When Amorphis guitarist Esa Holopainen talks about the band’s thirty-year history, there’s a hint of nostalgia about its early days in the 1990s, when the Finnish metal outfit burst onto the scene with albums The Karelian Isthmus and Tales From the Thousand Lakes. Since then, Amorphis has released fourteen albums, including 2022’s Halo, and carved a unique path within the crowded world of extreme music. Holopainen admits he would have been satisfied with the band’s early success and never imagined Amorphis would still be here three decades later.
“Oh, no. No way,” he says emphatically. “I think everything has happened within little steps. It was already a dream come true when we signed our first record deal with Relapse Records. To be able to do the first tours in North America and Europe, I would have been happy already with those results. There’s something about being in a band with the same guys for over thirty years that makes you keep going. It's our job — it’s a lot of hard work — but it’s still as great as when we started.”
Amorphis is on the road and will bring its ever-evolving soundscape to Denver’s Oriental Theater on Friday, April 22, with Uada, Sylvaine and Hoaxed. This is the band’s first tour in the States since 2019, and it recently announced a European tour for later this year.
“We’re really looking forward to the shows. It’s been way too long since we did a proper tour,” Holopainen says.
With American and Swedish death metal simultaneously rising in popularity at the time of the band's inception, the sound of Amorphis has always been more varied, if not sophisticated. The band mixed elements of death metal, doom metal, progressive rock and folk music into songs inspired by the Kalevala, an epic Finnish poem about the creation of the Earth. But the band has never been afraid to change things up, making Amorphis a fitting name. Holopainen chuckles at such an observation, and explains the band is “not as radical” as it once was.
“Back in the day, I think we did too much of what we wanted to do,” he says of albums such as 1996’s Elegy and its followup, 1999’s Tuonela, which leaned into the doom and prog elements even more so. “For us as musicians, we needed to do that, because we never wanted to get stuck in one form. Today we blend all the new nuances and influences pretty nicely into our music. Even though there’s a lot of different elements from different genres and the musical world, even from ethnic music, I have to say, we’re pretty good to blend all of those elements into our music without sounding too different.”
Halo is yet another example of that, as the latest release again feels grand in its overall composition, fitting nicely into the band’s recent output, which includes 2018’s Queen of Time and 2015’s Under the Red Cloud.
“They are quite huge musical journeys the last couple of releases,” Holopainen says. “There are so many influences from different kinds of music. If you have a wider taste for music, you’ll probably like any of those albums.”
Written during the pandemic, Holopainen believes Halo is “definitely slightly heavier, perhaps the overall mood.”
“It really shows the time we’re living in at the moment,” he says.
Halo reached No. 1 on Finnish album charts and No. 4 on Billboard's Hard Rock Albums chart, as well as landing in the top five on charts in Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Austria.
“I guess we’re doing something right here,” Holopainen comments.
He also released his first solo album, Silver Lake, in 2021, which meant “the wheels were rolling all the time,” he says.
“It was a very therapeutic experience to do something totally different," he reflects. "Just listen to your inner self and do what you want."
Holopainen is not sure if, or when, he’ll work on more solo material. You may think someone who creates so much music is also constantly consuming it, but, he admits, “In my personal life, I’m pretty boring.” He still prefers Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath whenever he reaches for vinyl. But he enjoys touring with newer bands, including Ukraine’s Jinjer, that are melding new sounds into metal.
“A great thing about the metal scene today, which I didn’t understand in the late 1990s, was that it was very limited at that time, and from the mid-’90s, we were already taking elements from different music and did quite different kinds of stuff from death metal. Today I think people are more open-minded to different kinds of music, and the metal scene overall has explored it a lot,” he concludes. “I think it’s a good thing, because to be too strict about what you listen to doesn’t make any sense.”
Amorphis plays the Oriental Theater, 4335 West 44th Avenue, at 7 p.m. Friday, April 22. Tickets are $28-$200.