‘Under The Red Cloud’ has scored highly on many album-of-the-year lists towards the end of 2015, even reaching the top spot in a lot of cases – including my own personal list. So, you can see why I was anticipating Amorphis’ first show on the UK leg of their ‘Under The Red Cloud Tour’, and their first ever show in Bristol at The Fleece.
The crowd was very small when we first arrived and, quite promptly, Greece’s Poem [3.0/5.0] took to the stage. I had never had the pleasure of listening to this band before, so I was looking forward to something new. Their sound was essentially progressive metal with a grunge-like flavour. George Prokopiou’s outstanding vocals were a highlight of the performance and I found them to be quite enjoyable overall.
When Textures [4.0/5.0] were announced for the support slot on Amorphis’ UK tour, even myself, as a fan, thought that this was an interesting choice of support. A few people expressed that they would have preferred the European support act ‘Omnium Gatherum’ before even giving Textures a chance.
Textures have recently released their 5th album ‘Phenotype’ after a 5 year gap since 2011’s ‘Dualism’, and it is a fantastic album. I have been listening to this band since 2006’s ‘Drawing Circles’ yet I have never managed to catch them live in all that time. Opening track ‘Regenesis’ was a pleasant surprise as this was the very song that introduced me to Textures. Unfortunately, the sound was poor to begin with, leaving the song sounding thin and lacking substance. However, the issue was quickly rectified and the signature tones of Textures rang through the PA and I could begin to enjoy the set.
New songs such as ‘New Horizons’ and ‘Shaping a Single Grain of Sand’ came across excellently and I noticed that they had gained a few fans in the room by this point, who had begun to nod their heads to the groovier parts of the technically brilliant tracks. For the older fans, like myself, they threw in ‘Awake’ and I couldn’t help but wonder if newest singer Daniël de Jongh would match the vocal masterpiece originally recorded with previous singer Eric Kalsbeek. He pulled it off perfectly and the room sang along at the top of their lungs. Closing song ‘Singularity’ demonstrated the level of talent this Dutch band possess, particularly drummer Stef Broks and guitarists Bart Hennephof and Joe Tal.
Overall, an excellent setlist performed charismatically and I was very pleased to finally see this band for the first time. They are so much more than ‘another Meshuggah clone’, as they are often referred to, and should be given the praise and respect that they deserve.
The crowd grew much larger as everyone waited for Finnish progressive metal giants Amorphis [4.5/5.0] to enter the stage. After a fairly quick changeover time, the distinct piano from title track ‘Under the Red Cloud’ emanated from the PA. One by one, the members entered the stage to loud cheers and applause as they began the set.
The three opening tracks ‘Under the Red Cloud’, ‘Sacrifice’ and ‘Bad Blood’ were a strong reminder of why Amorphis’ latest album had reached those high places in last year’s ‘best-of’ lists. Simultaneously heavy and melodic, I was surprised at how many people around me were already well acquainted with the lyrics to these new songs as they sang them confidently, whilst others banged their heads, clapped their hands and raised their horns.
The gorgeous tones of Esa Holopainen’s lead guitar and Tomi Joutsen’s instantly recognisable clean vocals introduce personal favourite ‘Sky Is Mine’, featured early in the set to a welcoming crowd. Although Tomi sings the verse of the song differently to how it is on record, the crowd sing it anyway and there is a great atmosphere forming in the venue.
A spell of older material, that is 20+ years old now, follows, with Elegy’s ‘On Rich and Poor’ and ‘Drowned Maid’ from ‘Tales From The Thousand Lakes’ – a real treat for fans of the older material. On a side note, I also learned something at this point that I am ashamed to say that I didn’t know, which is that Tomi Koivusaari, original member and currently playing guitar for the band, was also the original vocalist on The Karelian Isthmus and Tales From the Thousand Lakes, and Tomi Joutsen hands some of the vocal duties over to him during ‘Drowned Maid’.
The older material flows nicely into something from the newest album in the form of ‘Dark Path’ and ‘The Four Wise Ones’ showing how this band have the perfect balance of an identity, whilst maintaining huge diversity in their music.
The rest of the setlist is a mix of material from all eras of the band including ‘Silent Waters’, fan favourite ‘My Kantele’, ‘Hopeless Days’ from the recent ‘Circle’ album and finally, a long awaited song from the now 10-year-old ‘Eclipse’ album ‘House of Sleep’, which was the first album that I had heard from Amorphis.
As the band exited the stage, the fans weren’t going anywhere. Huge cheering, stomping and chanting broke out as we beckoned the band back on stage for a few more songs. They re-entered with ‘Death of a King’ from ‘Under The Red Cloud’ to a very happy audience. It’s a good thing that this album is so loved as this is now the 6th song from the album that has been played at this show.
Set closers ‘Silver Bride’ and ‘The Smoke’ remind me of just how much I love this band and I couldn’t help but go and pick up ‘Skyforger’ and ‘Eclipse’ from the impressive range of merch at their stand.
Despite Santeri Kallio’s keyboards being a little too quiet (which I have come to expect in general for bands with keyboardists), I go home feeling very happy that I have finally seen Amorphis at a full headline show rather than at festival slots such as Bloodstock. It’s hard to believe that the band is 26 years old because they sound so fresh and exciting with each new release. Unfortunately, with such a huge back catalogue, not all albums can be represented such as ‘The Beginning of Times’, ‘Am Universum’ or ‘The Karelian Isthmus’ but the setlist was a real crowd pleaser with a few rarities thrown in, too. I think this band should be bigger than they seem to be. The show was not sold out with a bit of room to move around, but they still performed a commanding set and sparked a sense of togetherness in their fans with the atmosphere that their masterful music creates.
Photographer Jo Wilson