Album Review: Amorphis – Tales From The Thousand Lakes
I don’t know why I’m suddenly obsessed with Amorphis. Maybe it’s because they are mind-blowingly magnificent? Yeah, that sounds about right. Anyway, here’s a review that’s a couple decades late, seeing as the album was released almost 20 years ago. In my defense, I was only 3 years old in 1994. Regardless, here are my thoughts on Tales From The Thousand Lakes.
The lyrics were lifted directly from the Finnish epic, the Kalevala. And when I say it’s an epic, I mean EPIC. This is like the European version of the freakin’ Bhagavad Gita. There’s the creation myth, the story of the first man, and dozens of other stories intertwined together. So basically, the lyrics are all ancient poetry about the glorious trials, victories, and failures of yore. FUCK YES.
On top of the lyrical badassery, Amorphis are masters of melody and composition. They are very much like Wolves In The Throne Room, or even a Classical composer like Holst. they overwhelm you with subtlety. Their compositions are so painstakingly nuanced that you can’t possibly catch all the details on your first listen. Everything from the album artwork to the music itself is intricately detailed, dark, and deep. Here’s a track-by-track walk-through of this groundbreaking album.
Thousand Lakes is the opening track, characterized by a haunting instrumental melody. Next is Into Hiding, a stunning blend of beautiful Arabic melodies and Death Metal vocals. The vocals seem to utilize some kind of echo/reverb, which adds even more depth to an already amazing track.
The Castaway also incorporates the Middle-Eastern modes juxtaposed with dark, smoky vocals. The shredding guitar solos are a nice cherry on top. First Doom is a catchy, but still insidious, lament about mortality. This track is satisfyingly rhythmic; it almost has a dance-able groove to it. It shifts sporadically from these catchy guitar hooks to a more jagged sound, resulting in a striking contrast.
Black Winter Day is characterized by synthesiser/keyboard sounds. Frankly, I feel as though the experimental electronic style overlaps their stronger aspects. It’s not the heaviest track, but still a decent song regardless. Drowning Maid is my favorite track from TFTTL. The lyrics are the mythical Aino’s soliloquy when she died along the seashore. The melody is tragic and the tempo portrays Aino’s panic as she perishes beneath the waves. It’s a very emotionally powerful, expertly executed, and empathetic song.
Next is In The Beginning, a fast paced, high pitched number with a wailing lamentation quality to it. Again, I’m not a fan of the keyboards.They sound like an 8-bit nintendo game, but otherwise it’s a great song. Forgotten Sunrise is an aggressive return to Amorphis’ Death Metal roots. The keyboards are more classy in this piece, at times sounding like Type-O Negative’s spooky halloween themes, but mostly sounding ethereal and dreamy.
To Father’s Cabin is a bittersweet ballad about… Well, I’m not sure really. The Finns are using their Poetic License to the full extent of it’s power. The result is a multilayered, psychedelic soundscape accompanying the metaphor-rich narrative.The album is concluded with Magic And Mayhem, a synthesiser-saturated piece that sounds like it came right out of a Tolkien book or some cloak and dagger, Doom n’ Gloom RPG. It’s basically a demand for beer, and be quick about it or else Tomi Koivuusari will kill you.
I’m pretty awestruck that something as innovative as this was made in ’94. I’m at a loss to describe this album objectively, since I empathize with the emotional overdrive tinted by a bleak outlook. The simplest way I can describe TFTTL is it’s like the Socrates to my Meno. Check out the album in it’s entirety here.
Five stars, muddafucka.