“Amorphis fanboy”….It says so right there in my Metal Wanderlust bio.
I’ve been utterly obsessed with the band for a quarter of a century, and they are by far my favorite band of all time. All others are miles behind them. So when the mighty melancholic Finns come to town, you best believe I’m there, getting my Amorphis on, screaming every word at the top of my lungs. It’s my happy place.
Being an Amorphis super-fan, perhaps I tend to believe that they are a bigger band than they really are, but I have to admit I was shocked when I learned that they were not headlining this US tour. Instead, the headliner was some symphonic metal band that is NOT Amorphis. The nerve of some bands! Maybe you’re hot shit now, or you’ve had a string of successful albums, but this is AMORPHIS we’re talking about here. LEGENDS! This is the band that wrote such classics as “Tales from the Thousand Lakes”, and “Elegy”. They’ve had a career spanning almost 30 years, 13 albums, and have been influential in a number of metal sub-genres. Some say the band peaked in the mid-90’s with the aforementioned classics, but the band’s career resurgence in the last 14 years since bringing Tomi Joutsen into their ranks is no mere nostalgia trip; having released several critically acclaimed albums with the powerhouse vocalist. The point is, Amorphis is a metal institution that cannot be fucked with. One does not simply headline over Amorphis! This is not ‘Nam, there are rules! Just who does Not Amorphis think they are?
In any case, I procured my ticket for my 4th time seeing Amorphis, and began eagerly anticipating the day of the show. As the show drew nearer, my resentment towards Not Amorphis grew stronger. The audacity! The unmitigated gall! I planned on leaving before they played, but still ripping them a new asshole in this here article. A dick move to be sure, but not even The Dude could abide something like this. I’m being very un-Dude.
I arrived at The Forge in Joliet, IL. ready to have my extended Amor-gasm. (Editor’s note: “Ewww….”) Opener Anneke Van Giersbergen was already on stage, performing an acoustic set. I know, I know….if you’re writing a concert review, you should arrive on time…yadda yadda…While I can’t say I’m familiar with any of her solo music, I will admit to having a certain fondness for the Dutch vocalist; who, besides fronting The Gathering for over 10 years, has been the go-to female guest vocalist for many a heavy band over the years….from my beloved Amorphis (more on that later), and frequent collaborations with Canadian musical mad-scientist Devin Townsend, to Grindcore pioneers Napalm Death, and Death/Doom legends Novembers Doom, who’s vocalist Paul Kuhr was in attendance on this night. No matter your opinion of her music, the lady can sing, and her long resume gives her the cred to play an acoustic set at a metal show, and not be eaten alive by the audience.
I think I missed about half of Anneke’s set, arriving just before she teased a cover of a KISS song, only to offer the audience a choice, between the KISS song, or a Dolly Parton cover. The audience chose the Dolly Parton song, thankfully. Honestly, it’s hard for me to pay very much attention when I know Amorphis is just minutes away from getting onstage, but Anneke performed well, and warmed up the crowd nicely, and showed why her voice is so in demand with so many different metal artists. She finished her set with a low key cover of Iron Maiden’s “Wasted Years”, which went over very well with the crowd.
Next up was the band that should have been playing last, fucking Amorphis!! As their intro music came blaring through the speakers, I entered my usual trance-like state where I am one with the music, and I forget about the entire world outside the venue. As the 6 members entered the stage, I could see their auras shining brightly, and I knew the Amorphis magic was in full force on this glorious evening! The band kicks off the set with a few songs off their latest masterpiece, “Queen of Time”, starting with the sweet sting of “The Bee”, followed by the magnificently layered “Golden Elk”. I slowly start making my way up through the crowd, trying to get as close as possible. Having seen Amorphis 3 times before, it shouldn’t surprise me to hear how great the band sounds live, yet I still can’t believe it. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.
