Amorphis is a band that has been a bit of a white whale in terms of my ability to catch a live show. I’ve been listening to the band’s excellent output ever since I was in college and they dropped Silent Waters and I fell in love with Tomi Joutsen’s incredible vocal performance and the monstrous riffs of Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari. For various reasons it was a band that I kept having opportunities to go and see live but kept missing, despite my love of them growing over the years with the release of each new album.
Wednesday, the stars finally aligned – following the drop of their newest album Halo (which continues their streak of never writing a non-excellent album with yet another batch of impeccable songs), Amorphis embarked on a US tour to support the new material with support from various bands (such as Pallbearer, Uada, Sylvaine and Hoaxed). and they rolled through the city I was in and I was finally able to attend.
Supporting them on this night was Portland, Oregon’s melodic black metallers Uada. Uada is one of those bands that takes their aesthetics and image as a black metal band very seriously, and their stage presence and performance is perfectly in tune with this. Opening to a prerecorded track of crickets chirping and wolves howling as some synths build, the band takes the stage clothed entirely in black wearing masks over their faces to remain covered and anonymous, trying to keep the focus entirely on the music and their performance. Their winding, mind-bending black metal epics swirl from groovy double-bass blast sections to slow, doom-inspired occultic passages, creating a captivating and oppressive atmosphere that is really only realized in this genre by its very best.
Afterwards, the main event – the Finnish legends storm on stage and barrel right into the opening track – Northwards – off their latest album. This kicked the set off on an insanely high gear and it really never let up from there. Tomi and co. worked their way across their discography, playing many tracks from Halo but including some older cuts as well, going as far back as 1996 with a live rendition of My Kantele off of their album Elegey. As phenomenal as the musicianship in Amorphis is (across all 5 players), the star of the show is and always has been (to me) Tomi’s vocals – and they are amazingly realized live. Tomi’s growls rumble with the earth and his cleans soar into the skies and they have the rare quality of matching exactly to how they sound on albums. It’s completely enthralling to witness – it’s really unbelievable that someone can have so much range and be able to swap between them so seamlessly. When you then stack the perfection that is Amorphis’ musicianship on top of it – you really have one of the best live bands around. Fans should stick to the end for the encore – Amorphis have been closing with House of Sleep most nights, and I don’t think you’ll find a fan who doesn’t go crazy for that song.