Amorphis / Before The Dawn / Amoral
10 October 2009
Camden Underworld, London

An Amorphis visit to British soil had been a long time coming and even with the Prog Nation gig taking place in Wembley tonight, the Underworld had sold out in advance. With it being a Saturday a club night was scheduled after the gig, meaning an early finish and the doors brought forward to 6pm. Unfortunately the tickets stated 7pm and a result it was a pretty empty venue that greeted Amoral as they took to the stage.

I’d caught Amoral back in 2005 when opening at this venue for Finntroll. That night the Finns impressed me with the dexterity they employed to create impressive technical death metal. Well things have changed significantly since then. At the end of 2008, enter Finnish Idol winner Ari Koivunen and a complete about turn in the band’s sound.

Watching Amoral’s set there was no link to the previous performance I had seen. The new approach is highly melodic, commercial metal. The problem is that it was completely uninspiring. The single, Year Of The Suckerpunch, from the band’s latest album is a case in point. Riddled with twee guitar harmonies, a sickly chorus and an awful key change it sounds forced. Koivunen’s announcement that the CD is available from the merchandise stand receives no response from a disinterested crowd.

The elf like Koivunen, who looks worryingly thin, doesn’t particularly blow us a way with his vocal performance. He can certainly hold a tune but with his accolade back home you’d expect a bit more. Guitarist Ben Varon and Silver Ots’ talent feels wasted thinking back to the band’s previous sound. However, it has been their choice to follow this route, but perhaps they should have also chosen to change the band’s name.

Amoral set list:
Gave Up Easy / Song For The Stubborn / Pusher / Year Of The Suckerpunch / Release / Sex N’ Satan

Prior to being announced as support, I’d never come across Before The Dawn, but after hearing their last album Soundscapes Of Silence and experiencing them live, I’m left wondering why their profile is so low. I understand that the band is essentially a project of Tumas Saukkonen who supplied the growled vocals and guitars live. Saukkonen has a striking look, with a shaven head, bearded chin and piercings across his forehead. However, it’s the clean vocal of bassist Lars Eiking that really impressed. The contrast of the two styles worked well against the light and shade the band create.

The thick riffs and guitar harmonies of Faithless, from the band’s Deadlight album, quickly got the growing crowd’s attention. Eiking, who handled all the between song speaking, noted that the band we’re “Not going to keep you very long.” However, the Finns ten song set was plenty to whet the appetite. Dying Sun had a sorrowful side reminiscent of Katatonia whilst Disappear touched on the more catchy recent material of In Flames. Monsters highlighted the expert juxtaposition of light and heavy, though annoyingly crowd chatter was distracting during the quieter moments.

Obviously doing well for time, an additional song was added as a “Change of plan” which I was unable to identify but enjoyed nonetheless. The inclusion of The Black ensured that all of the band’s five albums featured in the set, before Deadsong wrapped things up. A very strong set from Before The Dawn and I hope we’ll be seeing them back in the UK again.

Before The Dawn set list:
Unbreakable / Faithless / Dying Sun / Disappear / Monsters / Scar / Morning Sun / ? / The Black / Deadsong

So to the main event, and with the amount of equipment on stage, including a sound separating screen by the drumkit, it was not surprising that there was a lengthy soundcheck before Amorphis’ appearance. Finally the Skyforger intro tape started and keyboard player Santeri Kallio emerged to take his place, before comically tripping as he arrived on stage. That was essentially the only hiccup tonight, as Amorphis proceeded to treat London to a superb set.

Latest video Silver Bride kicks things off, immediately highlighting Amorphis’ ability to write incredibly catchy songs with great depth. The rapturous reception from the sold out crowd caused a grin across frontman Tomi Joutsen’s face as he noted, “So we are finally here London”. The singer, with dreads to his knees and with 1950s microphone in hand, remained the main focal point throughout the set.

That’s not to say that this was not a team effort, with the rest of the band really showing an organic feel to their sound, attributable to many years playing together. That history was visited early, with a journey back to 1994’s breakthrough Tales From Thousand Lakes for The Castaway. Whilst that early material is a very different proposition, the roots of today’s sound are clear to be heard in the melodies. The vocals back then were purely growled and unlike Paradise Lost, who share many historical similarities, Joutsen replicates that harsh sound well rather than updating to a clean vocal.

Interestingly Amorphis choose to ignore the Tuonela album, only play a brief snippet of The Smithereens from Far From The Sun and just Alone is present from Am Universum. It’s no secret guitarists Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari are fans of Pink Floyd and echoes of that band are evident in the verses of that song. At its conclusion Joutsen concedes that “This is fucking unbelievable.”

There was still plenty to come and the hot and sweaty Underworld were baying for more. Silent Waters possessed a gothic charm that even in the venue’s heat could make hairs stand up on the back of your neck. Then it’s back to 1996’s Elegy for Against Windows which led into the same album’s On Rich and Poor.

Whilst Amorphis get a great reaction it’s hardly moshing music and the first stage diver of the night during Sky Is Mine was a bit odd and had the band looking somewhat surprised. That’s something the Finns were probably more used to in their past, which is where they took us next with the classic Black Winter Day. Older still, Sign From The North Side reminded us of the band’s near death metal beginnings. As a long time fan of the band, it was great to hear these old songs, however the crowd seemed predominantly fans of the newer material and prove the same when Joutsen instructs them to sing to House Of Sleep. It’s then just left for My Kantele to round out one of the best sets I’ve seen this year.

Amorphis set list:
Skyforger Intro / Silver Bride / Sampo / Towards & Against / The Castaway / (The Smithereens) / The Smoke / Majestic Beast / Alone / Silent Waters / Against Windows / On Rich & Poor / From The Heaven Of My Heart / Sky Is Mine / Black Winter Day / Sign From The Northside / House Of Sleep / My Kantele

Before The Dawn