Flirting with perfection - A review of Amorphis' Queen of Time
Each time one expects Amorphis to release a weaker record, the band easily manages to defend the metal thrown and equal or surpass its previous masterpiece. Queen of Time is such an extraordinary example. The direction of the record isn't much different from the melodic predecessor Under the Red Cloud but the band somehow managed to improve the different elements that made said album such a success two and a half years ago.
The band's more and more progressive songwriting has become even more intellectual as can be perceived in the detailed opener ''The Bee'' and yet the band still manages to make its most complex tracks sound accessible, catchy and memorable. The track features unique transitions, throat singing, additional female backing vocals and a second keyboardist in five and a half compact minutes and Tomi Joutsen's soulful vocals keep this stunning mixture together.
The symphonic elements and choirs have become even more majestic, mythic and sacral than before as can be heard in the varied ''Message in the Amber'' that also comes around with a few minor electronic effects that give the song a mysterious touch.
The band's flirt with its death metal roots and even black metal elements has been intensified in certain songs such as the dramatic ''Daughter of Hate'' that convinces with cold yet emotional riffs, dynamic rhythm sections, highly skilled and variable vocals, brilliantly haunting saxophone sounds by Shining's Jørgen Munkeby and Finnish spoken word passages by lyricist Pekka Kainulainen which make this song one of the very best the band has written in its stunning career. This masterpiece alone includes more ideas than some bands have in their entire careers and I'm not even exaggerating.
''The Golden Elk'' comes around with incredibly harmonious vocals, additional backing vocals by Israeli singer Noa Gruman of symphonic progressive metal band Scardust, haunting piano sounds and folk elements thanks to a stunning oud performance by Affif Merhej. This song would make an extraordinary single and should have its righteous place in the band's concert setlists for years to come.
''Wrong Direction'' is cinematic, epic and uprising symphonic metal with majestic keyboard sounds, relaxing folk sounds and a solid dose of oomph in form of harsh death metal vocals intertwined with melodic lead vocals. Even the mystic video clip for this record's lead single is colorful, immersive and truly inspiring. Everything Amorphis tries out seems to be working perfectly.
Each and every single song comes around with very surprising but highly appropriate ideas, including the different bonus tracks. I could write a master thesis about each of the thirteen songs recorded during the Queen of Time sessions but even this wouldn't do the record justice and would be missing the point as I simply want you to listen to this extraordinary new record and everything the band has done in the past. Everything is hold together by the band's melancholic and melodic soundscapes, the lyrical references to Finnish mythology and culture and Tomi Joutsen's incredibly distinctive vocals that make him the best vocalist in the metal genre, no matter if he sings, growls, shrieks or speaks.
If you're looking for a weakness, you won't find any. Every single song is relevant. The production is crisp and rich. Even the cover artwork and booklet are absolutely stunning.
There is no doubt this is the best metal album of the year. Where does it rank compared to the band's numerous other masterpieces? Only time will tell but right now, I would put it right on top. I have never given a record one hundred percent because no album is fully perfect and I could always find a minor element that kept a record from perfection. I sincerely can't find that here, objectively and subjectively. I'm grateful to be living in a time when a band like Amorphis is on the peak of its career. Go listen to this masterpiece and support this outstanding band!
Final rating: 100%