vocals are also something that swiftly grip you when they are used at the right moment. The only problem that I have with it is that he doesn't always use it at the right moment. Not that I have anything against harsh vocals in melodic metal. Jari from Wintersun is known for doing almost all screaming, but it works with their music. This is actually in a similar group of genres, but it still isn't exactly the same. Jari is in a band that is categorized as folk metal and these guys are pretty much a mashup of everything. Growling just doesn't work as well with it that much. That is the only problem that I have with it and for the most part, it is nothing short of brilliant.
This album is the third most exquisite in the discography of Amorphis and it deserves the praise that it gets. It rarely ever gets tiresome and all that is present here is unpredicted. Just when you think that you've got it all down, it comes right back at you in a different form, yet still similar to the rest of the music. I enjoy it when bands experiment with their music, as it tends to claim an adventurous result. This is the most adventurous release in their discography and focuses more on being catchy, as much so as it is. Music should not just be all about being catchy to a listener, as it tends to take away from the depth and maturity that it has. While I feel that "Silent Waters" is superior, this is closest to it than they have ever gotten since. Who knows? Each album has been superior to the last, since that release. Therefore, the next release in Amorphis' discography may just be the best release in Amorphis' discography.
Razakel on November 23rd, 2015
Comfortably familiar, pleasingly different
Under the Red Cloud has taken me a bit longer to digest than other recent, more instantly pleasing Amorphis albums, but that isn't to say it's a lesser album because of it. For the most part I'm glad to see the band tread a little more outside their comfort zone, which they've been playing in for about ten years now; the result is a more varied album than we're used to, though some songs are much stronger than others.
One thing Amorphis has pretty much always excelled at is having a bangin' opener. Be it the gloomy instrumental leading up to the timelessly memorable Into Hiding off Tales From the Thousand Lakes, or the bombastic war-ballad, Weaving the Incantation, from 2007's Silent Waters, the first impression has always been convincing (hey, even Day of Your Beliefs off the phoned-in Far From the Sun is a great song). A lone piano melody begins the opener and title-track to Under the Red Cloud, and soon leads to a blissful jam before Tomi Joutsen's high-soaring vocals complete the announcement of Amorphis' return. Essentially all of the ingredients for a classic Amorphis number are accounted for here - infectiously memorable guitar/keyboard orgies, Joutsen's immense vocal range, quite an epic chorus, etc. - and yet the song doesn't quite reach the incredible heights of previous ones wrought in a similar style like Sampo or, for that matter, the more decidedly aggressive introduction to Circle, Shades of Gray. It's still a suitable beginning to the album, as well as a solid song in its own right, but there's quite a lot better to come.
The strongest, most refreshing songs on this album are the ones that sound like Amorphis experimenting with different structures and general sounds than those made from the tried-and-true formulas developed way back on Eclipse. I absolutely love The Skull for the rockin' Entombed vibe it emits; a fairly simple but infectious riff pounds along to Joutsen's shout-growls, leading to a lush, understated chorus, and all building towards a devastating climax. It's also the only song that the legendary Koivusaari penned this time. Death of a King perhaps offers the most replay value with its insane lead sitar melody carrying through the whole song, but my favourite might be Dark Path which sounds in every way like a true Amorphis classic, while still sounding singular among their other first-tier songs. It's one of the heavier numbers on the album, due in part to Joutsen's incredibly wide vocal range, but it's also the catchiest, with guitar melodies that sound good enough to be on Elegy. This is what Amorphis is all about, and while I appreciate that a song this good stands out on a varied album, I'd be lying if I didn't admit I wish Amorphis would make entire albums that sounds like this.
The above mentioned songs, as well as others like The Four Wise Ones, or the slow burner, Enemy at the Gates, which ends up building into a total monster, offer a lot more than Sacrifice, which amounts to little more than "that radio hit" or Tree of Ages which, in spite of a good vocal performance, is ultimately "that folk metal song". It's doubly frustrating that there's a few weaker songs marring the album's consistency because, once again, the bonus tracks prove to be so much better than some of the songs on the album proper. Winter's Sleep especially is a stupendously crafted song, up there with the best of the lot, and would have been a much better closer, both musically and thematically, than White Night, which, like the opener, is a fairly solid song but doesn't deliver the lasting impression it needs to.Under the Red Cloud should please Amorphis fans who have been patiently waiting for the band to once again showcase the diversity everyone knows they're capable of. While it's not a 180 degree turn from the style we've come to know them for, it includes enough experimentation to reinvigorate that style, and while it's not as consistent as it might be, it's the most fluid and "complete" album since Skyforger. If the band builds on what they've done here and moves even further into new territory, then there isn't any reason why they shouldn't have at least one more true masterpiece left in them.
