By Lord Randall

Ahh, another 2 years, another AMORPHIS album to review. I’m not sure if it’s coincidence, someone pawning off a review no one else wants or the gods of metal telling me I should be getting to work on my forthcoming compendium on the history of Finnish metal from STONE to the present day, but every time AMORPHIS has put out an album from "Eclipse" onward, guess who has been called upon to scribble their thoughts on the matter. Yep, that’s right. Me. (All of us have our cross to bear...Chief Inquisitor Mality)

Undaunted, and after a listen to 2011’s "The Beginning Of Times" (also reviewed in these here pages, natch) to remind me where the band was 2 years ago, I dropped the needle on Side A, Song 1, and was promptly knocked on my ass. ‘Shades Of Grey’ hurls itself forward with a ferocity for the most part unseen in TBOT, recalling a band no doubt influenced in some ways by the Finns in their early days, NOVEMBERS DOOM. I’ve always said the mark of a lasting band is to forge its own identity, while not letting its descendents beat it at its own game, and AMORPHIS succeed here. Mention must be made, also, of Peter Tagtgren’s production. While no fan of his own band, I’ve always enjoyed his production skills, and – being a guitarist himself – he’s chosen to give the guitar tone on "Circle" a bite and weight that hasn’t been felt to these ears since "Skyforger". That said, the album as a whole lacks a bit of the catchier (read: memorable) moments found in tunes like ‘Silver Bride’, so if the saccharine harmonies of the "Silent Waters" era left you cold, this may bring you back. And, of course, not all is ideal, AMORPHIS deciding to (literally) get jiggy with it on the positively horrific ‘Narrowpath’. On an EP it might’ve worked well, but here the jaunty rhythms and woodwinds make me feel as if I’ve been walking a grey, windswept trail in a twilit valley only to be briefly overtaken by a band of orgiastic leprechauns. Worry not, though, ‘Nightbird’s Song’ (AMORPHIS goes BM-lite and it works?!) and the enthralling finale of ‘Enchanted By The Moon’ and ‘A New Day’ more than make up for any temporary stumbles.

 Clocking in at a brief (for these guys) 45+ minutes, Circle reveals a band that has trimmed a bit of the fat, resulting in a mostly harder-hitting album than they’ve recently delivered. Definitely worth a spin or 5.