Finnish prog metallers throw the kitchen sink at widescreen album.
The Bee, the opening track from Amorphis’ 13th album Queen Of Time, starts with some trickery, as a distant vocal ushers in some wobbling, Banco de Gaia-style trance. It doesn’t take long for the jagged guitar riffs that dominate the album to assert themselves, though. Throw in several key changes to heighten the song’s towering scale, rapid switches between clean singing and demonic growls, plus a turn from the great kargyraa-style throat singer Albert Kuvezin – leader of Tuvan folk punk band Yat-Kha – and you’re left with a song that doesn’t so much
THE KIND OF THING
GENGHIS KHAN MIGHT HAVE USED TO ROUSE HIS TROOPS.
take on Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir as tear up the template and dress it up for sacrifice.
Message In The Amber is jauntier, with a folky, Nordic riff, galloping rhythms and the unexpected arrival of a nearcelestial choir towards the climax. Daughter Of Hate has its roots in black metal, but confounds expectations with a saxophone solo, some spooky chanting and a genuinely sinister spoken interlude from lyricist Pekka Kainulainen. The Golden Elk keeps things racing along before sweeping strings and Spanish guitar add an unexpected plot twist and it all subsides with gently tumbling piano.
Wrong Direction is less aggressive that most of Queen Of Time, and may be an easier point of entry for prog fans wary of the band’s metallic roots – there’s even some flute! – although the growls eventually return.
Heart Of The Giant canters along in relaxed fashion before the strings zoom in and the choir takes over, and wild guitar solo follows wild keyboard solo until it appears as if the song is engaged in a giant game of one-upmanship with itself. The Ennio Morricone-tinged We Accursed follows, an uplifting, ride-into-the-sunset album climax that isn’t. Because Grain Of Sand follows, with a grinding riff, an exultant chorus and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it choral interlude that could have been torn straight from the pages of Jon Anderson’s Olias Of Sunhillow. Dutch singer Anneke van Giersbergen shows up on the rousing Amongst Stars, while Pyres On The Coast soars and spits and wavers, and includes a bit that sounds like an excerpt from Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds.
Queen Of Time is a crazily ambitious, relentlessly epic album. It sounds like the kind of thing Genghis Khan might have used to rouse his troops had Spotify existed in the
13th century, conjuring up inspiring visions of great battles, fierce storms and vengeful gods. It’s also kinda silly, should you choose to look at it like that. But we’re not.