Amorphis - The Beginning of Times (Nuclear Blast/Riot)

Amorphis' continue their unrepentant winning streak with The Beginning of Times - a fusion of their 70s psychedelic influences, melodic pop sensibilities and doom metal roots.

I must admit I was worried when Amorphis released Eclipse in 2006; I remember clutching the record in my hands, popping the CD into the tray and feeling all my fears simply melting away as a stunning array of psychedelically tinctured colours and textures sprawled forth from my stereo. The recruitment of soulful baritone Tomi Joutsen had seemingly revitalized these hulking doom metal giants, seemingly rusted and discarded by the scene not soon after the release of their watershed Doors-inspired masterpiece, Tales from the Thousand Lakes dropping a spate of less than becoming records in its wake. But in the albums since Eclipse – namely Silent Waters and Skyforger - Amorphis have all but cauterized any lumps of lingering stagnation. With stellar and muscular cuts like My Enemy, a slight but welcome return to the malevolent and bestial that was once made famous on Tales, it’s easy to hear why. It’s like they’ve seemingly tamed this wild creature and led him down a folky, Jethro Tullian path for much of the record. Unsurprisingly, we’re captivated by the soundscape that washes over us as we move through this forest of whimsical guitar rhythms and dizzying keyboard lines. It’s like they pointed and laughed at the John Butler Trio only to beat them at their own game with the sheer intensity of heavy metal. An intensity that can be heard in the anthemic Reformation or oblique keyboard-driven doom metal tune Crack in a Stone, which is almost unforgettable.

Amorphis have created a seductive synthesis of brutality and gentleness, their formula of breeze-like woodwind and a large helping of Herculean guitars is clearly a winner – they don’t even sacrifice their crunch for their obligatory single, You I Need. Scandinavia has an almost unquenchable thirst for authentic-sounding crossover metal and while the bulk of it stinks like a pile of forgotten Gravlaks in the summer, Amorphis’ tenderness and execution of musical ideas feel like a seamless pairing of expert progressive metal craftsmanship and melodic folk-pop, replete with harmonious and ebullient vocals. It’s a solid, if not measured evolution of their renaissance – and a very enjoyable one at that.