All good things must come to an end, and on Sunday, April 23rd, 2017, the U.S. tour for those Finnish masters of melody, Amorphis, concluded with a final stop at Revolution Music Hall in Amityville, Long Island. A long overdue headlining run, Amorphis teamed up with Swallow the Sun for a month long run which kicked off on March 10th as the countrymates travelled coast to coast. Teasing the metropolitan area with a couple of dates back in March, their March 14th NYC show was canceled by an errant late-season blizzard, leaving fans from all corners of New York State flocking out to Long Island. While the quiet suburban setting, with its strip malls and Victorian homes, might not have seemed like the expected setting for a Heavy Metal show, the black clad minions streaming down the street waiting for the doors to open proved that on this night, distortion and volume would reign supreme.
The early crowd spelled good news for opening acts Turrigenous and Grey Skies Fallen. The former act hails from the area, and showcased some songs from their 2013 debut, Black Stone Opus. Progressive, melodic, and at times crushingly heavy, their virtuoso performance jump-started the night to the delight of a healthy knot of fans absorbed by their varied vocal attack. Grey Skies Fallen, also from New York, offered a counterpoint with their Doom-laden Heavy Metal. The down-tuned riffs and melancholy leads again drew appreciation from the growing crowd.
Vocalist Mikko Kotamaki led his band mates through a clutch of heart-rending tunes spanning most of their six albums. Their second visit to North America in less than a year, their last being with Sweden’s Dark Tranquillity, wounds were reopened at Revolution with “These Woods Breathe Evil” and “Falling World” from 2009’s New Moon album. From there, fresh grief spilled out with new tunes from latest album, 2015’s Songs of the North (I II III), their set bookended with “Rooms and Shadows” and “Swallow (Horror Pt I).” Their last opus, as the title suggests, was a three part series of full-lengths, which is quite ambitious. The Finns handled it with ease, and the cuts from this latest undertaking were heralded with enthusiasm by those gathered. Judging by the healthy merch table commerce, just as many folks were there to see Swallow The Sun as they were for Amorphis.
Moody, beautiful music with a very heavy soul, Swallow The Sun are a band to stand there and bask in, letting the silky leads of Guitarists Juha Raivio and Markus Jämsen delight the senses. They are a band that goes down more like a good wine than a cold beer, and they set the table for the headliners with precise professional delivery. Despite the world-weary sadness entrenched in their art, the enjoyment on the faces of the band members was unmistakable. That said, the collection of fans gathered at Revolution Music Hall cheered loudly and were sad to see them go.
To heighten things even more, New York area fans who did catch Amorphis in March had to deal with their heroes playing below Overkill, resulting in ludicrously shortened set lists for both Finnish acts on the tour. Not the case tonight, and the fans knew it. What was to be the final night of the tour, Revolution Music Hall belonged to Amorphis, and the Finns wasted no time in seizing the opportunity with both hands.
Opening with a duo of songs from 2016’s Under The Red Cloud, they began with the gorgeous title-track and immediately captured the hearts of their fans. From the moment Santeri Kallio’s adventurous piano intro rose above the clamor, the band took their places and launched right into it. The two-headed melody machine that is founding Guitarists Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari make music that clutches the heart even as it raises the pulse. Jan Rechberger provided that flawless back beat, his head moving and tilting with every percussive strike. As always, the bottom end was held down by Bassist Niklas Etaluovari.
Holding that now classic microphone of his, Tomi Joutsen’s voice held sway, hypnotizing the gathered supporters. “Sacrifice,” with its upbeat tones, driving melody, and sweet leads, exemplified the craft that Amorphis has been mastering these 27 years. “Accept my sacrifice!” came the thundering echo of the chorus. These fans knew the words to the new stuff and the old, showing the stranglehold on quality exhibited by this band for all time.
Treating the hall to “Sampo” and “Silver Bride” from 2009’s beloved Skyforger album, the band visited 2013’s Circle for some “Hopeless Days” before bouncing back to the aforesaid Skyforger album with a treat of the title-track. If happiness was heat, Revolution would have burst into flames at this point.
Moving on, halfway through the somber piano intro to the epic Tales From The Thousand Lakes album played out, heralding “Into Hiding.” Long time fans of Amorphis had fallen in love with the inhuman gruffness of Koivusaari on this one, those half-awkward clean vocals on the chorus laid down so long ago in 1994. Joutsen has made every song in every era of Amorphis his own though, and his rich baritone uplifts this Amorphis classic without losing any of its old-school flair. Then there was “On Rich And Poor” and the stunning, unforgettable “My Kantele,” which helped to quell the urge for 1996’s Elegy album. The beauty of these songs is so Finnish, so much wrapped up in the lore and mythology of this northern land, it is impossible not to get swept up in its grandeur. Luckily, no one put up any resistance, and the fans went along for the ride with alacrity and glee.
The proper set wrapped up with the eminently singable “House of Sleep,” the song that put Amorphis back on the map in a lot of fan’s eyes. Thinking back, it is hard to believe it has been 12 years since Tomi Joutsen joined the band and this single off of 2006’s Eclipse album catapulted Amorphis back into contention from the slight creative hiccup that had preceded it. Every band goes through such times, and 27 years is a long time to do anything well, and to be as great as Amorphis has been is very, very difficult.
Returning for more, the swift encore provided fans with hit single “Death of a King” off the latest album, and of course, the classic most beloved song in the Amorphis canon, “Black Winter Day.” It could be the middle of summer, that song turns everywhere it is played into the depths of a dusky Lapland midwinter freeze. Simply put, glorious stuff.
Amorphis left the stage as heroes returning from battle as they closed out the tour on a tremendous high. Nine years is too long to be away, and as the fans filed back out into the early spring suburbia of Long Island, they took with them the hopes that Amorphis would be back soon to captivate and energize their lives once again.
Photos by: Diane Woodcheke