Welcome to day 22 of my ‘Album of the Year 2015’ Top 30 countdown. No great long intro today, just a reminder to check out my picks from 30 down to 10, all of which are linked at the bottom of this post.

Number 9

amorphis coverAmorphis
‘Under The Red Cloud’
Nuclear Blast

I mean, who doesn’t love a dose of folk-tinged heavy and melodic metal anthems?! I certainly do and given that few bands produce this kind of music so well means that unless Amorphis released an out-of-character rubbish record, this was always destined to feature somewhere in my list. The fact that ‘Under The Red Cloud’ could be the Finn’s strongest record since 1999’s ‘Tuonela’ (my personal favourite) meant that their inclusion had to break into this years’ top ten.

I wrote a full, in-depth review of this album around the time of it’s release. It can be read in full here. However, to quote a small passage from it: ‘As is the Amorphis way, the record is a little deceiving. Listen superficially and you’re confronted with ten tracks of well-crafted heavy rock/metal with big choruses, the gruff-meets-clean vocal approach of Tomi Joutsen and those archetypal folk-inspired embellishments. It’s a powerful set of melodic and instantly engaging heavy songs that delivers plenty of head-nodding fodder to get the blood really pumping. However, if you’re prepared to listen more carefully, ‘Under The Red Cloud’ can be even more rewarding. Do so, and that initial simplicity and apparent economy of song writing within the compositions give way to something entirely different. Amorphis, comprised of vocalist Tomi Joutsen, guitarists Tomi Koivusaari and Esa Holopainen, keyboardist Santeri Kallio, bassist Niclas Etalövuori and drummer Jan Rechberger are a more complex band than many give them credit for and this record demonstrates this comprehensively.’

Pic: Ville Juurikkala

Pic: Ville Juurikkala

It’s no word of a lie to say two things about ‘Under The Red Cloud’: Firstly, there is not a weak track amongst the ten on offer on this record and secondly, in spite of the instant hit of gratification that it delivers, the music just gets better with each and every listen, to the point where you press play and within a few moments of the opening title track, that broad grin returns bigger and goofier than the last time.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiOX2axSWvg&w=560&h=315]

If the opener is a bona-fide anthem, then ‘The Four Wise Ones’ is nothing short of a full-on metal monster; it has the riffs, it has the almost exclusive gruff vocals that actually sound savage and yet, at it’s heart, it also has a soft, almost whimsical Celtic-sounding folk melody that helps to soften the edges and create the kind of addictive listening experience that Amorphis have honed and become ever-more famous over their twelve studio releases to date.

The other nice touch about this album is that it quietly nods in the direction of past sounds. From the black/death metal overtones of the ‘Tales Of A thousand Lakes’-era ‘Dark Path’ to ‘Sacrifice’ with its more modern anthemic and up-tempo framework, via more overtly progressive numbers such as ‘Enemy At The Gates’, there’s definitely a rich variety within the compositions that draws upon all of the knowledge and experience of this talented sextet. Add in those decadent Middle Eastern and traditional Finnish folk sounds and ‘Under The Red Cloud’ quickly becomes an irresistible listen and easily one of the band’s best yet.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juj4d5NlMCI&w=560&h=315]

Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 10Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 11
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 12
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 13
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 14
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 15
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 16
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 17
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 18
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 19
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 20
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 21
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 22
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 23
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 24
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 25
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 26
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 27
Album of the Year 2015 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2015 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2015 – Number 30

And from previous years:

Album of the Year 2014
Album of the Year 2013
Album of the Year 2012