The energy of the crowd ramps up as the band launches into the infectiously catchy “Silver Bride”. God I love singing along to the end of that song! “The Four Wise Ones” keeps that energy going. I want to say there was a mosh pit, but fuck, I’m too lost in my own Amorphis world to know for sure. I hope no one is looking for specific performance details in this review, because I’m too busy singing and head banging to notice. I wasn’t jotting down notes or anything here, I am lost in the moment with the band and music that has been the soundtrack of my life since age 14. Yeah, yeah, I know…if you’re writing a concert review, you should take detailed notes…yadda yadda….It’s at this point that we’re treated to the first old-school Amorphis song of the night, the timeless “Into Hiding”. Co-written by original bassist Olli-Pekka Laine, the song serves as a reminder of how lucky we are to have all 4 original members back in the band finally, onstage at the same time, along with the best keyboardist & vocalist in the business. No disrespect to ex-bassist Niclas Etelävuori, who departed the band back in 2017. He did an excellent job of holding down the fort for several years and albums as the replacement for Mr. Laine, but things are now as they should be.
I’m still slowly weaving my way through the crowd to get closer when the band hits us with “The Smoke”, one of the now classic songs from the album that began the Tomi Joutsen era, the unforgettable “Eclipse”, a landmark release in the Amorphis discography. The band sounds absolutely invigorated! One of the most uplifting songs in the band’s vast catalog, it makes me want to jump up and down like audiences used to do in the 90’s. But I guess I’m the only one, because no one else joined me. Oh well. The boys go back to playing a couple of songs from QoT, before diving back into some older material. Fan favorite “My Kantele” is always a delight to hear live, especially since the song got revamped on their “Magic & Mayhem” album, mixing elements of the original & acoustic versions, with the extended jammed-out ending. It’s nothing short of magical, and never fails to captivate me.
This is followed up by the best part of any Amorphis show, the band’s immortal classic, “Black Winter Day.” This would be a particularly special performance, as the thing I’ve dreamed about doing for so many years finally happened! Mr. Joutsen announces in his thick Finnish accent, “We would like to welcome a special guest vocalist to the stage to help with this one, the vocalist of Acts of Swine, Mr. Swine!” The audience parts like the red sea, and I walk up to the stage, grab a mic as Mr. Kallio begins the moog intro. When the guitars & drums come in, the two Tomi’s & I let out the biggest growls that mankind has ever heard!
Ok, so that didn’t really happen, but I was growling along like it did! One day it’s going to happen! Oh yes, one day! I even have a wicked harmony worked out for the chorus!
We’re winding down to the end of the set from the greatest band in the universe. Tomi announces the real guest vocalist of the night, Anneke Van Giersbergen, who comes up to sing duet on “Amongst Stars”, one of the singles from the QoT album. Amorphis and AVG give a very powerful performance of this track. Anneke sounds absolutely amazing, and the song is definitely one of the highlights of the set. Amorphis ends their set with “House of Sleep” which has been their set closer the last couple of shows that I’ve seen. This song is always great for getting the crowd singing along. As the set comes to a close, Amorphis bows arm in arm in front of the crowd, then pose for some pictures onstage, while the crowd chants “AMORPHIS!!” for about 3 minutes straight. We were really hoping to get an encore from them, but I’m guessing they weren’t allowed to, since they weren’t headlining. But the fervent chants of the audience proved who the real headliner of the night was, even if they weren’t playing last. Amorphis has rocked our fucking faces off again.
What a stunning performance! I’m not sure how Not Amorphis is going to follow that. At this point, I’m getting a bit tired and sore. I’m becoming such an old man….I wasn’t planning on staying, but as I was talking with my friend Casey, she mentioned that she was there to see Not Amorphis more than Amorphis.
I’ve never heard Not Amorphis before, but I’m intrigued. The fact that Amorphis drummer Jan Rechberger was filling in on drums lent some credibility to the band, so I decide to stay and see what this Not Amorphis is all about.
They play high energy symphonic pop-metal, similar to bands like Nightwish, Epica, or Within Temptation. Their music is played proficiently and passionately, and the songs are very catchy as one would expect. Ok, so I have to admit, they’re no Amorphis, but they’re not bad at all!
I stay for about 5 songs until my legs and back could take no more. Yeah, yeah, I know…if you’re writing a concert review you should stay for the entire show…yadda yadda….bite me. I leave The Forge having witnessed some epic performances from all 3 artists. And I have to give props to Jan Rechberger for pulling double duty on this tour. Not much else to say, except if you get an opportunity to see Amorphis live, you must take it. I can’t wait until the next time!