There is such a beauty in brutality if bands convey it right. We all know reality can be such a downer, so conveying that brutality in such an acceptable form can prove useful for the mind in turmoil...and no band on earth can do it better than Amorphis. If you talk about bands 'hitting their stride' - Finland's purveyors of Kalevala tales represents the absolute pinnacle of the melodic death metal subgenre. If you thought that "Under the Red Cloud" could not be topped, you are sadly mistaken....for "Queen of Time" just may be the band's most catchy and most symphonic release in its 28 year existence.
The album's first single was "The Bee" - the opening song and true pinnacle of an amazing release. The honey bee is especially sacred in Finnish mythology and its disappearance could easily lead to the extinction of mankind, which is kind of the point of the song in a roundabout way. The song is easily one of the most powerful opening tracks on an album ever - and really sets the tone for what is to follow.
What you can expect on "Queen of Time" is all the things that make Amorphis so distinctive and gorgeous, but with greater reliance on symphonic and progressive elements, which - at times - recalls the spectacular oriental fusion of Orphaned Land. There are times - like in "The Golden Elk" from 3:28-4:37 - where you would swear Israel's greatest band appear as guest stars. The wonderful keyboard work of Santeri Kallio provides a consistent framework of melody for the album.
If you loved "Under the Red Cloud," you can expect to like "Queen of Time" more, especially if you enjoy that "beauty in brutality." No song on the album portrays this more succinctly than "Heart of the Giant" - a song about falling into another world within a crack of a mountain. In the repeated listens to the album, it becomes clear that this particular track represents the essence of the spirit of Amorphis. It is a breathtaking symphonic roller coaster which I imagine producer and "seventh member" Jens Bogren worked the band to death with multiple takes. The song would make a perfect addition to the band's live set.
Other stand out tracks include "Message in Amber" (which ironically actually mentions the word "bee" unlike the so named opening track), "Daughter of Hate" (complete with random and fabulous saxophone), "Amongst Stars" (with the world's most fabulous guest singer Anneke van Giersbergen) and the epic closing track "Pyres on the Coast" (your author's initial frontrunner for song of the album).
Masterfully crafted and brilliantly produced, "Queen of Time" follows the band's meteoric rise in metal and a shining example of how beautiful brutality can really be. Amorphis not only bleeds melody, but without it the band would simply be lifeless. With the enhanced choirs and symphonic elements, the world's most reliable band continues to top itself. The stratosphere is the limit and as astonishing as the mounting excitement of repeated listens of "Queen of Time" brings, so is the excitement and challenge that comes with topping this masterpiece.
Label: Nuclear Blast Records (2018)
1. The Bee
2. Message in the Amber
3. Daughter of Hate
4. The Golden Oak
5. Wrong Direction
6. Heart of the Giant
7. We Accursed
8. Grain of Sand
9. Amongst Stars
10. Pyres on the Coast