Dec 012010

We have a low tolerance for clean singing in metal — hence, the name of this site. With the absence of clean singing tends to come all sorts of other extremity in the music, which is what we like, and which is why we thought “NO CLEAN SINGING” would be a good short-hand way to define the kind of music on which we intended to focus when we started this blog. But from day one, we acknowledged that there would be Exceptions to the Rule, i.e., metal we think is hot shit despite the clean singing, or even sometimes because of it.

In fact, last year, when we compiled our inaugural list of the Ten Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs of the year, that list included a song with almost exclusively clean vocals. We’ve been thinking about that list recently, because if we’re going to do a 2010 list, we’ve got to get our lazy asses in gear pretty fucking soon.

And then, in an episode of synchronicity or serendipity (we can never remember the difference between those words and we’re too fucking lazy to look it up in an actual dictionary), yesterday we saw a fan-filmed video of that same band playing that same song live on November 23 in Munich, Germany. Problem was, the video quality sucked. But it still reminded us how fucking great the song is. So, we hunted for a better-quality live performance of the song, and we found one.

It’s from a televised Finnish music award show called Emma-gala, which is an annual event (comparable to the U.S. Grammy awards) produced by the Finland chapter of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). This particular installment of the awards show took place on February 4, 2010, and the band in question won the award for the year’s Best Metal Album. The band performed live at the event and played the song that made our Most Infectious list last year, and that’s the video we found. Stunningly, it only has 9,580 views on YouTube.  Maybe it’s because the tail-end of the video shows the band accepting the award, and if you don’t speak Finnish, it ain’t that interesting.  (more after the jump . . .)

But the song . . . still hot shit. So even though our main post for today is the one below this, with our latest monthly round-up of forthcoming metal albums, we couldn’t resist showing you this video. Because here at NCS, a day without some music to play for you is like a day without food. You can do it, but you go to sleep with an empty feeling at your core. So, check out the video. The band is Amorphis. The song is “Silver Bride”:

This is one of those true exceptions to the rule, a metal song we like not only despite the clean singing, but because of it. There’s something about Tomi Joutsen’s voice that really grabs us.

If you want to see that Nov 23 live performance of the song in Munich, well, here it is (though the quality isn’t nearly as good):


The comment below from our bro ElvisShotJFK reminded us of the surprising Finnish band Barren Earth, which includes ex-members of Amorphis, in addition to Swallow the Sun‘s vocalist Mikko Kotamaki. Their 2010 album Curse of the Red River is fantastic. As Elvis points out, it’s got an inverse ration of growly-to-clean vocals, as compared to the most recent output of Amorphis, but it’s still a sublime combination of the bestial and the beautiful.  Check out this official video for “The Leer” if you haven’t seen it before. Hell, check it out again even if you have seen it

  24 Responses to “AN EXCEPTION TO THE RULE”

  1. Coincidentally I was just considering tipping you on another Finnish, clean-vocalled exception to your rule. I’ve spent a lot of time listening to this band’s (and its sister-bands’) material on YouTube. It’s Before the Dawn, of which mastermind Tuomas Saukkonen also fronts Dawn of Solace and Black Sun Aeon. I’ve ordered albums of the first two this morning. I urge you to check these bands out!

    As for Amorphis: the vocals are great. But what’s more, it’s just a good song stuffed with emotion (another thing in common with Tuomas Saukkonen’s material). For some reason I still like the non-cleanly sung ending of the song 😛

    • I’ll definitely check out Before the Dawn on this recommendation. And absolutely — one of the many reasons I think “Silver Bride” is so cool is that Tomi throws in the death growls at the end. Watching this video, I was trying to imagine any US band performing at the Grammy awards and using growly vocals — and winning. I’m sure it’s never happened. Ah, Finland . . . .

    • I think I’m in love. I had to make an hour-long drive this morning, and I listened to Before the Dawn’s latest album on the trip. Just fantastic! The same genius for melding headbanging riffs and memorable melodies that you find in the likes of Amorphis, Opeth, and to a lesser extent Soilwork. And both the clean and harsh vocals are superb. So cool to listen to those two voices singing in harmony, too. I think my plans for tomorrow’s post may have just been shoved out of the way. 🙂

  2. Dude, it’s fucking Amorphis! One of the reasons why Finland’s a hotspot of metal. Tomi can do the growls. And the other Tomi can still do ’em too.

    They may not be a death metal band like they started off with post-Abhorrance, but they can still do it. Forging the Land Of Thousand Lakes (their DVD) and Magic And Mayhem (the compilation with re-recorded songs) show that they haven’t forgotten how to do the old songs, while Skyforger is a welcome nod towards their roots (more so than the two previous albums with Joutsen), “Majestic Beast” being the most obvious choice.

    Even if they don’t return to their original approach to metal, it doesn’t seem far-fetched that they might be continuing on a path in that direction. In the meantime, there’s also Barren Earth (with two former Amorphis members) that fit the bill and have a clean to growl ratio that’s the opposite of what Amorphis currently has.

    • So glad you mentioned Barren Earth. We intended to review their 2010 debut album, and it just got lost in the shuffle — but check out the update to our post now.

