To state that Amorphis is one of metal’s finest acts is to state the obvious, and apart from a few rather tepid moments late in former singer Pasi Koskinen’s otherwise stellar tenure with the band, the Amorphis discography commands the kind of respect we reserve for the Dark Tranquillity‘s and Emperor‘s of the world. It came as no surprise when the forerunners of the folk metal movement commemorated their winning streak with the excellent 2021 release “Live at Helsinki Ice Hall,” recorded in late 2019, shortly before the world started shutting down. Almost as surprising is their upcoming “Queen of Time: Live at Tavastia 2021,” which paradoxically cements Amorphis as one of metal’s most consistently excellent live bands while offering precious little of value to all but the most dedicated completionists.
The very title “Queen of Time: Live at Tavastia 2021” is a misnomer because of what “live albums” have come to mean. This set was indeed recorded at Helsinki’s legendary Tavastia, and it does indeed consist of the entirety of perhaps their grandest record. And while I’m in absolute agreement that live recordings of yore (think The Beatles) would have benefited from less crowd noise, you’ll quickly note that “Queen of Time: Live at Tavastia 2021” has no crowd noise at all. That’s because there was no crowd in the first place, as Finland’s Covid restrictions didn’t allow for public concerts at the time. Remember those remote/ streamed concerts of the lockdown days? Yeah, this was one of those.
The absence of the crowds (and by extension, crowd interactions) forces us to focus on the performance, and to be completely honest, Amorphis never disappoint live. Every note, every breath, and every detail that can be replicated on stage is replicated faithfully, with only Esa Holopainen’s oud solo in “The Golden Elk” rearranged for guitar being the only serious departure from the text.
All those extra bells and whistles on the original album – the choirs, strings, Albert Kuvezin’s throat singing, Ihsahn/Emperor sideman Jørgen Munkeby’s sax, and Eluveitie honcho Chrigel Glanzmann’s actual whistles – are all piped in. Which is fine, my personal distaste for backing tracks notwithstanding. But where this common practice becomes damnright sinful is on “Amongst Stars,” a cut that is easily one of my favorites in the storied Amorphis catalog, and where they dare pipe in Anneke van Giersbergen‘s angelic voice. Sorry guys, but for a band of Amorphis‘ stature to do this is just criminal. Can’t get Annie into the country because Covid? Fine. There’s no shortage of talented Finnish women who would have jumped at the opportunity to step into those shoes for a night. But playing back the exact same tracks she recorded years prior feels like Amorphis is cheating its fans. I’d expect and maybe even accept this from a lesser band. I won’t mention what the video editors did on this song, other than to ask sweet Quetzalcoatl in Mictlán. Why??!!
“Queen of Time: Live at Tavastia 2021” is the first live album I’ve heard in thirty years that lacked an actual audience. The last was volume 1 of the Intense Records “Recorded Live” series, which featured a rehearsal tape of Jesus metal thrashers Deliverance. It was a loose, fun, and crushing set, replete with the goofiness and crunch that made nerdy teenage Catholic me love that band as much as I did. “Queen of Time: Live at Tavastia 2021” ain’t loose or fun. “Queen of Time: Live at Tavastia 2021” is solemn and serious about its crushing mass, and I won’t pretend to know how Holopainen, Koivusaari, Joutsen, and crew felt finally performing on a real stage, even if to a virtual audience, after going into hiding for a year plus. But I cannot get over that however exacting and precise Amorphis are in this performance, this live album simply rings hollow. Perhaps in releasing it, Amorphis are symbolically driving a final nail into the covid shutdown coffin, but the fact remains that “Queen of Time: Live at Tavastia 2021” feels like little more than a playthrough and a shameless money grab. By no means does this performance suck. But Amorphis without question has it in them to have made something really unique, something really special in that somber, desperate moment. And they didn’t.
Released By: Atomic Fire Records
Released On: October 13th 2023
Genre: Progressive Metal
- Tomi Joutsen / Vocals
- Esa Holopainen / Guitar
- Tomi Koivusaari / Guitar
- Santeri Kallio / Keyboards
- Olli-Pekka Laine / Bass
- Jan Rechberger / Drums
“Queen Of Time: Live At Tavastia 2021” track-list:
- The Bee
- Message in the Amber
- Daughter of Hate
- The Golden Elk
- Wrong Direction
- Heart of the Giant
- We Accursed
- Grain of Sand
- Amongst Stars
- Pyres on the Coast
Pre-order “Queen of Time: Live at Tavastia 2021” HERE.
For collectors only. Like, hardcore collectors. Like, Metclub/ Ytse Records/ Lost Not Forgotten hardcore.