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Amorphis - Halo review




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Reviewer:
8.3

439 users:
8.17
Band: Amorphis
Album: Halo
Release date: February 2022


01. Northwards
02. On The Dark Waters
03. The Moon
04. Windmane
05. A New Land
06. When The Gods Came
07. Seven Roads Come Together
08. War
09. Halo
10. The Wolf
11. My Name Is Night [feat. Petronella Nettermalm]
12. The River Song [Japanese bonus]


This is a typical Amorphis album. As in, it’s bloody lovely.

Full disclosure: I am an unapologetic Joutsen-era Amorphis fanboy, even more so than I am a Cult Of Luna fanboy, something I assume I’m notorious for being on this site. Every 2010s Amorphis album easily made it onto my end-of-decade list, and they’re probably my most listened band in the past decade. They have found a perfect niche since Tomi Joutsen joined the band, pumping out song after song and album after album filled with their signature charming melodies, mystical atmospheres and dirty growls that simultaneously make for any-mood easy listening while avoiding any sense of staleness, at least in my opinion. Still, while they have played around with aspects of their sound across the seven records since Joutsen replaced Pasi Koskinen on vocals (Under The Red Cloud pushed the ‘extreme’ elements of their sound, while Queen Of Time dabbled with choirs and orchestral arrangements), they’ve very much stayed within their established Amorphis template; Halo does not change that.

There’s occasional moments on the album that stand out for being relatively unusual for the group, such as the proper retro-prog tone of the keyboard solo on opener “Northwards”, the bass-driven bridge of “The Moon” or the spiritual group singing near the end of “The Wolf”. Still, there’s no real surprises on the band’s fourteenth full-length record; every song is between 4 and 6 minutes, with them mostly following the age-old verse/chorus/bridge template. The songs vary in relative intensity, but every one has Esa Holopainen’s signature leads over them, as well as Santeri Kallio’s charming keyboards. Furthermore, long-time lyricist Pekka Kainulainen returns for what is framed as the third instalment of a trilogy, although what specifically connects it to Under The Red Cloud and Queen Of Time outside of the similar artwork style, I don’t know.

If it’s not got a radical change in direction to differentiate it from its predecessors, how does Halo stack up in terms of song quality? Well, I have been listening to this album on constant repeat for a couple of days at the time of writing this album, and I could easily do the same for a few days more if I didn’t have other albums to review, so it’s definitely not a notable drop in quality. The album has taken a step back in terms of intensity relative to Under The Red Cloud and Queen Of Time; Joutsen had pretty much reached a 50/50 growled/sung ratio on those albums, but cleaner singing reclaims more of a dominant position this time around, for what is a slightly more serene record than its immediate predecessors. I personally enjoy the shift; I get a bit more of a The Beginning Of Times vibe from Halo, which I'm fine with. Overall, I don’t get any feeling that the formula is getting old on this new album.

As far as specific songs go, there’s not been anything that’s reached out to me as an obvious highlight in the way that a “Heart Of The Giant” or “Nightbird’s Song” from recent records has; I will mention that there’s perhaps a small degree of sameness based on my initial impressions. A song such as “On The Dark Waters”, one of the advance singles from the record, won’t go down as a classic for the band, and “When The Gods Came” may not either with its slightly trite chorus. On the flip side, “The Moon” has a very soothing and charming chorus, as does the title track, in which Joutsen and Holopainen come together quite beautifully. Outside of choruses, Joutsen also shines during the bridge of “Seven Roads Come Together”. As far as the heavier/darker end of the spectrum goes, “War” carries a triumphant weight during its emphatic opening, while “The Wolf”, possibly the best song on the record, wraps up an expansive journey with a rampaging outro.

