Light, shadows and metal – Amorphis live at Kulttuuritalo, Helsinki 15.12.

Author John Wins - 18.12.2023

It was difficult to walk inside the sold-out Kulttuuritalo at one of the last shows of the year for the Finnish band Amorphis, who continue to promote their latest work “Halo” released in 2022. Due to the fans’ excitement inside the venue, it was certain that the connection between band and audience would be instantaneous as soon as the show started.

With a good part of the audience sitting in their respective seats and another part standing with their drinks in hand near the stage, it didn’t take long for the clock to strike 8:30pm and for the six musicians to start the night in Helsinki.

Initially focusing on songs from “Halo”, the show begins with three songs from the album. In Northwards the first highlight is how good the band sounds live, but the lighting design is also very good throughout the whole night. On the Dark Waters has two nice moments of Tomi Joutsen, singing with his unique voice and doing some percussion. Although many fans wear t-shirts from the latest record, many do not sing along, showing that there is something mesmerizing about Amorphis‘ performance, which we often just want to observe and feel.

The Moon begins with birds flying in the footage on the screens and has interesting instrumental by guitarist Tomi Koivusaari and keyboardist Santeri Kallio. After the sequence of new songs, Sky Is Mine takes us back to more than a decade ago, a live song that has excellent backing vocals from bassist Olli-Pekka Laine.

Kulttuuritalo is a traditional and classic music venue in Helsinki, with many stories from bands and fans, like the one Joutsen shared about when he saw Sepultura for the first time. The night continued with the track The Smoke, which has a beautiful solo by Esa Holopainen, but the song calmed down the energy a little bit compared to the previous songs.

Amorphis is a difficult band to explain their sound, as there are many elements that make the group’s sound unique, but the combo with Thousand Lakes (only performed as a backing track) and The Castaway can always be a way to introduce themselves for anyone who wants to know the band’s work, as the keyboards and guitars on these tracks convey the essence of the land of a thousand lakes in a metal way.

Black Winter Day brought reactions of joy and enthusiasm from the audience, and this track has very interesting work, whether in the groove of drummer Jan Rechberger or the prog of Santeri Kallio’s synths. But it is during Silver Bride that Tomi shows his evolution as a frontman, interacting and singing each verse with strength and energy, with a beautiful acapella moment from the fans in the chorus, giving life to Kalevala’s words.

Back to the most recent songs, The Wolf explores different sounds, with a beautiful work on the rhythm section with Oppu and Rechberger. With red lights on stage, during Brother and Sister we could see a beautiful example of how Amorphis lets all members show their skills and why the band has worked together so well in studio and live over the last few decades.

With Koivusaari holding an acoustic guitar, My Name Is Night begins a small acoustic part of the set, the first being a duet with vocalist Petronella Nettermalm, who had her voice played as a backing track and the video on the screens. Of course, it is something that requires certain logistics and extra work, but it would be interesting to have local singers providing voices for these duets when possible, as the interaction between the band and a recorded voice does not have the same energy and impact in a show, but otherwise it is nice to have the original voices singing together, even though it was a pre-recorded one.

In My Kantele the audience-band connection becomes even more intimate. Olli-Pekka’s bass brings melody to the verses in the clean and serene timbre of Tomi Joutsen, who gives voice to the verses that speak a lot to the emotions that live inside each Finn present on that cold December night.

Taking advantage of the next song to do a brief promotion, Tomi spoke about the live album that the band released this year, “Queen of Time (Live at Tavastia 2021)”, which, like the album, features the always incredible Anneke van Giersbergen in a duet in the classic song Amongst Stars, one of the band’s hits, here once again reproduced as a backing track with footage from the music video.

By the way, a brief summary about the stage design. For those who have watched the band at festivals, you would know that they use a huge screen and have other panels to illustrate parts of the stage, such as the step that separates the drums and keyboard from the floor. In this case, as the venue doesn’t offer any big screen, the band has a different setup, with five rectangular screens behind them + the backdrop in the background. That said, the lights were very important and a beauty during the show, as the videos didn’t always have the visual impact expected in this reduced setup, but nothing that ruined or disrupted the night. Just technical details.

Another excellent song from the “Queen of Time” album is Wrong Direction, where you can see some of the band’s dynamics on stage. While the left side (Koivusaari, Oppu and Jan) interact more with each other, the right side (Joutsen, Esa and Sande) is quieter and more focused on their playing, but the six together have the best balance of both sides.

House of Sleep is one of the biggest highlights of the night, as Tomi walks around the stage singing the verses together with different corners of the audience. At the end of the song, another fun moment happens during the introduction of each member, who perform an excerpt from a favorite song (from Slayer to AC/DC) on their respective instrument.

After a brief minute, the six musicians return to the stage for the final song of the freezing night in the Finnish capital. The Bee, despite being a recent song in the band’s discography, is already a classic that makes older fans and especially younger ones sing along. The synergy between band and audience is very real, making the song released just five years ago the perfect grand finale.

Witnessing Amorphis live is something that says a lot about Finland, not only because they carry forward the tales of Finnish folklore and culture, but because they maintain elements that say a lot about the way each Finn lives, showing that even in introspection there is joy, so as in melancholy there is hope. Through 16 songs they amplified what each fan present at Kulttuuritalo was feeling and events like this are priceless.

You can listen to Amorphis latest album “Halo” here: