Amorphis is an apt name. A corruption of the word amorphous, few bands have changed sound as often, and with such an impact as this Finnish sextet. Whilst their early work was straight-up grind, with their second full album "Tales From The Thousand Lakes" they incorporated folky melodies and clean operatic vocals into the mix, a trend which continued and expanded on the 1996 opus "Elegy".
Two albums later, and amorphis are now a fully fledged folk/jazz/metal/rock maelstrom. Continuing the trend started on "Tuonela" towards a more progressive sound, and with a total lack of death grunting this time round, gone are the riff'n'lead structures of yore, instead being replaced with textural guitar work from genius guitar guru Esa Holopainen. The keyboard work spirals wildly, veering between atmospheric and jazzy, with the now obligatory hammond organ sounding totally natural amid the sonic swirl. A wide variety of guest musicians can be heard here too, with the sax also playing a prominent role, nowhere more so than in the blinding "Crimson Wave".
Special mention must be made of Pasi Koskinen's vocals and lyricism. This guy has an incredible voice, and anyone complaining because he's not grunting anymore is somewhat missing the point. Evocative and poetic lyrics impart a really strong personality to the songs while still sounding totally fresh.
This is one of those rare albums that defies categorisation, and must be appreciated as an organic whole. There are no standout tracks because every one fits perfectly into the mix. Production is handled with practised finesse by Simon Effemy (Draconian Times by Paradise Lost), and perfectly captures the dense sound without beinf cluttered. It took me a few listens to really get into this sound, but "Am Universum" grows richer with every listen, and is now one of my most played albums ever. This is the sound of a band making music because they love it. Listen and learn.