Amorphis – The Fleece, Bristol
Having had the luxury of four gigs in a row in my home city, it was back across the Severn to one of my favourite venues, The Fleece in Bristol for only my second ever viewing of Finnish outfit Amorphis, having previously seen them at BOA in 2010. Now initially I thought that was poor on my part, as I missed what was reported to be a stunning set at BOA a few years ago when I was otherwise engaged in activities involving crabs and robots in the Sophie Tent with Evil Scarecrow. However, a quick piece of internet research found that the band are rare visitors to these shores and since that August day at Catton Hall in 2010 they’ve only played in the UK seven times, four times in London and solitary appearances in Manchester and Glasgow. This gig was their first in Bristol.
Having missed the opening band, we arrived just as the main support were taking the stage. Textures (5), a metalcore/djent outfit from Holland. I was familiar with their name but not their music and unfortunately I won’t be actively hunting any of their music in the near future. Although the band made a decent fist of things in their short set, their genre does nothing for me and the constant time changes, intricate patterns and extremely shouty vocals did little to enthuse me. Sure, you can nod your head along to them but although they received a polite reception, I can’t report that the place was overwhelmed either. A strange choice of support.
A completely different response for the main band though as Amorphis (9) ripped through a ninety-minute set excellently paced and which built in momentum from the opener Under The Red Cloud through to set closer The Smoke. In between the Finns treated a very healthy crowd to tracks from throughout their 25-year catalogue. Although the focus was on material from 2015’s stunning Under A Red Cloud, with six tracks aired, Amorphis dipped way back into their catalogue with some of their heavier works, My Kantele and On Rich And Poor from 1996’s Elegy and Drowned Maid from second release Tales From A Thousand Lakes along with more recent tunes from Circle and 2009’s Skyforger.
Shorn of his massive dreads, Tomi Joutsen still remains the focal point of the band, with his unique microphone stand and hugely impressive vocals range switching effortlessly between clean vocals and the death growls that were very much the feature of the earlier works. The band retains three original members; the superb lead guitar of Esa Holopainen ably supported by the reserved Tomi Koivusaari who dipped back into the past when he was also the band’s vocalist with some co-vocal death growls. Drummer Jan Rechbeger is the other 1990 era band member, having re-joined the band in 2002 after a break of six years and he laid down the foundations throughout the evening along with bassist Niclas Etelävuori. The subtle keyboards of Santeri Kallio completed the line-up.
The works from Under A Red Cloud comprised the three opening tracks, with Bad Blood ferociously heavy and prompting much head banging around the venue. The band returned to the album later in the set with the awesome Dark Path and The Four Wise Ones sitting comfortably alongside firm favourites House Of Sleep and a phenomenal Endless Days from Circle. Their fusion of Paradise Lost, Katatonia, Amon Amarth and Opeth hits all the right spots with me and this was confirmed with the encore which eclipsed everything that had gone before. The quite incredible Opeth tinged Death Of A King had the entire audience singing along at full pelt before Silver Bride from Skyforger and Eclipse’s The Smoke brought a faultless set to a close. This was an evening of real quality and I hope it won’t be too long before this fabulous band are back in the UK.