  3. I’ve been a fan of Amorphis for a long time, but I never got the pleasure to see them with Pasi Koskinen on vocals. I saw Amorphis at Wacken 2007, not long after Tomi Joutsen had joined the fold and he seemed a little awkward in his new environment (hell he even looks awkward in the “house of sleep” video most of the time he’s clutching a microphone), I was honestly excited to see t them yet underwhelmed by the performance……….Underwhelmed that is until I saw them at Bloodstock this year, 3 years on and Tomi is comfortable and confident as the front man for Amorphis, their set was nothing short of outstanding.
    As far as NCS goes, this site is my homepage, the idea fits in with my music taste so perfectly, obviously I don’t agree with everything that goes on this site but even liking 50% of the content beats scrolling Blabbermouth trying to find something remotely interesting to read and when you do it’s just news, it’s not an opinion, it’s not from the heart, point being yes I love the extreme music, but sometimes I have to sit back and chill out with something, Amorphis (along with many other bands of course) fill that requirement.

  4. They were grEAT in Lodon a few weeks ago too.

    Barren Earth – good, but a a little predtable imo. I do really like both the EP and the album, but both are very much in thrall to the early works of Opeth and Amorphis to the extent that certain bits are clearly identifiable as “the Opeth bit” or “the Amorphis riff”.

    Who you should check out (and by you I mean everyone who reads this) is Ghost Brigade. Absolutely phenomenal band, both on record and live. Both their albums have remained in constant rotation since their release, and live they are hypnotic and spell-binding in a particularly special way.

    And “Into The Black Light” could well be one of my favourite songs ever written. That twin guitar lead is just SO perfectly written – memorable and playing on recognisable themes, yet just so distinctive and well-placed.

    • Yeah, I did get that impression too of Barren Earth being like the Finnish version of Opeth, or perhaps what happens when you combine them with Amorphis. Still, I thought Our Twilight and Curse Of The Red River were shining examples of why Finland’s metal kicks so much ass – as if any proof were really needed. Sure, the songs do become a bit predictable, but there aren’t really too many bands that can play this stuff, at this level and this competently, IMO. While a few of the guys may be involved in other bands at the same time, Barren Earth isn’t a side project and I think it shows.

      Thankfully, Amorphis can still get it done and Barren Earth doesn’t have to serve as a replacement or a substitute – more as a complementary band. While I’d love to run rampant through Finland some day, I’d settle for seeing a few bands from there live. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be able to do so.

      When time allows, I’ll check out Ghost Brigade. Always willing to give a band a listen or two if I’ve never heard them before.

    • Well, then, I’m definitely moving on to Ghost Brigade. Today’s comments have already turned me on to one new band (new for me), which is the subject of tomorrow’s post — and Ghost Brigade will be next. I had all sorts of plans for posts this week, and now they’ve become plans for this weekend of maybe even next week. But you gotta roll with what’s grabbing you at the moment, right?

      • Week long tribute to Finland anyone?

        Ha, seriously though, the Finnish “sound” is so distinctive in today’s metal scene I think. One of the best gigs we ever played was opening for Omnium Gatherum (alright), Insomnium (monumentally awesome) and Swallow The Sun (ditto).

        Interesting fact, Aleksi Munter (from StS) also plays live keyboards for Insomnium and recorded keys for Ghost Brigade.

        Speaking of Ghost Brigade I would recommend going for “Isolation Songs” (their latest and best) as it *just* has the edge over their debut “Guided By Fire”.

        • Week-long Finland tribute — superb idea. With today’s (Dec 2) post, we’re already two days into a week. I’m willing to keep it going! More suggestions from everyone on this comment string (and anyone else who stumbles by) wold be welcome.

          And hot damn, what a line-up: Omnium Gatherum, Insomnium, Swallow the Sun!

          “Isolation Songs” is now waiting patiently on my iPod . . .

  5. Amorphis is one of my favorite bands of all time, and “Silver Bride” is one of my favorites of their ‘new’ sound; I love playing that lead lick on guitar when I’m jamming! 🙂 Must be the 1/16th (or thereabouts :D) Finnish blood in me! If only I could understand more than 3 or 4 words in that acceptance speech…

    • There’s something about that language — it doesn’t seem similar in sound to anything else. I wonder how tough it would be to learn. One thing that’s more than a little humbling is that all the Finnish metal musicians I’ve heard speak (and this is basically true of all the European metal musicians I’ve heard speak) seem to be pretty damned fluent in English.

      • Supposedly it’s one of the harder languages to master, although English isn’t exactly that easy either, despite how many people do speak it natively or or a second/third tongue. English is a required language in many countries for at least a few years and most people are able to handle light conversation and be able to mostly follow along in print or listening; sometimes you can understand more than you can speak (that’s how it was for me with German and I’ve no doubt that it’s much the same with any language). Of course, using it more often helps and can lead to better lyrics that don’t seem batshit crazy when you pay attention. I don’t have any figures on education or whatever, but I do know that Finns tend to have better than average English than other non-native speakers. Or sum of teh people that was borned hear in the US.

        • This is based entirely on anecdotal impressions, but Finns I’ve heard speaking English have less of an accent than most other European nationals. Maybe it’s because the ones I’ve heard are just really good at languages, but I also wonder whether there’s something about the vocal techniques used to speak Finnish that lends itself to speaking English. A cunning linguist would know the answer.

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