Welcome to another chapter of my Album of the Year 2018 top 30 countdown. But not just any chapter: we have reached the top five. Finally, I hear you cry! Indeed, after what must feel to you all like a hundred years, I have entered the final act of this year’s countdown.
At certain points within this series, when the presents require wrapping, when the job demands a final end-of-year push, when the children have about a thousand performances to watch and when there’s family to see, I wish I’d just done a quick list and left it at that. But that feeling lasts mere seconds as I realise that I have thoroughly enjoyed bringing this countdown to you. The sense of achievement is immense…as is the relief as I near the end.
As always, if you’ve missed any of my previous posts, head down to the bottom of this post to check out the links for numbers 30-6.
So let me reveal the number five choice…
‘Queen of Time’
Score of Much Metal: 9.75
I’ve been a huge fan of Finnish metal band Amorphis ever since I heard the magnificent ‘Tuonela’ around the time of its release in 1999. It led me to discover their back catalogue and, eventually, to meet the guys at a listening session at the Nuclear Blast headquarters for their 2007 release ‘Silent Waters’. It is fair to say that this is a band that is very important to me.
The thing is, as good as their more recent material has been, I always returned to ‘Tuonela’ because that’s the record that I find synonymous with the band that’s part extreme metal, part folk, part prog and part dark metal. Until now, and the release of ‘Queen Of Time’.
They have toyed with different approaches and morphed over time but have always maintained a core identity. And ‘Queen of Time’ is no different in that regard, adding in new ideas here and there along the way. But with ‘Queen of Time’, they have arguably released their best ever material. The album, as a whole, is so incredibly on-point and it is wonderfully effortless in the process. Despite featuring those savage gruff vocals of Tomi Joutsen and some heavy instrumentalism, this record has a warm and smooth veneer that means that I find it a joy to listen to.
The melodic interplay is also beguiling on this record, as is the juxtaposition between the heavier elements and the softer side of the band. It means that one minute you find yourself banging your head, the next minute you’re rapt in an exquisitely wrought quieter refrain or singing along to a catchy chorus. And let’s not forget that many of the compositions on ‘Queen of Time’ are really quite involved and surprisingly complex; this isn’t simple music, it is multi-layered and multi-faceted music of the highest order.
When Amorphis are in this kind of form, is it any wonder that they find themselves within my top five at the end of the year?
To quote my review of 28 May 2018:
“Just when you think that a band has reached their peak, they come along and prove you wrong. The moral of the story therefore, is never think that a band can’t improve upon a superb release, because they can. The evidence I present to the court is ‘Queen Of Time’, the thirteenth album from Finnish veterans Amorphis.
The first thing to state is that ‘Queen Of Time’ is not a radical departure for a band that has been on a gradual evolution of sound over their entire career. What it is, is the next step in their evolution and a firm statement of where they are today as artists and musicians.
And that statement seems to suggest that Amorphis are hitting new heights, challenging themselves and creating some magic in the process. ‘Queen of Time’ is, quite honestly, a joyous listening experience from start to finish, principally because everything that these Finns do is of the very highest quality. The melodies are strong, the folk elements are both authentic-sounding and interesting and there is a faint progressive element to the music in terms of the variety and subtle ideas at play. Indeed, ‘Queen Of Time’ feels like it contains some of the most complex music within the entire discography. If that wasn’t enough, I also love the heaviness of some of the material – led by the commanding riffs of guitarists Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari, and enhanced by the superb rhythmic section of returning bassist Olli-Pekka Laine and drummer Jan Rechberger – that is juxtaposed so smoothly and effortlessly with lighter, more upbeat sections, something that Amorphis have seemingly excelled at in recent years.
Put simply, the song writing is just so strong that so many of the songs on this record turn into bona-fide anthems that get lodged in my head for ages after the songs have finished playing.
What also strikes me about ‘Queen of Time’ also, is the depth and richness of the material. Each track is multi-layered and full of subtlety but they never feel over-worked or cluttered.
Virtually flawless, oozing with class, slathered in killer musicianship and bursting with unforgettable melodic elegance, ‘Queen of Time’ has to be the very best record of Amorphis’ career.”
Read the full review here.
If you missed the previous posts in my 2018 list, click here:
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 6
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 7
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 8
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 9
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 10
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 11
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 12
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 13
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 14
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 15
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 16
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 17
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 18
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 19
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 20
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 21
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 22
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 23
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 24
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 25
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 26
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 27
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 30
If you missed my ‘best EPs and compilations of 2018, you can read that here:
And here’s a reminder of my countdown series from previous years: