Founded 1990 in Helsinki, AMORPHIS have worked their way to the apex of the European metal scene and won international renown. The band’s name, derived from “amorphous” (no determinate form or shape), has been programmatic for the pioneers of Finnish metal over the course of their 20-year career. Setting a diverse, intricate and unique style to their musical approach, often being described as “ahead of their time”, the band accrued a large and loyal international fan base. From their independently released demo “Disment of Soul” (1991) through the current releases, Amorphis have always fused elements of traditional heavy, death and doom metal with a great variety of non-metal influences, including folk, progressive and psychedelia, and managed to create an instantly recognizable sound of their own. The band’s break-through came in 1994 with “Tales From The Thousand Lakes”. The album won the band a massive fan base around the world, reaching a multitude of listeners among and beyond the metal community, and remains immensely popular to this day.
In the early stages of their career, Amorphis consisted of Tomi Koivusaari (guitarist and original vocalist), Esa Holopainen (guitars), Olli-Pekka Laine (bass), and Jan Rechberger (drums). Together they greatly affected the metal underground, gained recognition and soon scored a multi-album contract with Relapse Records. Shortly after, Amorphis released their debut album, “The Karelian Isthmus”. Receiving an impressive response, the band chose to venture further into melodic terrain, adding progressive keyboard sounds here and clean guest vocals (performed by Ville Tuomi of Kyyria) there. The result was the classic “Tales From The Thousand Lakes”, which to this day is considered to be one of the most groundbreaking albums in the doom/death genre. For the first time incorporating lyrics from the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, the album also was the first true manifestation of the influential Amorphis sound: a seamless combination of intoxicating melodies and aggressive sounds delivered with both clean and harsh vocals.
The success of “Tales From The Thousand Lakes” provided Amorphis with the opportunity to tour the European continent several times, and followed by their first US tour in late 1994. Shortly thereafter, the band underwent some major musical and line-up changes. Continuing to feature lyrics based on traditional Finnish folk poetry, the third album “Elegy” introduced a new vocalist, Pasi Koskinen. This adjustment proclaimed a significant transformation in Amorphis’ career. Pasi’s unique vocals brought a new setting to the music, which now concentrated more on compelling keyboard atmospheres, psychedelic guitar sounds and a distinctive arrangement of the vocals, delivered by both Tomi and Pasi. Encouraged by popular and critical approval, the band members took three years to prepare their next album, honing the newfound style to perfection. “Tuonela” was liberally sprinkled with 1970s-style psychedelic touches and marked another great leap ahead for Amorphis, and its successor, “Am Universum” delved even further into progressive soundscapes.
In 2003, Amorphis released “Far From The Sun”. While closer to the band’s metal roots than the previous longplayer, the album was again very relaxed and melodic as ever, spiced with Far Eastern touches as well as progressive elements in the vein of Pink Floyd. In the late summer of 2004, long-time singer Pasi Koskinen left the band, and Tomi Joutsen (Sinisthra) joined around the end of the year. With a new singer and new energy, the band recorded “Eclipse”, an acclaimed masterpiece that combined the best-loved elements of Amorphis’ unique sound with fresh vigour. The album went straight to the top of the Finnish charts and was followed by triumphant live appearances all over Europe before the band retreated again to the recording studio.
“Eclipse” was followed by “Silent Waters” in the late summer of 2007. The dynamic and emotional range of the new songs, all of which were based on a single episode from the Kalevala, went beyond any of Amorphis’ earlier albums, yet at the same time hearkened back to the band’s past output in all its diversity. The release of the new album was preceded by a string of festival appearances – including Germany’s famous Wacken Open Air – and immediately followed by a five-week Finnish tour. The remainder of 2007 found Amorphis in Europe, Russia and Japan, whereas in 2008 they played in southeastern Europe, at a multitude of festivals and, during the fall, in the USA and Canada.
The new album “Skyforger” shares the lyrical concept of the two previous albums, its central character being Kalevala blacksmith Ilmarinen. Musically, the band soars to unprecedented heights; not abandoning the cherished ingredients of their sound but rather refining them, augmenting them with fresh elements, and delivering them with breathtaking passion and intensity. Both the album and the single “Silver Bride” went straight to number one in the Finnish charts, and the live qualities of the new songs were immediately tested and proven on the summer’s festival stages. In September, Amorphis went on their first-ever tour of Latin America, followed by the extensive Forging Europe Tour in the fall. In the summer of 2010, the band presented its first-ever live DVD, which includes two full shows recorded in 2009 as well as a career-spanning documentary. The release coincided with the 20th anniversary of Amorphis, which in addition was honored by a compilation of re-recorded classic tracks, released in September 2010.
Nostalgia, however, is not what this band is about. Granted, The Beginning Of Times (2011) showcases their trademark style in perfection, including plenty of reference to the death metal days, yet at the same time it proves that Amorphis have lost none of their progressive edge and experimental spirit. Doing honor to protagonist Väinämöinen, the Kalevala‘s central character whom myth credits for bringing music into the world, the band brought forth its most versatile and nuanced effort to date; in terms of performance and arrangements as well as rythms and sounds. Iikka Kahri, whose flute and saxophone already graced several songs on Skyforger, was back in the fold, Tomi Koivusaari added a few discreet touches of pedal steel guitar and Santeri balanced the 1970s prog and 1990s death elements with a synth vocabulary straight out of the eighties. More noticeable still was the addition of Netta Dahlberg’s backing vocals, which beautifully complement Tomi Joutsen’s lead – most poignantly on “Mermaid” and “Soothsayer” but also, for example, on the single You I Need. Besides another number one in Finland, The Beginning Of Times also earned Amorphis their first-ever Top 20 rating in Germany.
At the outset of the third decade, Amorphis continue their musical journey creative as ever – not confined to any predetermined shape, yet always instantly recognizable, always true to their own vision, and always unique.
On August 21, 2012, Amorphis announced on their website that a new album was in the works. On January 17, 2013, the band announced the title and release date for their next record. Circle was released on April 19 in Europe and April 30th in North America. On September 16, 2013, Circle won Metal Hammer´s “The Album of The Year” award. Esa Holopainen on the award, “For us, Album of the Year award is a great recognition for the work done so far. Especially when we got it from our 11th studioalbum.”
On August 4, 2014, Amorphis announced on their website and through social media that they would be playing a number of special Tales from the Thousand Lakes 20th Anniversary shows where their 1994 album would be performed in its entirety. Tales from the Thousand Lakes 20th Anniversary shows included festivals such as Wacken Open Air, Maryland Deathfest, and 70000 Tons of Metal with many other tour dates and festivals included.
The band began demoing new songs at the start of 2015, and in 4 March of that same year, it was announced that Amorphis will begin to record a new in album in April 2015, at Fascination Street Studio, Örebro, Sweden with Jens Bogren.
The lyrics will be written once again by Pekka Kainulainen, who says “Like ‘Kalevala’, they are descriptions of natural phenomena, seasons and the human mind. Reoccuring situations where hope and uncertainty alternate. Attempting to gain advice from higher powers. The poems do not form a complete story per se, but they are drawn together by a certain theme. We live under a red cloud and once again, time weighs us.”
The release of the new album will be followed by a world tour, starting with shows in the band’s home country of Finland, then other parts of Europe with Nightwish & Arch Enemy in November 2015.
In 15 June 2015, it was announced that the title for the twelfth studio full-length album is Under The Red Cloud, with the artwork and tracklist revealed and with a worldwide release date of 4 September 2015 by Nuclear Blast Records.
SWALLOW THE SUN
Swallow the Sun, Biography 2015, By Chris Dick
When Juha Raivio and Pasi Pasanen formed Swallow the Sun in the quaint city of Jyväskylä before the turn of the millenium, the duo’s ambition was no wider than writing a few tunes in the vein of their heroes, My Dying Bride. Between 2000 and 2003, Swallow the Sun honed their doom-inspired songwriting skills and welcomed, with dark menace, gradations of death, black, and funeral doom—a Finnish pastime, actually—to round out the sonic scope. Like their chief influence, by the time the ultra-limited demo Out of This Gloomy Light hit label desks in 2003, Swallow the Sun defied easy categorization.
“All I wanted is a channel to put these demons [to rest] and make a music that matters,” ponders primary songwriter Raivio from his woodland home. “Who cares if its doom or if it’s pop? As long as its 100% from the heart, then the goal is reached.”
