It’s been a while since Amorphis last toured Finnish clubs – in fact almost precisely a year. Since then, the band has kept itself busy with the Tales From The Thousand Lakes anniversary shows and, more importantly, the making of its latest album. Recorded under the auspices of master producer Jens Bogren, Under the Red Cloud deeply impressed me at first listening and continues to do so after a month of fairly heavy rotation. After mouth-watering reports from friends who had seen Amorphis in September on the Radio Rock cruise and the one-day indoor indoor festival JaloTuska in Oulu, I was very much looking forward to the gig in Lahti.
We arrived early and took our time to explore the merch offering (after all these years, finally a girlie longsleeve – hallelujah, take my money!) and have a beer. And guess what was on sale at the bar: Ale From The Thousand Lakes, a bold, citric Pale Ale crafted by Maku, a microbrewery from Tuusula near Helsinki. A fresh alternative to the standard lager usually sold at gig venues, and even my friend who doesn’t like beer adored the stylish label.
There was no warm-up act, and Amorphis started right with the title track of the new album, which makes for a practical introduction as it sums up most of its versatile elements. It was followed by “Sacrifice”, easily the most radio-friendly track on the album but also featuring one of its meanest guitar solos. More spectacular in terms of vocals, on the other hand, was the third song, “Bad Blood”. Tomi Joutsen’s hair may no longer be as impressive as it used to be, but his voice has never been more so – both the clean register and the growls.
After the initial trio of new songs, the band pulled a few older hits out of the hat, including the evening’s only Tales song, “Drowned Maid”, which both Tomis performed as a duet. Koivusaari had contributed a few grunts during the aforementioned anniversary shows, but I had attributed that to the nostalgia of the occasion and would not have expected him to do any vocals on a regular gig. Even more surprised I was when he also stepped up to the microphone during one of the new songs, namely “The Four Wise Ones”.
This no-clean-singing monster is one of Joutsen’s most impressive performances of the album, and the live addition of Koivusaari’s and bassist Niclas Etelävuori’s voices only reinforced its power. Earlier in the set, Joutsen had joked about the bunch of middle-aged dudes on the stage, but there’s no way around the fact these guys sound miles better nowadays than they did in their twenties (and yes, I saw them quite a few times back then).
This song and “Enemy at the Gates”, my favorite track from Under The Red Cloud if I have to name any, were followed by another round of hits from the past. After “House Of Sleep”, Joutsen thanked the audience and the band left the stage. Be it because the small-town audience didn’t applaud loud enough at first or simply due to understandable thirst, but it took almost three minutes of applause until they returned. The wait was rewarded with a full three encores, including the first single from the new album, “Death Of A King”. I had hoped that Esa Holopainen would bring his electric sitar for this song, which he didn’t, but the guitar did the job just as well. Goosebumps rose when Joutsen made the audience chant “death of a king, death of a king…” – one of the most powerful moments of a gig that was a sheer demonstration of strength from beginning to end.
Photos: Tina Solda – Click here for additional pics