October 11, 2023

Live albums can be curious beasts. Whereas the past has heralded seminal live documents and bona fide albums in their own right – Motörhead’s No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith, Scorpions’ World Wide Live and Iron Maiden’s Live After Death (to name but three) – nowadays live albums tend to be resigned to bridging gaps between studio records or to promote a tour. And then there is the ‘covid’ live album when the world went into a shutdown forcing bands to adapt to streaming live performances without an audience.

Queen Of Time Live at Tavastia is just this – Finnish melancholic metallers Amorphis performed back three streaming shows in Helsinki’s Tavastia club in celebration of their 30th anniversary in 2020 and returned the following year to record a live version of their excellent 2018 album Queen Of Time. With bands now being able to tour again, the streaming show feels a relic of recent past and while on the face of it the timing may be considered strange, there is method in the madness with the band’s last studio effort, the equally excellent Halo released in 2022. In all fairness, neither the band nor the label could be considered disingenuous as no-one is hiding the fact that there is a tour just around the corner from this release.

Photo: Jaakko Manninen

From an audio perspective, it is a somewhat flawless performance which is little surprise for band that has the manner to command and never failing to make their music the sole focal point. To hear that fluttering key riff of The Bee still sends tingles down the spine, its floaty ambience spirals around a pointed slab of guitar – and the live rendition is no different. If there is one thing about Queen Of Time Live at Taavastia 2021, everything is so much more pronounced – Tomi Joutsen’s vocal delivery is top notch and his swinging back and forth with the throaty growl against a sweet singing voice remains a joy to behold. Similarly the children’s choir on Message In Amber fills the sound while The Golden Elk and Wrong Direction  – two of Amorphis’ catchiest numbers – latch on tight with their cranium busting choruses – and all performed with both panache and passion.

Where this release excels is the visual element. While other bands such as Epica and Powerwolf did some serious grandstanding with their respective streaming shows, there is no huge production such as fire eaters or acrobats here. Instead, the multi camera angle manages to keep what is a stage performance both interesting and engaging and with a solid light show that is dazzling at times, there is much to commend as to the presentation. Amorphis is not exactly the most animated of bands, there is little leaping from drum risers or running back and forth, it is that same focus on the music where every musician is content to give their all to their playing so there is not the fissure of excitement as such but this does not dampen what is a brilliant performance. Again, there is no audience, no horns raised, no “thank you’s” from the stage, no introduction of songs, simply a band performing but even the most basic elements bring together a quality to this release; the view of the empty stage with Joutesen’s microphone standing alone, the extended introduction to The Bee with its drums and as each individual member takes his place on the stage and Anneke can Giersbergen being hauntingly superimposed for album one of metal’s best even duets for album highlight Amongst Stars.

Amorphis has more than proven over their 30 years that they are indeed, trailblazers that can put in a performance that is almost effortless. Die hards and completists will lap up Queen Of Time Live at Tavastia 2021 and no doubt the album will make its way to merch tables for the tour and – deservedly so – sales should be brisk. However and there is no pretence here – this album is a live run through of the Queen of Time album so unless there is a dire need for some visual Amorphis then the original album may well suffice for the more casual listener.

Queen Of Time Live at Taviastia is released October 13 via Atomic Fire Records and is available to pre-order.