Clearly, Swallow the Sun was, in sound and sight, unequivocally from the darkest of hearts. After signing to small Finnish independent Firebox Records, Swallow the Sun rapidly became an underground sensation. The group’s debut album, The Morning Never Came, was a haunting reminder doom-death had legs after the Peaceville Three (Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, Anathema) had largely moved on. Fans, sensing greatness in Swallow the Sun, couldn’t get enough of the epic opener “Through Her Silvery Body”, the insanely dark “Out of This Gloomy Light”, and the Lovecraftian closing title track. By winter 2003, The Morning Never Came earned Top 10 placement in lists all over metaldom, while long-standing publications like Kerrang! honored the debut as “one of doom metal’s finest moments to date”.
“We had no expectations at the time,” singer Mikko Kotamäki admits. “We were just a bunch of young blokes doing what we wanted. So, in that sense nothing’s changed, except we’re not so young anymore. Of course, it made us hungrier and now we are here with a triple album. More passionate than ever.”
From The Morning Never Came through 2012’s universally lauded Emerald Forest and the Blackbird, Swallow the Sun’s ascendancy has been like no other. The group’s sophomore album, Ghosts of Loss, placed within the Top 10 in Finland’s Top 40 chart, sandwiched with woe between System of a Down and Gwen Stefani. The same year, Swallow the Sun was nominated by the Finnish Metal Awards for “best cover art” and “best band”. Chart success continued unabated. With Hope—the group’s first for Spinefarm Records—Swallow the Sun burned up the Finnish charts, landing in the Top 3. But that wasn’t enough. When the Plague of Butterflies EP landed in September 2008, the 35-minute epic splashed at Number 1, cementing the group as serious contenders to Nightwish, Children of Bodom, and Amorphis. Follow-up full-length, New Moon, also placed easily in the Top 10 when it marched glumly into stores in 2009. Some three years later, Emerald Forest and the Blackbird also hit the upper echelons of chartdom, morosely peaking at Number 2. There was no stopping golden hand of Swallow the Sun’s doom. Even in the U.S., where the group has had marginal label support, they completed successful tours with Soilwork, Katatonia, Insomnium, and Kreator.
“During 2007-2012 we toured so much from our own pockets, it’s a miracle we’re alive,” says Kotamäki. “Some of us even have stable relationships, places to crash after all those years on the road. And now it’s time to do it again after a few quiet godforsaken years. I guess we’re still willing to risk it all.”
Swallow the Sun might not be labeled as risk takers, but they are. First of all, doom-death isn’t exactly a lucrative genre. Even My Dying Bride had to re-prioritize the band years ago to make ends meet. Second of all, Swallow the Sun touring the world—particularly the U.S., where costs are exorbitant—with limited label backing is no mean feat either. Third of all and perhaps most significant, Swallow the Sun have announced the follow-up to Emerald Forest and the Blackbird as a triple full-length titled, Songs from the North I, II & III. The group’s sixth full-length isn’t a compilation, an anthology, a live overview, or a boxed set. Songs from the North I, II & III is a legitimate triple album. With it, they join The Smashing Pumpkins, George Harrison, Tom Waits, among few others as artists willing to risk it all with a single release spanning three long-players. Whatever game Swallow the Sun are playing with their music and personal sanity, it’s paying off.
“It sure is pretty much full-on madness to do a triple album these days,” grins Raivio. “When bands want to release only one or two songs online because people would not have enough patience or time to listen full albums anymore. What bullshit. I think many bands are not respecting their fans at all to think that way. Or, they are just lazy bastards. I’m all about albums being whole experiences. Something you need to live through to be able really understand the depths and meaning of music and lyrics. Who would want to read a book just from the middle, or just watch the end of the movie? Music is holy, albums are holy. But it’s a triple album and all the albums make one big picture. One long journey through the light and dark. It is not a concept album that would have continuing story, but all the albums are connected to each other.”
Make no mistake, Songs from the North I, II & III features a complete Swallow the Sun experience. One album continues in the vein of Emerald Forest and the Blackbird and the albums before it. Meaning, it’ll be jaw-dropping, first-rate doom-death. Another album is an acoustic foray representing the group’s ability to unplug and enchant in the darkness. The final part of Songs from the North I, II & III is the most extreme, a complete ride into Swallow the Sun’s most horrific abyss. In the same vein as countrymen Thergothon, Unholy, and Skepticism, the third part is finely-crafted, conscience-crushing funeral doom.
