AMORPHIS – Pakkahuone, Tampere, 22.10.2015 (English)

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The new Amorphis album Under the Red Cloud came out at the beginning of September and received universal acclaim over here at Musicalypse, so covering the tour in support of the album was a natural continuation. On October 22nd, the Kalevala metallers played a show with At the Hollow at Pakkahuone in Tampere.

As some of you may remember, At the Hollow is a band I was originally supposed to see with Dream Theater and Anathema in Helsinki last August, but they got dropped from the bill when the show got moved to Kulttuuritalo. I hadn’t really listened to the band’s music before, so this gig at Pakkahuone would finally serve as my introduction to them. At the Hollow took the stage at 19:30 with no intro, cutting right to the chase. Trios aren’t commonplace in rock and metal nowadays, so I was surprised to see that the band had only three members: a singing guitarist, a contrabassist, and a percussionist with timpani, cymbals, and electronic pads. At the Hollow’s music can’t be called metal by any real standards, as it’s closer to alternative rock. However, the last song the band played had an intense finale that got louder and faster, and it got a bigger applause than the previous ones. Perhaps even the most hardened metalheads found something enjoyable in the 45-minute set. A lot of tunes began with guitar arpeggios, which gave a slightly repetitive feel, but I found the music fascinating nonetheless. At the Hollow is a band worth checking out if you’re into atmospheric and dramatic rock.

Amorphis started at 20:45 with the opening title-track of Under the Red Cloud. As expected, the acoustic intro was taped and the band started playing when the drums kicked in. It was a pleasure to see guitarist Esa Holopainen and keyboardist Santeri Kallio rip it up in the solo section! The radio single “Sacrifice” was obviously familiar to the people and had them clapping their hands, but it was “Bad Blood” that finally set the audience on fire. This killer song included some cool vocal interplay between Tomi Joutsen and bassist Niclas Etelävuori on the verses, and the riffs were perfect for headbanging – a guaranteed future fan favorite! Out of the new songs, “Enemy at the Gates” is more atmospheric and progressive, and hence not an obvious live track, but it worked alright. The up-tempo “The Four Wise Ones,” on the other hand – featuring impressive screams by Joutsen and backing growls by both Etelävuori and guitarist Tomi Koivusaari – sounded like it was made for live play. This was also the first time that I remember hearing Amorphis use backing tracks; Aleah Stanbridge wasn’t present, so her vocals in the bridge were piped in.

The selections from the previous albums were typical standards, but I was pleased by the inclusion of “On Rich and Poor,” which I’d last heard at Provinssirock 2012. Like most Amorphis singles, “The Wanderer” isn’t an exciting album track, but the sing-along in the chorus elevated it to another level. There were also some little changes in a few songs: on “Drowned Maid,” Joutsen received some growling help from Koivusaari, who was the band’s original vocalist, and “My Kantele” was extended to include a crowd participation moment and was played without the outro of the acoustic version, which has been part of the live song for many years. Joutsen introduced “Hopeless Days” as an attempt to “convince everyone of the genius of Circle (2013),” and it visibly succeeded in that, while “House of Sleep” once again gave everyone a chance to sing along before the band retreated to the backstage.

Upon leaving for the venue earlier in the evening, I’d seen a kebab burger ad at a bus stop. I’d had no time to eat, but Amorphis offered the ideal dose of kebab at the show when the oriental shades of “Death of a King” kicked off the encore. It was a bummer that Holopainen didn’t have a sitar with him like on The Beginning of Times tour four years ago, but the main melody sounded good enough on guitar. At the end of the tune, Joutsen made the audience chant the song title, which was a clear sign that it will be a setlist staple in the future. The show ended with “Silver Bride” and “The Smoke,” the latter of which is the most unnecessarily overplayed Amorphis live song and wasn’t a very good closer in my opinion.

Amorphis has delivered every time I’ve seen them, but it feels like Tomi Joutsen – who has got rid of his trademark dreads since the Circle tour – has become an even more confident performer than before. High notes have sometimes caused a little bit of trouble for him in the past, but this time he nailed them gloriously. Joutsen’s banter was also more laid-back than before – he even promised that the band would rehearse a song by the Finnish rock band Popeda in the future, having received so many requests for their songs. Apart from Esa Holopainen flubbing a few leads and the snare being nearly inaudible before “Sky Is Mine,” the playing and the sound were virtually flawless. Even the safe setlist didn’t bother me, because little extra things like Santeri Kallio’s Moog, Jan Rechberger’s gong, and Tomi Koivusaari’s vocal contributions made the show different enough from the previous tours. I missed the Tales from the Thousand Lakes anniversary performances, so it would’ve been nice to hear “Forgotten Sunrise”, but Amorphis tours Finland every year and usually introduces rarities into the set when some time has passed since the release of the latest album, so all hope isn’t lost. Until next time, I think I’ll have to satisfy my hunger for kebab in some other way…

Setlist:
1. Under the Red Cloud
2. Sacrifice
3. Bad Blood
4. Sky Is Mine
5. The Wanderer
6. On Rich and Poor
7. Drowned Maid
8. Enemy at the Gates
9. The Four Wise Ones
10. Silent Waters
11. My Kantele
12. Hopeless Days
13. House of Sleep

Encore:
14. Death of a King
15. Silver Bride
16. The Smoke

Text: Ville Karttunen | Ed: Amy Wiseman

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