Amorphis are always a treat to catch live, so they’re a must-see whenever they come to the States. Their opening bills have always been varied – from the logical melodeath support of Omnium Gatherum and Dark Tranquillity on the 2018 tour to the symphonic metal support from Delain and Anneke van Giersbergen on the 2019 tour, which keeps things interesting. This tour is no different, with support from ethereal dark rockers Hoaxed, ambient post-metal band Sylvaine, and black metallers UADA. I chose to attend the Denver date for personal reasons, which happened to fall just before the midpoint of the extensive US tour, which started on 13 April in New York City at the Gramercy Theatre and will conclude on 12 May at the Baltimore Soundstage in Maryland.
The Denver date was held at the Oriental Theater, one of Denver’s more commonly-used mid-sized metal venues. The Oriental is quite an ornate place, with cool details on the ceiling and several tiers of standing areas, making for excellent sightlines even when in the back of the venue. With the venue nicely filled for the night’s first band, the festivities began when Hoaxed kicked the party off. Hailing from Portland, Oregon, they seemed to have quite the chill, delicate vibe to their sound. Everyone in the band had a great stage presence, but the drummer, Kim Coffel, was quite enjoyable to watch – she genuinely looked like she was having an absolute riot on stage!
Following Hoaxed were Sylvaine, a group hailing from Norway and born of bandleader and vocalist Katherine Shepard, leaning heavily into the ambient side of things. They started things off with a very unplugged approach, with chilling ethereal vocals and a very faint clean guitar sound. As their set progressed, things got heavier and more rapid, with almost primal screams and blast beats added to great effect. The lighting used for their set was fantastically paired with their sound, giving Katherine an almost glowing appearance, like a spirit in the dark! The crowd’s embracing of Sylvaine’s unique sound was readily apparent, with a heaping helping of applause after their set; I suspect Sylvaine will be back on these shores soon enough (and it will be interesting to see who they will end up touring with).
Next up was UADA. Also hailing from the Pacific Northwest, they seemed to bring the gunmetal gray skies with them on tour as their aesthetic; their stage lighting created an almost monochrome effect, with everyone in the band appearing as silhouettes for the duration of the set. This visual effect, combined with the backdrop featuring what looks like a melting moon and total and utter focus on the music, jacked up the intensity level a few notches for the main course of the evening.
Finally – something I’ve waited for the entire pandemic to see once more – AMORPHIS! As each member of the band came out onto the stage one by one during the backing track intro to “Northwards,” the first track off of their newest album, Halo, you could tell that this track was almost written FOR the stage. Of course, the first lines of the song would invoke the crushing growls of Tomi Joutsen, as well as a place for him to show off his wonderful cleans AND constant Hammond organ in the background (and even a small Hammond solo later in the track!) as provided by Santeri Kallio! After “Halo,” they transitioned right into “On The Dark Waters,” another brilliant track off their latest. Amorphis brought quite the supplemental lighting rig with them, and it looked FANTASTIC; they always have a sharp aesthetic on stage, and this tour is no exception. The “Halo” album artwork as a backdrop was gorgeous against their primarily purple and red stage lighting, and to me, it fits the feeling of the newer music perfectly. Tomi is always a treat to watch on stage, as he’s always moving about, headbanging with his mic stand as support, and sometimes hoisting it up into the air as a totem to get the crowd fired up! As they worked their way through a few more tracks, they finally got to the title track of “Halo,” and this is when their greatness onstage was once again reinforced for me; I had the most intense set of shivers fire down my spine and arms that I’ve had at a live show in a long while during this song. I’d say that most patrons of live music show up for – to feel a little spark – heightened emotions if you will, that rise above the normality of every other day.
Amorphis’ setlist during this set was wonderfully balanced – five songs off of “Halo” and then an excellent survey of their vast set of prior work, covering albums from “Tales from the Thousand Lakes” through “Queen of Time .”It’s wonderful to be reminded of just how refined (and, dare I say – somewhat progressive!) their music has become over time and, at the same time, have the older works stand just as tall as their newer material. I will say that I am somewhat jealous of the earlier shows in the tour that got to hear “On Rich and Poor” (one of my favorites from them) live, but Denver did get “My Kantele” (another fan favorite), so that could be considered a silver lining. As has become somewhat familiar for recent Amorphis tours, they closed the evening out with “House of Sleep,” with a huge singalong and crushing applause from the crowd.
I can only hope that Amorphis will be back in America soon. In my mind, they’re truly one of the greats in the genre, both onstage and in the studio. Their diverse (perhaps, one might say, amorphous) opening band selection always gives excellent reasons to see them again and again.