|11th of February, 2022
|Atomic Fire Records
|Cover Artwork ©
Northwards. Always northwards. That’s the new mantra of our pop culture. It’s not enough that Game of Thrones already talked incessantly about the far north, or that the market for movies, games, and other series has been flooded with thematically appropriate franchises that I don’t need to mention by name. Nor is it enough that even Kratos has been relocated from Greece to the North, because that’s what people want now: The North, Norse mythology, mead and mountains and transfers of meaning until even Marvel considers this to be too stupid. Scandinavia, the place to be! Of course, Amorphis do exactly that on their latest album, they answer the call and on the first song, they instantly go “Northwards” … I’m already out of it and yet the review is just getting started.
The new album by Amorphis, called Halo, has two spectrums of sound: on the one hand, it sounds like Nightwish and Insomnium had a child together, made only of sugar. A single, terrible lump of kitsch. In other moment they remind of Opeth on Sorceress, just not as good as Opeth on Sorceress (and that album is really not popular among most fans). What immediately gets on my nerves is this incredibly well-worn song structure that still seems thrown together. How do you pull that off?
“Northwards” of course starts with some playing around, but then hard riffs come first, because we are listening to Metal, growls and all, awesome. This is not for sissies, you can go somewhere else with your radio stuff. But what follows of course again afterwards? Some kind of forced clean part, who would have guessed. In 2008, I already complained about about the fact that almost every Metalcore band uses this artless alternation of hard verses and clean choruses. And before anyone accuses me of having a general problem with clean vocals, even Emperor uses them occasionally, bands like Korn and Opeth and many more seem to have switched to them completely, and I like to hear it, I enjoy it – even with numerous other artists. I’m a bit ambivalent in that regard of course, that’s just what makes me a human being. I don’t condemn anything in general, but I don’t love anything unconditionally either. What should not be contradictory, however, is my relationship to this album. This remains one-sided, because I find it pretty terrible.
The following song “On the Dark Waters” already underpins this. I mean, pay attention to this glitter effect at the very beginning. What the hell is that supposed to do? How much kitsch can you put on your audience’s bread? More worth mentioning isn’t offered then, though.
Number three, or “The Moon“, should follow. Here, too, unacceptable melodies meet corny vocal passages. Didn’t we already have that two times? On this very album. I can really understand that you can like this style and genre, honestly. But not in the way Amorphis serve it. When they are not annoying, they are just arbitrary. This can’t be the right way.
Since the review has already turned out long enough, I will now concentrate on the remaining high and lowlights. To accuse every song of its triviality would make this text as monotonous as the album reviewed in it.
Amorphis want to appeal to a wider audience, but also remain Metal. This compromise that has become music, which calls itself Halo, really oozes out of every part of my speakers as far as that is concerned. Whether it’s “Windmane“, “A New Land” or “When The Gods Came“, my toenails keep rolling up. As we all know, the lowest common denominator always has the proportionally lowest value. Thank you for that, Amorphis, for that lowest common denominator between mass appeal and what you consider Metal. I don’t want to go into the lyrics that much. Pseudo-spiritualism, closeness to nature, mother earth, we know it. Then I’d rather take the badly written fantasy thunderstorms of the Swedish colleagues Amon Amarth.
I could write whole novels on what annoys me about this album, but I’ll really try to shorten it now: Amorphis have been getting on my nerves for years. First of all because a longtime good friend likes them very much. But our friendship survives that. How he gets through Halo is a mystery to me, though. I just can’t stand this constant alternation of belched verses and yelped choruses, punctuated by instruments from the Opeth outlet. It’s unimaginative, pretentious, vastly overambitious, and in the end not at all as valuable or deeply layered as it might initially seem to the inclined listener. It’s a calculated pile of incarnated ingratiation, whose only major low point is itself. There may be good riffs and passages for all I care, but they drown in the over-sugared one-size-fits-all mush that is Halo. And seriously: If I were the Master Chief, I would rather have blown this thing up, too.