Amorphis announced a Finnish tour right after the release of their well-received new opus, Queen of Time. The band had a variety of support acts lined up for the round of dates, such as Myrkur, Grave Pleasures, and Turmion Kätilöt, but in Tampere the multinational CyHra had the honor of opening the show. Musicalypse headed to Pakkahuone on November 17, 2018, to see how the new material by the mythological metallers would work live.
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Listen to the setlists from both bands in the Spotify player below:
I’d last seen Amorphis 2 years ago on the Eclipse 10th anniversary tour. Besides getting to hear the sextet’s new songs on stage for the first time, another incentive for me was getting to see the band’s ‘new’ bassist Olli-Pekka “Oppu” Laine, as well as former In Flames axeman Jesper Strömblad (as part of CyHra) in action at last, after a decade or so of listening to music by both guys. Pakkahuone had been sold out well in advance, so clearly a headlining show by Amorphis in Tampere was something that had been anticipated since their previous visit in September last year, and surely having a support band with some well-known names from the metal scene did no harm either.
First up at 20:30 was CyHra, who have been featured on our site a few times before, and by that point a good number of people had already found their way into the venue. The set opener was – curiously enough – “Dead to Me”, the closer of their Letters to Myself (2017) album, but it actually worked in that slot, with frontman Jake E. entering the stage first after the spoken word intro and soon being followed by the rest. The second song was the almost-title-track of the album, and the band played every song from it over the course of the set, including a full-band version of “Inside a Lullaby”, which hadn’t been performed at the band’s debut gig last year.
What caught my eye right from the start was that Jesper Strömblad was nowhere to be seen – instead, a younger dark-haired guitarist was playing his parts. Towards the end of the set, Jake E. revealed that Strömblad had stayed home due to a family tragedy and sent his regards to the fans. His replacement was Marcus Sunesson from Engel (ironically enough, a band featuring Niclas Engelin, who replaced Strömblad in In Flames), who had also filled in for the other guitarist, Euge Valovirta at Qstock and was therefore familiar with the material already. While the lack of Strömblad was disappointing, Sunesson did fit in well, and the band’s playing and chemistry on stage were so good and natural that you couldn’t tell he’d been called in to help on such a short notice. The other person missing was bassist Peter Iwers, who had left the band earlier this year and been replaced by a backing track. While you couldn’t hear much of a difference soundwise, it felt a little weird to see only 4 people on stage, with so many elements – bass, keyboards, electronics, backing vocals – coming from the computer, so hopefully this gap will be filled sometime soon.
Watching Valovirta play was especially entertaining, as he would occasionally jump or do some dance moves. When you factor in his skilled yet melodic solo playing, he’s like a classic guitar hero, without any excessive showmanship or fretboard masturbation. During the quiet break in “Heartrage”, even drummer Alex Landenburg came from behind the kit and joined him for a short waltz. Speaking of Landenburg, the 60-minute set had enough time for a brief drum solo, which is something I’ve never seen from a support band. Jake E. seemed a little out of breath at times, and he joked about getting too old for this job, having had a second child recently. At some points his voice got a little drowned out by the taped backing vocals, but for the most part he did a rock-solid job, even nailing the high notes in “Holding Your Breath”, which is not an easy song to sing.
People had clearly come for Amorphis, which made it a little challenging to win them over, and CyHra’s album has so many ballady songs that the set was bound to slow down every now and then. However, the audience warmed up towards the end, as during the beautifully performed “Closure”, Jake E. made people wave their cellphones and sing along to the melody of the song successfully. “Karma” closed the case with its infectious guitar harmonies, making me hope to catch CyHra again after their second album with Strömblad back in the fold. At least Jake E. called Finland his second home, so the guys will surely be back!
1. Dead to Me
2. Letter to Myself
3. Here to Save You
5. Dark Clarity
6. Black Wings
7. Inside a Lullaby
8. Muted Life
9. Rescue Ride
10. Holding Your Breath
At 22:00 the wait for the headliner was over when Amorphis took the stage with “The Bee” – the extended taped intro built up excitement nicely, and the song itself was loaded with energy, making it (arguably) the band’s best set opener ever. The show went on with “The Golden Elk”, on which Esa Holopainen filled in nicely for the oud solo on his guitar. A total of six songs from Queen of Time were included in the setlist, which is a bold move from a band with such a long history, but they had a good reason to be confident about the record. The definite highlights out of the new numbers were the epic “Message in the Amber”, on which Tomi Joutsen got a little growling help from Olli-Pekka Laine and guitarist Tomi Koivusaari, and the dynamic “Daughter of Hate”, which had nice contrasts between the aggressive chorus and the atmospheric middle section and also featured nice green lights. The single, “Wrong Direction”, also came across well on stage, with Jan Rechberger bashing the skins with force, and the ending sounded huge.
It was nice to see what an integral part of the band’s live set songs from Under the Red Cloud (2015) have become in a relatively short time: 3 years after its release, “Bad Blood” is still as crushing as ever, and it’s already nigh impossible to think of an Amorphis gig without the audience participation moment at the end of “Death of a King.” Some of the older songs had little tweaks that were new to me, such as Santeri Kallio doubling the guitar at the end of “Sky is Mine” on keyboards, the band briefly stopping in the choruses of “House of Sleep” to let the crowd sing, and Koivusaari growling a few lines and Kallio playing the Moog (as it should be done!) on “Black Winter Day”, which closed the show.
Where CyHra took some time to win over the whole crowd, Amorphis had them eating out of their hands right out of the gate, as people were pumping their fists in the air and clapping along from song to song with no exception. People had evidently done their homework in the 6 months that had passed since the release of Queen of Time, as new and old tunes alike were received with enthusiasm. Since this was my first time seeing Amorphis with Laine back in the band, I was naturally most focused on him – the bandana-wearing bassist had a good stage presence, and he also did a very nice job on the backing vocals. However, it’s also always impressive to see Joutsen’s windmill headbanging, even after he got rid of his dreadlocks, and Kallio playing air guitar on “Hopeless Days” was fun.
Amorphis’ new material came across strongly live and it felt like they’d picked all the right tracks from Queen of Time, even though the songs were slightly more reliant on backing tracks than most of their earlier stuff due to the epic nature of the album. I also really enjoyed hearing oldies like “The Castaway” and “Black Winter Day” again after a bit of a break, but I wouldn’t mind if “The Smoke” was retired, as the most interesting part of the song live nowadays is the intro jam, and the chorus sounds quite lacking with nobody handling the backing growls that Niclas Etelävuori used to do. The lack of any material from Elegy (1996) was a little surprising, and I guess the fans who already saw the band at this year’s South Park in particular might’ve appreciated a little more variety in the setlist – after all, the band has such a high-quality catalog to pull songs from. But even despite this nitpicking, Amorphis left me satisfied, and I’m sure the vast majority of people at the packed Pakkahuone headed home happy as well. To quote Tomi Joutsen: “Tampere and Amorphis is a combination that continues to work year after year.” By the way, Skyforger (2009) is turning 10 next year, so perhaps 2019 has something special in store for Amorphis fans?
1. The Bee
2. The Golden Elk
3. Sky is Mine
5. Message in the Amber
6. Silver Bride
7. Bad Blood
8. Wrong Direction
9. The Smoke
10. Daughter of Hate
11. The Castaway
12. Heart of the Giant
13. Hopeless Days
14. Death of a King
15. House of Sleep
16. Black Winter Day
Photos (from Helsinki): Miia Collander