kluseba on November 18th, 2015
World music in melancholic metal form
My favourite metal band of all times comes around with another high-quality release two years after the furious, longing and sinister milestone ''Circle''. Right from the beginning, the band summarizes all its outstanding qualities in the opening title song ''Under the Red Cloud''. Longing and catchy melodies carried by enchanting and melancholic keyboard sounds and powerful yet simple riffs meet one of the most gifted singers ever who performs both hypnotizing clean vocals and rebellious growls in a perfect way from one moment to the other. The production is a little bit cleaner and lighter than on the last output. The songwriting has once again become more melodic and folkloristic. In a certain way, this album sounds like a catalyzed mixture of the five previous albums. It gets a little bit closer to the catchy, folkloristic and melodic outputs ''Eclipse'', ''Skyforger'' and ''The Beginning of Times'' than to the other releases. From this point of view, ''Under the Red Cloud'' is to the point and unites all of the band's qualities. If you haven't followed the band so far or have lost track of them during the last decade, this album would be a perfect starting point or reintroduction.
On the other side, Amorphis doesn't really try out anything new and stagnates on an elevated level but if you have choruses that are as enchanting as in the melancholic ''Bad Blood'', this most definitely can't be called an issue. Despite a certain stylistic stagnation, the band manages to experiment a little bit here and there even if a clear guiding line is somehow missing. ''Death of a King'' and ''Enemy at the Gates'' experiment with exotic Middle Eastern folk sounds and even slightly symphonic keyboard layers that aren't a far call from bands such as Orphaned Land. It would have been an interesting experiment if the band had kept this addicting approach throughout the entire release. If there is ever going to be a reboot of the Prince of Persia games, this band must get involved.
''Tree of Ages'' covers more Central European folk influences and fetaures flutes and tin whistles performed by Eluveitie's Chrigel Glanzmann while the closing ''White Night'' even comes around with light female guest vocals from gothic rock singer Aleah. These tracks rather recall groups such as Arkona and end the release on an appeasing note.
On the other side, ''Dark Path'' and ''The Four Wise Ones'' are among the rawest tracks in Amorphis' extensive discography and feature vivid death and even black metal influences. The latter song is probably the very best on the album since it features melancholic folk melodies to dream yourself far away, mysteriously psychedelic vocals in the relaxing middle section and harsh riffs and vocals in the liberating verses. This song unites everything Amorphis stands for in a coherent, intelligent and passionate way just under five minutes. If you need a track that perfectly represents the band, this one should be a perfect choice. Other bands try but fail to write such an emotional, imaginative and meaningful track during entire careers and Amorphis manages to come around with such a masterpiece on each of their albums.
If you're looking for something simpler, try out the melodic single ''Sacrifice''. Even though this track rehashes elements of previous singles since it reminds me particularly of ''You I Need'' and is probably the least creative effort on the new album, it's still a charming tune that has grown on me since the first rather disappointed contact three months ago.
Amorphis' albums always manage to grow a lot as time goes by. As you can see, despite a certain stylistic stagnation, Amorphis is unable to release a bad record. While ''Under the Red Cloud'' doesn't have as many outstanding tunes and hits as the previous masterpiece ''Circle'', ''Under the Red Cloud'' is on the same elevated level as ''Eclipse'' and ''Silent Waters'' and even beats the really solid ''Skyforger''. This album is once again easily one of the very best releases of the year and cultivated music lovers just can't get around this record.
Now I know that Japanese versions are expensive and might cost three to four times more than regular records in the Western world but in this particular case, the limited Japanese version of ''Under the Red Cloud'' is worth every penny. Obviously, the bonus tracks are so great that they would have made it on the regular output of any other band. In addition to this, we even get a live album recorded at Loud Park two years ago. This concert features nine songs from all eras of the band. Early classics such as ''Into Hiding'' meet highlights of the middle years such as ''House of Sleep'' and the best live cuts taken from the last studio release such as the bombastic ''Hopeless Days''. Each of the nine tunes is an instant killer. The set list is perfect, the production is authentic, the performance is dynamic and even the crowd blends in very well. This rare live release even beats the great other live effort ''Forging the Land of Thousand Lakes''. Any Amorphis fan should absolutely try to get his or her hands on this additional live output. Thank you for the music!
