A lot has happened in the course of Helsinki-based Amoral’s career. Their first three albums, Wound Creations (2004), Decrowning (2005), and Reptile Ride (2007), were rock-solid melodic death metal efforts with hit songs from start to finish, and with Reptile Ride, the band ascended to the front row of younger domestic metal bands. A shift in the musical style granted a large international fan base for Amoral, but – maybe a bit needlessly in retrospect – infuriated their older fans. In the year 2014 the attenders of Amoral’s gig at Tuska experienced something astounding, when the singer of those first three records, Niko Kalliojärvi, joined the band on stage for the set’s final songs. Last year, the band announced that Kalliojärvi had returned to the band as a second vocalist as well as a third guitarist. Amoral’s seventh album, In Sequence, released last spring, nodded musically toward the old times, but in the end of July, the band surprisingly decided to call it quits next year.
Amoral will play their last show in the Tavastia club on the 5th of January, 2017, but before that, the band announced that they will perform a bunch of special ‘old school’ gigs, playing songs exclusively from the first three albums. I used to listen to those records a lot 10 years ago, so it was pretty much a necessity to attend the first gig of the tour at On the Rocks. I admit that, along with others inclined to the older stuff, I also lost interest in Amoral after their fourth record, Show Your Colors, so beforehand it was especially nice to hear that the band’s line-up for the tour wouldn’t include Kalliojärvi’s still-active successor, Ari Koivunen.
I arrived at On the Rocks about 30 minutes before the first band on the evening, Kalliojärvi’s other act, Humavoid. Weekday events in Rocks have been horribly quiet lately, so it was pleasant to notice that the venue was already nicely crowded. As a band, Humavoid wasn’t that familiar to me beforehand, but they snatched the Album of the Week mention in Imperiumi.net last December with their EP, Glass, and their performance managed to surprise me completely with its variance and maturity. The band’s material could best be described as heavily djent-inclined modern metal, utilizing polyrhythmics, at times heavily dissonant piano melodies, and the contrasts of keyboardist-vocalist Suvimarja Halmetoja’s clean and guitarist-vocalist Kalliojärvi’s harsh vocals. Performance-wise, the bassist, Jan From, played his parts on his own corner of the stage, whereas Halmetoja and Kalliojärvi had considerable problems on staying on the stage at all; Kalliojärvi’s mic stand was in danger of falling to the audience numerous times as he moshed away and Halmetoja was so over the place that he collided with Kalliojärvi more than once. To explain, Halmetoja played a keytar instead of a traditional keyboard. Never have I seen that monstrosity of an instrument actually being an integral part of a live performance before – big ups!
Humavoid just released a video single, “Coma Horizon,” and judging from the shouts from the audience, quite a few attenders had already checked the video out. The band even wrapped the show with an immensely personalized Devin Townsend cover! All-in-all, the show was a really energetic and promising showcasing of Humavoid’s skills as players as well as composers, and the band had a decently-sized audience from start to finish. Even if their genre is not exactly your cup of tea, you should go check out Humavoid live – Niko Kalliojärvi is hilarious in his interval speeches!
Check out Humavoid’s latest single, ”Coma Horizon”:
Next up: the main monkey business. After a 15-minute load-out-and-in intermission, Amoral took the stage as a five-piece, welcomed with their usual intro tape. The band started off with “Nervasion” from Reptile Ride, and the next hour and a half was sheer melodeath awesomeness. Party like it’s 2007! It was as if the last 9 years hadn’t happened at all! Continuing on, the band delivered “Drug of Choice” from Decrowning and the Reptile Ride hit, “Mute,” with zero effort, even if surely none of these three songs have been played live in recent years. Kalliojärvi was visibly stoked at having the chance to perform the songs again after such a long time, while guitarist and primus motor, Ben Varon, and bassist, Pekka Johansson, both performed like real showmen. The (sort of) most recent member in the band, second guitarist, Masi Hukari, nailed his predecessor, Silver Ots’, solos nicely, even varying them at times. However, the biggest virtuoso in Amoral is still the man behind the drum kit; Finland’s own Gene Hoglan: Juhana Karlsson, who was as precise and hard-hitting as ever.
Amoral’s setlist was a brilliant mix of self-explanatory tracks and surprises, and as always when attending a show by one of your old favorite bands, it was way too short. For the first half of the set, the band visited their debut, Wound Creations, with “Distract” and “Other Flesh,” and they even played “Metamorphosis,” a song from their first demo and later on the Japanese version of the debut. The sophomore album, Decrowning, was the most-featured album with a total of five tracks: in addition to “Drug of Choice,” the set included “Lacrimal Gland,” a song almost never played live according to the band, as well as “Denial 101,” the personal favorite of yours truly, “Showdown,” and the closer song, “Bleeder.” Reptile Ride’s “Snake Skin Saddle” and the opener “Leave Your Dead Behind” were played, the latter also being the obvious final song on the set. The album’s instrumental track, “Apocalyptic Sci-Fi Fun,” was used as the outro tape.
Sadly, there were no encores; as an old fan of Amoral I would have loved to hear debut album tracks like “Silent Renewal,” “The Last Round,” or even “Nothing Daunted.” I also had kind of anticipated beforehand that Decrowning’s title track would have been in the set, and “Tiebreaker” would have been an awesome addition as well, but none of this really matters because “Other Flesh” was included; I once went to see Amoral in Kouvola’s Rytmi-Katti in 2007, where the song had to be left out because the substituting bassist, Erkki Silvennoinen, wasn’t familiar with the song…
As the night drew to a close and it was time to go home, I was conflicted for a reason. The show was awesome, and I don’t remember seeing the same kind of ecstasy – on stage as well as in the audience – at any Rocks gig in a long time, but it’s a total bummer that this show was something probably none of us can experience again. I don’t believe that the guys in the band feel any less bewildered: Kalliojärvi returning to Amoral was definitely a shot in the arm for the band, but apparently the timetables of the members of a six-piece band overlapped constantly, preventing Amoral from going full speed ahead. Still, I can’t help thinking that the promising new rise ended before it even got the chance.
Nevertheless, the decision has been made and at this point I would like to thank Amoral for producing three astounding melodic death metal records over the course of 2004-2007, as well as giving me the opportunity to, at least for a little while, feel 18 years old once again. I don’t think I can pass up on the farewell show in Tavastia next January!
Setlist (non-exact order):
2. Drug of Choice
6. Lacrimal Gland
7. Other Flesh
8. Snake Skin Saddle
9. Denial 101
12. Leave Your Dead Behind
Apocalyptic Sci-fi Fun (outro)
Text: Atte Valtonen | Ed: Amy Wiseman