Mankind had barely recovered from 2016, an apocalyptic year for musical and theatrical celebrities, when yet another funeral was held, as Helsinki-based Amoral played their final show at Tavastia, putting an end to their 20-year career. The decision to call it quits last summer came as somewhat of a surprise to everyone, since the band had just reclaimed Niko Kalliojärvi, their vocalist from earlier times, and released their seventh full-length, In Sequence, only months before. After the old school tour, including material only from their older, more death metallic albums, the setlist of this farewell show was promised to span across their whole career, all the way from their 2001 demo, Desolation, to In Sequence, so it seemed mandatory to go and see the older classics live one last time!
The show had attracted a nice turnout, as Tavastia was at over half of its capacity 15 minutes before the announced showtime. A quick glance at the audience revealed the crowd to be more diverse than usual: it was easy to spot the ones who had come to listen to the older material, compared to the fans of Amoral’s recent style. A bit past 21:00, an intro tape began playing, containing various goodbye-themed songs, leading to the six-piece Amoral climbing on stage, and the funeral service began with In Sequence’s opener, “Rude Awakening.” The first thing that caught my attention was Pekka Johansson’s bass guitar sound, or actually the lack of it; “Rude Awakening”, as well as “On the Other Side, Part I”, as far as strings are concerned, were played with the mix picking up only the three guitars. A short speech ensued, when vocalist Ari Koivunen asked the audience’s feelings towards the final show, receiving a surprisingly tame response. “No Familiar Faces” was up next, also losing a bit of its chorus’ effect because of the weak stage sound.
Time for a trip through time! Koivunen, Johansson and Masi Hukari retreated backstage and the audience cheered, as Kalliojärvi invited Amoral’s original vocalist Matti Pitkänen, guitarist Silver Ots, and bassist Ville Sorvali to join the rest of the band on stage. This segment was kicked off with “Metamorphosis” off the Desolation demo, and the headbanging seemed to start instantly. Pitkänen left the stage after that song and the band continued with “Distract” off their debut album, Wound Creations. How come the bass sound also seemed to be fixed? Since Sorvali originally left the band after Wound Creations to concentrate on Moonsorrow, he handed over his place on stage to Erkki Silvennoinen. A stream of six killer songs ensued – “Lacrimal Gland”, “Leave Your Dead Behind”, “D-Drop Bop”, “Mute”, “Decrowning”, and “Showdown” lit the audience on fire!
As it was time to move on to the dividing album in Amoral’s discography, Show Your Colors, the rest of the band returned to the stage. Probably the most baffling moment of the show ensued, as Koivunen asked the audience their opinion on the older material, and an almost awkward silence filled the room, almost as if he had insulted someone. As Silvennoinen left the stage, Silver Ots remained to play the opening track of Show Your Colors, “Release.” Afterwards, Ots retreated backstage, receiving a hefty protest from a couple of guys in the audience, wishing that he could have stayed.
Considering the amount of Amoral’s material that I’ve listened after Show Your Colors (and that’s not a lot) and the small hiccup before ”Release”, the rest of the show still managed to sweep me completely off my feet. The feisty “Wrapped in Barbwire” off their fifth album, Beneath, was fused with the Misfits cover “Dig Up Her Bones”, originally recorded as the B-side off Show Your Colors’ first single, Year of the Suckerpunch. The band didn’t have the guts to touch the A-side, though… the epic “If Not Here, Where?”, off Fallen Leaves…, worked brilliantly live with Ben Varon playing the acoustic intro with a mounted classical guitar, also featuring the snarkiest grind passage of Amoral’s recent material. The pinnacle of the set was nevertheless “Sounds of Home” – In Sequence’s ballad – before which Koivunen summoned myGRAIN’s Tommy Tuovinen and Amoral’s producer, Janne Saksa, to join him. The never-played-live song was performed in tritone, backed with Varon’s guitar and Hukari’s saxophone. A magical moment indeed.
The last two songs off the main set were ”Exit”, the closer of Show Your Colors, and ”Beneath.” The band retreated backstage for a moment, returning shortly after to conclude the show – and unfortunately their career – with “Prolong a Stay” off Fallen Leaves & Dead Sparrows. The audience applauded loudly, as all ten current and former members of Amoral bowed one last time.
All-in-all, Amoral’s final show was a bit of a polarizing experience, and it was pretty hard to come up with an opinion right after. The first three newer songs didn’t quite get the audience going, but as the setlist moved towards the older songs, the instant surge of nostalgia lifted the atmosphere through the roof before the first chorus of “Metamorphosis.” The distinct divide between the two eras of Amoral also highlighted the different levels Niko Kalliojärvi and Ari Koivunen are on as performers and frontmen – Kalliojärvi had no problems connecting with the audience, while Koivunen seemed almost lost on stage at times, since he spent a lot of time with his back turned during the guitar solos. I thought that I had come down and enjoyed all of the the show with an open mind, but I noticed that I was constantly comparing these two distinct eras of the band, even though the setlist wasn’t ordered completely chronologically. However, I doubt that anyone should have anything to complain about regarding Koivunen’s singing, as the man hit all his notes with ease once again.
Don’t get me wrong: despite the sound problems in the beginning, the show still was rock-solid. I also have to admit that I probably haven’t seen an Amoral show from start to finish since the Show Your Colors Tour, and after the show it was pretty evident that the band’s material hasn’t lost its musical touch at any point. Masi Hukari, Amoral’s latest member, has clearly brought a great deal of musicianship to the band – in addition to lead guitar, Hukari played keyboards and saxophone on numerous songs. Just asking, how many Finnish metal bands have their own sax player?
It’s always a bummer to see one of your favorite bands go. It feels like Amoral would have still had a lot to give to the domestic and international world of metal, especially after expanding to a six-piece before their last album. As I’ve listened through the band’s recent albums at home after the show, the sheer amount of hate Amoral received back in the day also feels completely unjustified. I would like to wish everyone in Amoral happy trails from here onward, as well as to thank you for these 12 years, from the first show I saw in Sauna Open Air 2005 all the way to this moment!
1. Rude Awakening
2. On the Other Side, Part I
3. No Familiar Faces
6. Leave Your Dead Behind
7. Lacrimal Gland
8. D-Drop Bop
13. If Not Here, Where?
14. Sounds of Home
15. Same Difference
16. Wrapped in Barbwire
17. Dig Up Her Bones (Misfits cover)
20. Prolong a Stay