One last thing: all that I wrote above about how there’s nothing new here? That was a cheeky lie. Halo is rounded off by “My Name Is Night”, and this is a song that deserves highlighting. Both of the previous two albums featured a song with a guest female vocalist (Aleah Stanbridge and Anneke Van Giersbergen on “White Night” and “Amongst Stars”, respectively), so that aspect of “My Name Is Night” isn’t unique (I don’t actually know who the guest is on this song, I’ve not seen her credited in the promo materials anywhere). What makes this song stand out is how it remains soft and subdued throughout, with the female singer and Joutsen duetting against an acoustic backdrop, one that retains a sense of darkness and melancholia throughout. Ending the album on such a relatively muted note is an unexpected but inspired decision; “My Name Is Night” might not necessarily be my favourite song on Halo, but it certainly stands out, and for the right reasons.

Every time a band makes a big, divisive stylistic change, there are plenty that say ‘if they just kept doing the same thing, people would moan about that too’. Amorphis are perhaps the exception that proves the rule; it’s entirely possible to stick to the same formula for many albums without it becoming problematic, but only if you can keep putting out consistently memorable and touching songs, and the Finns accomplish it once again with Halo. Those not taken with their previous albums can skip this one knowing that they’re not missing out, but for the rest of us, Halo is yet another lush slice from the Amorphis pie.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 5
Production: 9





Written on 10.02.2022 by Hey chief let's talk why not

Guest review by
mdx54
Rating:
4.5
A mediocre effort from a good band. Poorly composed, with little thought into what ideas to include and how long to dwell on them. A collection of B-sides that haven't made it on past records?

Read more ››
published 26.04.2022 | Comments (17)


Comments

Comments: 24   Visited by: 483 users
10.02.2022 - 14:20
Fallen Ghost
Craft Beer Geek
Hype engaged
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10.02.2022 - 14:45
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Your longest review? Will listen this soon
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Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
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10.02.2022 - 15:44
Rating: 8
musclassia

Written by Bad English on 10.02.2022 at 14:45

Your longest review? Will listen this soon


it's not even my longest review this week
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10.02.2022 - 19:26
Rating: 9
Tuonelan

Amorphis can pull off this sort of consistency better than, say, Amon Amarth because the stories/lyrics resonate and have deeper mythic connections than most other folk leaning melodeath bands. Kainulainen isn't just cosplaying the lyrics for fun, he's actually trying to connect with something on the mythic level. It lends gravity and realness to the music. And Joutsen clearly connects with that mythic element in Kainulainen's lyrics and channels it into his vocal performances.
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Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy
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10.02.2022 - 20:12
SoUnDs LiKe PoP

You're like the third reviewer I've seen now who basically says "It's a good album, but there are no real stand out tracks." I don't know if that makes me worried or not.
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I lift weights and listen to metal
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10.02.2022 - 21:28
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by SoUnDs LiKe PoP on 10.02.2022 at 20:12

You're like the third reviewer I've seen now who basically says "It's a good album, but there are no real stand out tracks." I don't know if that makes me worried or not.

Quote:

“My Name Is Night” might not necessarily be my favourite song on Halo, but it certainly stands out, and for the right reasons.

Hmmm
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Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?
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10.02.2022 - 22:19
Rating: 8
musclassia

Written by RaduP on 10.02.2022 at 21:28

Written by SoUnDs LiKe PoP on 10.02.2022 at 20:12

You're like the third reviewer I've seen now who basically says "It's a good album, but there are no real stand out tracks." I don't know if that makes me worried or not.

Quote:

“My Name Is Night” might not necessarily be my favourite song on Halo, but it certainly stands out, and for the right reasons.

Hmmm


I mean that in a slightly different way I guess - My Name Is Night is a non-standard way for them to end an album and I appreciate what they did with it, but it's not necessarily a 'must listen again immediately' song, like Sounds Like Pop is likely referring to. I'd probably say my favourite off this album is War, but it's not quite at the level of Heart Of A Giant->Grain Of Sand from the last album, which I would sometimes skip back and re-run when I first got Queen Of Time.
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11.02.2022 - 09:16
Callisto

According to the track tag My Name Is Night features a Petronella Nettermaln as guest

Just starting to listen to it so no opinions yet

Edit: I've just finished it and my first impression is basically Musclassia's (main difference is I really like Amorphis but I'm denfinetely not a long time fan of theirs, I discovered them with their previous record and made my through their discography like a year ago).

