Helsinki, Finland- a place of beauty and grace and all things fucking metal and weird (or at least weird to my basic Canadian ass). A great many iconic names in the death-folk/melodeath communities have been birthed here, and today I get the pleasure of diving into the latest work of group known only as Amorphis. Twenty-eight years and thirteen records later, the ebb and flow from different branches of the great tree of heavy metal leads us to Queen of Time, a weighty fifty-seven-and-a-half-minute beast of utter pummeling and mystique. I’m far from a man who’s well versed in the ways of the Finnish, but as far as metal goes, this record will most definitely leave you with a hole in your face while you contemplate the stars and hunt for fairies and shit.
I’ll certainly eat some shit for attempting to categorize the mighty Amorphis (whose name is literally derived from a word that means no determinate shape or form), but what I can most definitely say is that Queen of Time is, without any question, a folk-metal album, from the ornate choice of instrumentation and tones to the full choirs and D&D-style lyrical content. For fuckssakes there’s a goddamn keyboard breakdown midway through “We Accursed” and what sounds like a fucking sitar intro on “Grain of Sand.” Things that I didn’t think could intrigue me about a folk metal record perched in this piece alongside all the things that have kept me from getting into the style before. “The Bee” rolled out like a welcome mat for a colonoscopy, full of groove and enthralling heaviness, which to me was spectacular foreshadowing for the rest of the record. That said, the groove and bravado of said opening track sort of dissipates after this point, and gives way to all the essential and common accoutrements of a record in the folk style. This album is big on the odd instruments (as mentioned), has tons of gallop style beats, and elongated whimsical sections be they solo or otherwise.
Touching on the recording quality of this record is a both a necessity and a waste of time for the reason that it’s bloody perfect and I couldn’t begin to critique it if I tried. Every twang of a string, breath of a voice, and collision of a drum rings gorgeously from track to track. One thing that you can always count ont from a European act, or even more specifically a Finnish act, is outstanding clarity and sound engineering quality, and it takes a heavy forefront on Queen of Time. Right behind that amazing quality of sound sits one of the most earth-shattering roars I’ve had the pleasure of critiquing, coming from frontman Tomi Joutsen. That roar is in the ranks of what makes this album truly stand out. Tomi sports an incredibly unique voice that shines through from piece to piece. Where the clean vocals can at times be a tad “boring” (to put it harshly), the harsh vocals that surround them are absolutely magnificent.
The only place this album loses points with me is its tendency to musically ramble on, causing a lack of enthrallment, which is a commonality I find in my perception of most folk-metal efforts. This can easily be attributed to the fact that I’m by no measures a folk-metal fan. Above all that, this is a spectacular compilation of music worth taking an hour to really appreciate. In addition to this, I can only imagine the rumble of one’s testicles that this act would create in a live setting, which I implore all those in the Montreal area to test for science purposes this coming September 8th, 2018. Heavy music needs you, mother fuckers.
Written by Jason Greenberg
*edited by Kate Erickson