ElfJuice on October 9th, 2015
A Mighty, Epic, and Engrossing Tale
Amorphis returns with what is arguably their finest record with Tomi Joutsen on vocals (although I could still argue that Skyforger holds that title). Upon the initial listen, I was slightly disappointed. The lack of ultra-catchy choruses as found on the first 3 LP's with Joutsen was surprising but not entirely unexpected after Circle. It was not until the 3rd listening session when I began to see the brilliance of this record, despite my initial misgivings.
For one, the use of the growls has increased significantly. Of course they have been present since Eclipse, but we haven't heard an Amorphis album with this many growls since Tales from the Thousand Lakes. And the growls are simply dominating. Joutsen's mighty, forceful roar is unleashed on every single song aside from Sacrifice, and there are even a few songs where the chorus is completely growled. There are times when he holds the roars for a very long time, often over crushingly heavy and wicked riffs, and you are simply blown away by how superb his growling is (perhaps the best I have ever heard). You could also easily argue that this is the bands heaviest record since Tales as well. While songs such as the title track and the aforementioned Sacrifice aren't quite up to the quality of some of the other tracks, they are still very good - there is not a bad song on the record!
Back to my initial dissatisfaction with the choruses: What was revealed after multiple listens was that the band did this on purpose (which I later confirmed through multiple interviews). They were looking for a less poppy sound, and by god they achieved it. How is this record so good without the consistently catchy choruses? By creating compositions that from beginning to end are entirely engrossing, well-written, and create a seamless continuity from song one to song ten. The riffs are so excellent, and the use of flute, female vocals, sitar and many oriental scales so effective, that you begin to realize that the choruses are different, but still very good. On top of that, the choruses on songs like Death of a King, Sacrifice, The Skull, and White Night are actually among their best.
The best songs on the record are: The Four Wise Men (Joutsen only growls on this song, switching between piercing black metal screamed and lower growls during the chorus. The main riff is driving mid-tempo melodic death metal, the guitar solo is stunning, and the bridges in the middle/end of the song with the flute is absolutely epic and beautiful), Death Of A King (Often referred to as the Elegy song due it's use of Sitar, but aside from that this songs sounds nothing like an Elegy track. The main riff is crushing with growled vocals, along with some interesting guitar and flute work over the heaviness. The chorus is stunning and catchy), and a trio of songs on the second half of the record. Dark Path has a powerful verse that recalls the old days, with growls flowing over a riff that sounds like it would have fit right on the Tales Record. The melody and the keyboards over the driving double bass may cause you to bang your head until injury occurs! The Tree of Ages offers a folky central riff, intertwined with multiple melodic death metal sections (one recalling Iron Maiden) and another stunning solo by Esa.
To top the album off, closer White Night brings the goods. The opening riff (clean guitars) recalls Katatonia circa The Great Cold distance, especially when the riff is revisited during the mid-section of the song. The bridges contain a might oriental inspired riff with Joutsen's dominating roar, followed by a Chorus that is quite possibly the catchiest and most memorable on the album, if not in years. The only reason I do not give the record a 100 is I would have preferred a few catchier choruses, but do not let that dissuade you. This is in contention for my album of the year (and is currently winning that title), and once this record gets under your skin you may come to see that this is easily in the top 3 Amorphis records of all time. Highly recommended!
mjollnir on September 28th, 2015
The Epitome of True Perfection
Let me cut right to the chase, I've been listening to Amorphis' thirteenth full length, Under the Red Cloud, non stop since I got my grubby little paws on it. I've listened to it at work a lot, I've listened to it with headphones on, etc. I know this album quite well and the reason that it's resonated so well with me from my first listen is that it is, simply put, the epitome of the perfect album. Yeah, I know that I'm quite liberal with giving scores that are perfect but for good reason...and this album is no exception. This is a band of amazing musicians and songwriters creating an album that just fits together in perfect harmony from the opening note to the closing.
This album is the culmination of everything that this band has done since the arrival of front man Tomi Joutsen. His growls are deep and harsh while his flawless baritone cleans have become the signature for this band. But a front man alone can not carry an entire band and it's the songs that this amazing front man gets to sing and how he uses his voice to create the atmosphere for the songs is what sets this band apart from the rest. These songs are just flawless and flow from one to another making this an album that must be listened to in full to properly feel the atmosphere. From the opening piano notes of the title track you know that this is a special album. As the song flows to some acoustic guitars with a clean solo mixed in over the piano the song picks up momentum leading to opening riffs where the melody is reminiscent of folk melodies. The majority of this song is sung in Joutsen's amazing cleans with a chorus that is just infectious. This will not be the only time I mention the choruses on this album because every song has these amazing choruses.
