Amorphis, Halo (Atomic Fire 2022)

In their fourth decade, Finland’s Amorphis continue to flex with Halo.

Formed in the earliest part of the nineteen nineties, Amorphis began making progressive doom and death metal music with notable creativity. Over the years, they moved into a more melodic – or perhaps melancholy – range of expression. The depth of the music did not change, and neither did the ingenuity in composition. Halo is the band’s fourteenth full-length studio album, and along the way they have released multiple splits, EPs, compilations, and live albums. The sheer volume of production is enough to give you pause. In every instance, attention to detail and quality was never overlooked. The band is Tomi Joutsen (vocals), Esa Holopainen (guitar), Tomi Koivusaari (guitar), Santeri Kallio (keys), Olli-Pekka Laine (bass), and Jan Rechberger (drums).

The new album is big, with eleven songs landing in the four-to-five-minute range. Across tracks, the musicians take the opportunity to explore divergent tonal and stylistic approaches to composition. Alternating medium-coarse and clean vocals is common, and the use of keyboards to expand the sound is typical. Esa Holopainen describes the album this way: “It is thoroughly recognizable Amorphis from beginning to end but the general atmosphere is a little bit heavier and more progressive and also organic compared to its predecessor.” Extra heaviness is always welcome, as far as I am concerned.

“Windmane” stands out to me especially for the lead guitar and keys work. It is also a good example overall of the album with its many movements and changes. “War” is a great track as well, with persistent heaviness recurring throughout, and “The Wolf” is a wonderful opportunity to escape to another state of being. The album will surely please fans of Amorphis and it will have broad appeal to aficionados of many heavy music subgenres. Recommended.

Halo is out on Friday, February 11th through Atomic Fire Records in a plethora of formats, bundles, and versions, along with tie-in merch.

Band photo by Sam Jansen.

Links.

Amorphis website, https://amorphis.net/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/amorphis

Atomic Fire website, https://visionmerch.com/atomicfire/

Amorphis, Halo (Atomic Fire 2022)

Black Veil Brides, The Phantom Tomorrow (Sumerian Records 2021)

Metal veterans Black Veil Brides create a concept album for their newest release, The Phantom Tomorrow.

Originating in the Midwest, Black Veil Brides have made a name for themselves in the heavy music world as a polished gothic-tinged band with a complex worldview and a penchant for intricate storytelling. In their relatively short career they have released five previous albums, including two concept albums. The newest is one of their strongest to date and carries a timely reflection on fame and projection. The band is Andy Biersack (vocals), Jake Pitts (guitar), Jinxx (guitar), Christian Coma (drums), and Lonny Eagleton (bass).

The new album has ten songs and two transitional pieces. The title track is an orchestral on-ramp to “Scarlett Cross,” one of the set’s early singles. Biersack’s melodic, insisting vocals surf on the layered production as the focal point surrounded by punching and jabbing rhythm and guitars. This raucous opener sets the stage for extended exploratory peeks in narrative corners of the established thematic arc.

The melodies they create are uncompromisingly catchy and impossible to forget. The compositional depth is truly enhanced by the non-guitar strings and keys, but the metal is never far away. Other bands try to do this, too, but none excel like Black Veil Brides. I am a metalhead from way back, a thrash and doom fiend both, and I can’t stop listening to this album. Every segment and transition, every song lands right.

Some of my favorite songs are the tracks with heavier openings like “The Wicked One” and “Crimson Skies,” but whether the pace is up or down, or the push is hard or soft, the music is clearly drawn from the same well. I saw Black Veil Brides live a couple weeks ago in Sacramento at Aftershock and it was an amazing performance. They are on tour in the US right now so go see them if you can. You will be glad you did.

The Phantom Tomorrow is out now through Sumerian Records. Check out a few videos at the band’s website and immerse yourself in the story. This is another great album from a band a admire more every time I hear them. Highly recommended.

Photo by Steve Thrasher from Aftershock Festival 2021.

Links.

Black Veil Brides website, http://blackveilbrides.net/

Store link, http://phantomtomorrow.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Blackveilbrides/

Sumerian Records, https://www.sumerianmerch.com/collections/black-veil-brides

Excellent article by Bryan Reesman at Billboard, https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/rock/9648734/black-veil-brides-interview-the-phantom-tomorrow/

Black Veil Brides, The Phantom Tomorrow (Sumerian Records 2021)

Aeonblack, The Time Will Come (MDD Records 2021)

German power metal band Aeonblack circle back around to deliver another dose of heavy music that is loud and speedy.

The origins of the band go back to the late 1980s when they were known as Groggy Elks, releasing one demo in 1999. With a name change in 2003, the group moved ahead with its brand of straight-forward metal, calibrated to a mid-quick tempo and taking a page from the book of bands like Judas Priest. Under the present moniker, there has been an EP in 2007 to go along with the Metal Bound long-player from 2015. The band for the new album is (according to the Metal Archives) Holger Berger (vocals), Ferdinand Panknin (guitar and bass), Peter Steinbach (drums), Michael Maunze (guitar, Keys, and bass).

The compositions are firmly rooted in an earlier day, and they are extremely solid and loyal to that era. They stretch some into newer forms while always keeping true to the starting point. The musicianship is top-notch and the band is firing on all cylinders. Berger’s voice does sound a bit like Rob Halford, and here again you can think of that as a starting point from which he reaches out in his own directions.

The songs are mostly in the four-to-five minute range, and are typically set at a driving gallop. The title track is a longer adventure, with the obligatory quieter elements to create a space for the sense of epic presentation, and there is even a short instrumental lead-on track to set it up. The riffs are steady and the lead work is crisp and reliable. The drumming has received more of a modern infusion than most of the other moving parts, and that helps the music glisten.

Songs like “Warrior’s Call” are roaring drag race, and “Nightwalker” has a more gothic feel to it. There are enough melodic passages to label the music that way, even going nearly full ballad at one point. Overall the music is more peppy than it is insurgent, but it is clearly a metal album. I liked it all the way through, and the album gets especially high marks for the drumming and lead guitar work. Recommended.

The Time Will Come is out now. Look it over at the Bandcamp page, or at the label’s website. You can get the back catalogue at the former, including the Groggy Elks demo from way back when.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://aeonblack1.bandcamp.com/album/the-time-will-come

Website, https://www.aeonblack.de/?lang=en

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/AEONBLACK-140787565995220/

Label, https://mdd-shop.de/en/search/query?desc=on&sdesc=on&keywords=aeonblack

Aeonblack, The Time Will Come (MDD Records 2021)