While being an outstanding record on itself is very similar to Queen Of Time, in fact, it has made want to listen to both records one after the other.

I can't say if that's good or bad yet but it makes me wonder since this guys have been super experimental in the past.
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11.02.2022 - 14:10
Rating: 8
Netzach
Planewalker
As usual with these guys, the album turned out much better than the two singles implied, but I still can't shake the feeling that they're starting to run out of steam here. I like the proggier touches, indeed calls back to The Beginning Of Times.
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11.02.2022 - 17:53
Rating: 8
AndyMetalFreak
A Nice Guy
Written by MegaTornado on 11.02.2022 at 17:33

At the first 3 listens this seam very unninspired compared with last 2 albums. I hope it's me who's wrong here...

I have listened to it a few more times now, and I myself have come to the same conclusion, it's still a good album imo, it just lacks more of those standout songs the two previous albums had.
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11.02.2022 - 19:07
Rating: 9
NavyMetalMan

After two listens, I believe this is a spectacular album start to finish. I didn't feel that way with QoT right away but came love that album the more I listened to it. This album enchanted me right away, from start to finish. Well worth the wait. Bought it in 48/24 hi res. Hi res is the only way to go if available. It adds another dimension to the music. I give it a 9+.
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11.02.2022 - 19:32
Rating: 10
MegaTornado

I feal that the growls don't do nothing special this time, they even make me want to skip them. Instead, the clear voice it's amazing. All the choirs are in clear voice and they are so good. So why not quit the growls this time? Seven roads for example.... But this can be said about all the songs
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12.02.2022 - 09:50
nikarg
Mod
Like we have already discussed, I find this to be good but it somehow doesn't do much to make me choose it over the previous two. As MegaTornado above me mentioned, I feel that the growls don't do anything particularly noteworthy. I also have heard similar or even same vocal and guitar melodies before; if I were a huge Amorphis fan as I am a Rotting Christ one, I am sure I would be able to pinpoint many occasions of self-repeating for the former as I have done for the latter. I mean, it offers a good time for sure, after all Amorphis is a top-class act no doubt, but I am not as excited about it as I would want to be. It will probably grow on me, since most of their albums do after many listens, but I cannot see it ever being placed up there in my appreciation with the two that came before it, let alone with some older ones like Tales or Skyforger.
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12.02.2022 - 16:49
Enemy of Reality
Account deleted
Written by SoUnDs LiKe PoP on 10.02.2022 at 20:12

You're like the third reviewer I've seen now who basically says "It's a good album, but there are no real stand out tracks." I don't know if that makes me worried or not.


I think this is a fair description of the album. I'd say it's strong, cohesive and overall better than their last couple of albums, but there's no The Bee, House of Sleep or Silver Bride here. The closer you get is A New Land which is a pretty great track. Although most likely i wouldn't put any of Halo's songs in a Best of Amorphis.
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13.02.2022 - 09:46
Rating: 8
DarkWingedSoul

Agree to all that has been written, strong album from a highly constant band... hard to say which one is better or worse, i met them with 1000 lakes and walked with them ever since, and besides 1-2 albums all are strong outings, which i often re-visit. and this will be the case with Halo as well. However the most important factor in my relationship to them is MOOD. i have to be in amorphis mood to really enjoy them. i listened to halo in different stages of the day, with various results.... love is a strange animal
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13.02.2022 - 17:35
Rating: 10
MegaTornado

Well, I listened this album whenever I can to figured it out and I realised I like it more and more. There is no weak song. And with every repeated listen you find something new, or enjoy it more then the last time you heard it. In my opinion now, after +10 sessions I think it's better or on par with the last 2, and in top 4: no 1 Tales, 2 Elegy, 3-4 Halo and Queen(can't decide yet), 5 Red Cloud
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14.02.2022 - 17:45
SoUnDs LiKe PoP

Written by MegaTornado on 11.02.2022 at 19:32

I feal that the growls don't do nothing special this time, they even make me want to skip them. Instead, the clear voice it's amazing. All the choirs are in clear voice and they are so good. So why not quit the growls this time? Seven roads for example.... But this can be said about all the songs