“We have always been known for these words: gloom, beauty, and despair,” Raivio says. “That really says it all. As you get older and older, the wounds will just get deeper and deeper. The hell of living will take you into the depths you would never believe you have to travel in this lifetime, but at the same time you learn to respect the beauty more and more. All these things evolve. Like the music as the years pass. But I would give it away in a heartbeat if it would end these journeys in the dark. But it sure is good for the soul and heart of the music. No great art comes without great pain. Sad but so true.”
Songs from the North I, II & III is Swallow the Sun’s first for new label Century Media. Chuffed as Finland is cold in the winter, the Finns’ move from Spinefarm to Century Media was smart. In their new label, they’ll have a team dedicated to making sure Swallow the Sun’s black-hearted music is heard far and wide. Mostly written by Raivio following the Emerald Forest and the Blackbird tour cycle, Songs from the North I, II & III is an album that has taken time to perfect. Actually, that’s not entirely true.
“To be honest, we could have released this album over a year ago already,” reveals Raivio. “I think 90% of the music was written almost two years ago, but we had huge problems with our ex-record label and we could not enter the studio and go ahead. But now we are in the wonderful hands of Century Media. Nothing is holding us back now.”
Indeed, Swallow the Sun’s chains have broken. Even a drummer switch from Kai Hahto to newcomer Juuso Raatikainen won’t impede on the Finns’ venture. Whereas other doom-death metallers have made waves with violins, female vocals, and orchestras, Swallow the Sun are making their mark indelible with Songs from the North I, II & III.
“It’s such a massive album,” Kotamäki says. “Definitely not the easiest piece to swallow. I hope people will appreciate the amount of work we put into it after hearing it. It’s real music with real thoughts behind it. From uplifting to depressing and everything between. Like human life. No disposable shit.”
In a world crass, judgmental, and myopic, Songs from the North I, II & III will expand minds, release souls, and cleanse hearts. Let’s fall into the all-encompassing dark of Swallow the Sun together.
Swallow the Sun are: Juha Raivio (guitars), Matti Honkonen (bass), Markus Jämsen (guitars), Aleksi Munter (keyboards), Mikko Kotamäki (vocals), and Juuso Raatikainen (drums).
EARTHEN is a Chicago based metal band which seeks to provide a range of listeners with quality music inspired by life experiences and the voice of nature which resonates within us all…
Earthen was born of “The Narthex Projeckt”, a creation brought into being in 2003 by Mike Le Gros. Originally a female fronted band, after experimenting with various different sounds and a plethora of members who came and went, Earthen has finally evolved into the sort of musical experience that it is today. With Mother Nature being the ever present driving force in all of our lives, she is often reflected in both the imagery and music that Earthen produces. Each member provides his or her own unique addition to the sound whether it be the soul-churning guitars, the storm of drums, the powerful emotion of the keyboards, the lilting accent of the flute, the thunder of bass or the haunting melody of the male vocals. Together they coalesce to form a voice that has been forgotten by humankind for far too long. You can hear us in the wolf’s mournful howl or in the night wind as it whispers through the ghostly trees. We are here to remind you of the fate that binds us all. We are Earthen.
Like the earth itself, this band was a natural evolution, an unforeseen sequence that brought it to what is known today both music and vision. From the years of its simple beginnings it was allowed to become what it became, a natural succession, an organic advancement that transcended the musical influences of all those who have contributed to create something greater than ourselves.
Origin to purpose, Earthen grew forth on the ideas in observance of the seasons change, the rise and fall of man, and finally, the reminder of the fate that binds us all. Each song then carried the haunting tones of nature and time, concepts of fragile years fueling the theme of how sacred both were.
“Nothing is certain except for present and uncertain change.” – EARTHEN
Varaha utilizes a very eclectic and diverse sound throughout their music; a color palette that includes influences from many different genres; from 80’s dark and pop rock, to early 90’s doom metal… and they do so disregarding any specific genre limitation. Overall, their music is a cinematic dance between heavy riffing counterpointed by omnipresent melodies, as well as droned parts of despair and evocative clean guitar arrangements.