My favorite song on this album is "Bad Blood." It begins with some cool sounding keys playing a sort of folk melody leading to this simple but really cool main riff. Joutsen shows his growling skills here but the fucking chorus just gives me chills. His cleans are so full of emotion and feeling you can't help but feel this music while listening. There's a cool bridge in the song that has a single note lead melody over Joutsen's cleans that is absolutely beautiful. This is goosebump shit here. "Death of a King" is another one of these amazing songs that infuse folk elements into it by both modern means such as keys and traditional means such as a guest appearance by Chigrel Glanzmann of Eluveitie. The verse is growled over the folk elements leading to a nice bridge that flows to another one of those choruses full of emotion and atmosphere. The solo on this is very melodic and it helps the flow of the song instead of being just a solo. Just another example of creating a song where all the pieces fit perfectly.
The lyrical content on a good bit of this album is quite spiritual with a couple of references to "the skull of a bear" in a spiritual or something of an ancient religious nature. The opener and title track mentions this as well as "The Skull." "Sacrifice" is another that has a deeper spiritual feeling, and even being probably the most rock oriented song on this album it still reflects the sheer brilliance of this album with it's deep spiritual meaning and amazing musicianship. "Tree of Ages" also has a spiritual feel to it with more of the flutes and traditional folk melodies but still having some serious riffs in there. This is another song that has that infectious chorus and amazing solo. "White Night" is the perfect ending to an absolutely brilliant album. It begins melodic but with an epic feeling to it. Soft female vocals begin the verse with Joutsen's growls coming in. Once again, the chorus is the star of the show here. This song just feels like it should end this album and I'm not sure why I get that feeling and I'm sure that was the artists intention.
I have the digipak version which has two bonus songs, "Come The Spring" and the amazing "Winter's Sleep." The latter is a monster of a song that shows all of the elements of this amazing band. In it's 25 year existence this band really hasn't released anything that could be considered a bad album. However, they seem to have finally found a sound that truly compliments this talented band. Everything they've ever done has led up to this album. I'm even going to go out on a limb here and say that could easily be album of the year. This album is a musical journey where you feel the music instead of just listening...and that is why this is the perfect album.The Elitist Metalhead
ddbdrago on September 20th, 2015
Amorphis Continue To Dominate
Since the early 90s Finland’s Amorphis have been a cornerstone of the metal scene. Like clockwork they consistently release an album every two years. Blending melancholy melodic riffs with diverse vocals the catalog is stunning. Back with their twelfth release Under the Red Cloud, can it live up to the standard they have set throughout their career?
Combining elements of folk and classical seamlessly with timeless metal tendencies they have released some of the greatest metal albums to ever grace the genre. Vocalist Tomi Joutsen has now fronted the band for ten years and remarkably this is his sixth album with Amorphis.
Each release with Joutsen finds the band more comfortable and improved upon. Slowly they have been working death metal growls back into their sound and on Under the Red Cloud they represent about half of his melodies. His guttural tone is extremely accessible and clear. It mixes seamlessly with his powerful melodic vocals, which also have improved over time. Tracks like “The Skull” and “The Four Wise Ones” showcase his growth as a vocalist and capture the essence of his aggressive vocals perfectly.
First single “Sacrifice” is downright brilliant. One of the most memorable songs in their catalog the melodies are infectious. Adding a touch of gothic overtones the song is punctuated by fantastic guitar fills and a blistering solo from lead guitarist Esa Holopainen. An incredible anthemic chorus is featured that will instantly have you singing along at the top of your lungs.
Amorphis adds some appealing progressive passages into their material that show off their incredible musicianship. “Death of A King,” “Enemy At the Gates” and the title track all feature incredible musical interludes and harmonious passages. The interplay between Holopainen and keyboardist Santeri Kallio is brilliant with their use of Phrygian modes.
Female vocalist Aleah Stanbridge guests on “The Four Wise Ones,” “Sacrifice” and the dynamic “White Night.” The latter being the most impressive as the interplay between Joutsen’s assertive vocal patterns and her spacious beautiful melodies are exquisite before exploding into a grand chorus that finds Joutsen at his best. The song continues to build into an all out explosion powered by drummer Jan Rechberger’s impressive double kicks.
Overall Under the Red Cloud is the strongest release with Joutsen and is on par with some of their best releases. Its strength lies in the fact that it is as strong in the second half as it is up front. Amorphis has a talent of making a song not overstay its welcome despite breaking the five-minute mark.
Amorphis continually pave a unique sound of their own and show why they are one of the premier bands in music today. Under the Red Cloud adds to an already impressive catalog and should be in heavy consideration for album of the year.
-Originally posted at About.com Heavy Metal