When a band hasn’t toured the States in years, you likely won’t be disappointed when they finally make it back. Such was the case with Finnish melodic death metallers Amorphis, who finally brought their “Under The Red Cloud” tour here nearly two years after the album’s release.
Opening on the headlining leg was fellow Finns Swallow The Sun, whose brand of doom metal was a good sonic match with their compatriots. Their slow, sludgy, dirge-y grind was appealing, and oddly soothing, but it did ring a bit more one-dimensional at times. Tracks like “Falling World,” “New Moon,” and “Heartstrings Shattering” varied little in tempo or arrangement – probably the point, but it didn’t necessarily make for compelling listening for my tastes.
Singer Mikko Kotamaki, like Amorphis’ Tomi Joutsen, alternates clean singing with guttural growls. His voice wields a gruffer tone than say, his fellow vocalist Joutsen’s suppleness and tone. STS’ keyboards are used for mood and eerie effect. Guitarists Juha Raivio and Markus Jamsen were definite high points, frequently blending in tight, lush harmonies.
Amorphis brought a widely varied set, spanning a large part of their history, to bear in Philadelphia. Opening with the new album’s title track and its soaring first single, “Sacrifice,” Joutsen traded his resonant baritone with his brutal growls with effortless ease – later, “Bad Blood” served as an even better example of his range. Older tracks like “Sampo,” “Skyforger,” and “Silver Bride” were lilting yet driving, replete with the band’s folk influences.
They delved even further back with the more pure death metal of “Into Hiding,” from their influential “Tales From A Thousand Lakes” album, and a potent take on “On Rich And Poor,” from “Elegy.”
Esa Holopainen’s leads were crisp, clean, and deeply emotional. His harmonies with fellow guitarist Tomi Koivusaari were dead-on. Keyboardist Santeri Kallio fills a role similar to Deep Purple’s late Jon Lord, adding intended depth and dimension to tracks with a variety of sounds, from moody organ to shimmering synthesizer.
They closed with a lushly romantic “House Of Sleep” and a blistering one-two of “Death Of A King” and “Black Winter Day,” again forging solid alliances between new and older material.
While it was a treat to see both bands in such a tiny venue, with a small but vocally-approving crowd on hand, you still wonder why especially Amorphis aren’t bigger than they are in this country. They deliver as potently live as they do on record, which for metal fans ought to be more than enough.
All photos courtesy of *Kira Schlechter
Kira Schlechter spent eleven years at the Associated Press in Philadelphia and another eleven at the Harrisburg Patriot-News covering music, specifically and frequently heavy metal. She’s been writing about and listening to metal since she was 15 years old. Currently she also freelances for the Reading Eagle newspaper; in the past, she has freelanced for RIP, The World of Hibernia, and Mademoiselle. Needless to say, we are thrilled to bring her talents to you in this article!