Amorphis Skyforger

It takes less than a microsecond for Skyforger to sound unmistakably Amorphis. With its opening notes the album exposes the band's characteristic Finnish lilt and melodic metal, with an easily recognizable accent. It actually takes longer for the metal to kick in — pianos are featured prominently in the opening moments of several Skyforger songs, with the odd flute or sax touch later on. Thematically, Amorphis's latest album follows right in line, drawing on the Finns' beloved Kalevala for lyrical inspiration. Musically, it's more of a side step, taking a much more laidback approach than 2007's Silent Waters, being more psych and prog rock than metallic experimentation. Clean singing and gruff melodies break into death growls only for a few short contrasts and although midway through we get a nod to Elegy several other songs have more in common with '80s-era U2, or at least records like Eclipse and Tuonela. Don't get me wrong: if you like Amorphis across the board Skyforger is an entertaining album that's even catchy, at times. It's just a little short on surprises. (Nuclear Blast)