It’s difficult to change vocalists and retain the same following, but Amorphis have achieved it. Eclipse is the third chapter in Amorphis’ career. When they first started out, guitarist Tomi Koivusaari sang and played the guitar. Then came their amazing second singer Pasi Koskinen, stepping in for their Elegy masterpiece, with both clean and death vocals. The band released a string of successful albums with Koskinen until 2004’s Far from the Sun, where they not only abandoned their folky roots and psychedelic backdrop, but also took on a relatively more modern sound. The album was criticised severely by the band’s fanbase and led to the departure of Pasi Koskinen who perhaps couldn’t summon the necessary inspiration anymore.
Enter Sinisthra vocalist Tomi Joutsen, hence the third chapter of the band. Not only is Eclipse a perfect return to form, it also marks the release of their heaviest album since 1996’s Elegy. Joutsen is an absolutely stunning vocalist, with so much power and emotion in his delivery. Most fans, myself included, thought it impossible to fill Koskinen’s shoes, but the impossible has happened. Considering the songs on this album, Joutsen seems like a much better fit than Koskinen would ever have. Repeat listens reveal Amorphis harkened back to their previous albums, combining the best sides of Elegy, Tuonela, and Am Universum. The album kicks off with the powerful “Two Moons”, showcasing a very strong vocal performance and plenty of proggy keyboard lines. The piece has a strange Elegy feel to it, moreso sonically than musically. With “Leaves Scar”, a song that opens with a folky acoustic intro, the band plays out some great rhythmic grooves, utilising fierce death growls and harmonised back-up singing. Some of the melodies, like the one on “Born from Fire”, are the band’s strongest in a long time. Both catchy and intense, this song sounds like a heavier leftover from the Tuonela sessions, except with more throaty vocals. There is a nice piano interlude in the middle that repeats the said melody which is then replaced by a terrific guitar lead.
Two songs particularly stand out as catchier and more straightforward than before, especially by Amorphis’ standards. “House of Sleep” is very much like a Sentenced song circa Crimson where they were at their most melodic (and relatively less mainstream compared to the two albums they followed it up with). Even Toni Joutsen sings like Ville Laihiala did here employing an utterly engaging chorus along the way, until the breaking point where Amorphis makes the piece their own with the arrival of a nice piano and synth lead respectively. Much like “House of Sleep”, the closing track “Empty Opening” features a very Sentenced-like chorus, only darker and more aggressive. This wouldn’t seem too out of place on Frozen, easily their darkest and most suicidal release.
Those who’ve been expecting a more psychedelic album a la Elegy will be very pleased with “Under A Soil and Black Stone”, a song highlighted by odd sound effects, whilst those looking for a more Tales from the Thousand Lakes vibe should enjoy “The Smoke” for its haunting death growls and “Brother Moon” for its folk meets prog meets death metal approach. This is quite possibly the most progressive song on the album, along with “Same Flesh”, a piece with blazing organ leads and interesting backing harmonies.
Amorphis have returned with one of their strongest albums to date. This could be their best since Elegy or their more folk-laden work Tuonela.