Funny you mention this, because I was thinking the exact thing throughout my last listen. Whatever sections have the growls on this album tend to be the most absolute boring for me. However, even several of the clean vocals and guitar hooks on this album simply aren't doing it for me. By far I'd say the best tracks are the first two - Northwards and On the Dark Waters. Not a bad album by any stretch, but I can't think of many reasons I'd return to most of these tracks.
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I lift weights and listen to metal
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15.02.2022 - 07:41
Metal Spartan

On the Dark Waters and When the Gods Came are the weaker tracks on the album, and they're still awesome songs. That says a lot about how much I love the album. Yes, there isn't a major difference between this album and the past few (although there ARE some), but the songs are so damn catchy that it doesn't matter. My Name is Night is a gem of an album closer.

Not sure how musclassia can say there are fewer harsh/growling vocals here. Maybe I have to listen to the past albums again, but I'd argue that there are even more harsh vocals this time around. Definitely more so than Circle and the albums before in terms of the Joutsen era.
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15.02.2022 - 08:51
Rating: 8
musclassia

Written by Metal Spartan on 15.02.2022 at 07:41


Not sure how musclassia can say there are fewer harsh/growling vocals here. Maybe I have to listen to the past albums again, but I'd argue that there are even more harsh vocals this time around. Definitely more so than Circle and the albums before in terms of the Joutsen era.


I totally agree that there's more growls on here than Circle and prior; I was specifically referring to Under The Red Cloud and Queen Of Time when saying that, because the band made a huge shift on the growl/clean balance between Circle and those two albums. On Circle, 6/9 songs were clean-only, and the 3 with growls, Shades Of Grey, Nightbird's Song and Enchanted By The Moon, were mixed vocals, so overall it's like 15-20% growled on that album, and the percentage was probably in the 15-25% zone for the other albums going back to Eclipse. The following 2 albums are pretty much 50:50 across the whole record. I haven't done a minute-by-minute breakdown of Halo to be certain on this, but I feel fairly confident that if I did it would come to around 30-40%, just because there's no songs like The Four Wise Ones, Tree Of Ages or We Accursed that are mostly growled. However, it is possible that the exact totals across the three albums aren't notably different; I feel the instrumentation is generally a bit lighter on this album compared with the last 2 as well, which might be influencing my perception of the vocals.
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16.02.2022 - 06:38
Metal Spartan

Whatever the case, I'm definitely loving that they've got that nice balance between harsh and clean vocals on these later albums. Not sure which is my favorite song on this new one, but the standouts are definitely Northwards, A New Land, Seven Roads.., War and your favorite, The Wolf. My Name is Night shows their softer and more melancholy side which is also great.

Gonna repeat, the whole album just fuckin' rocks 🤘
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18.02.2022 - 10:14
Daniell
_爱情_
Amorphis is almost always a sure shot quality-wise. I played the album and got exactly what I expected. The band's constant reliability is impressive. My only small gripe is that clean vocal lines are not very memorable. The melodies just don't stick in my head. Other than that, the album is a solid 8.
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27.02.2022 - 16:39
b0sse

Not bad, but also not very good. Not a single memorable track for me.
Queen of Time is still their best album to date for me, with Under the Red Cloud a close second.
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20.03.2022 - 21:22
Rating: 7
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
Although they have been following the same formula for a while now, this was the first time I got "Amorphis plays Amorphis" vibes from a new album; it has the same great sound and style as always, so it's still quite enjoyable (easy listening, really), but none of the songs stood out to me very much. On the whole, it was a disappointingly ephemeral experience for me, since up to now I've been immediately impressed by each new Amorphis album. I expect I'll be required to spin it a few more times before the next MSAs anyway, and I do think it'll take a few more tries for Halo to stick with me. Still, you can hardly complain when the worst you can say about an Amorphis album is that it's "pretty good and very listenable."
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"Earth is small and I hate it" - Lum Invader

I'm the Agent of Steel.
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07.06.2022 - 04:00
Rating: 8
tintinb

Windmane is a definite standout track for me. The others not so much.
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Leeches everywhere.
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