Being a band from Finland, Amorphis is known to reference the Finnish epic saga called the Kalevala. This song may allude to the heroic protagonist, Vainamoinen, who suffered greatly in his struggle to find a wife and carry on his legacy. He colluded with gods and spirits, yet the divine feminine still eluded him. Even though he was a heroic warrior-poet, he wasn’t even good enough for a mortal woman.
Vainamoinen was a lone wolf archetype. These lyrics are vague enough to relate to almost any work in literature, especially those that invoke the Hero’s Journey. Even so, this song tells a unique story on its own. Personally, when I listen to this track, I think of my own life, death, and trauma. I think these lyrics can resonate with almost anybody. You can impose your own intimately intense memories on this melody, and it just might make sense. Here is my personal take:
Tear dimmed remembrance
In the womb of time
Breath upon me
As time goes on, our memories become distorted. Sad memories become even sadder. But maybe that means that happy memories can become even happier. Everything we remember, becomes exaggerated, if we even remember it at all.
Time creates, as it destroys. The breath of life is ephemeral and fleeting. Soon it will be gone, along with all of our loved ones and prized posessions.
Possessed by the passion
Fate will set you free
“Posessed” has a double meaning. It can represent material posessions, as referenced in the previous stanza. Or it could refer to demonic possession, wherein one’s own body is overtaken by an evil spirit.
Either way, the hedonistic lust for life is another manifestation of creation and destruction. You can create and consume pleasure, but at a cost. What is the meaning of life? Is it just as shallow as having a good time? Is it a Darwinian survival of the fittest, where your sole purpose is to procreate and propogate your own genealogy? If you fail at these arbitrary measures of your self-worth, does that mean that your whole entire existence was pointless?
I don’t think so. But I do agree that “Fate will set you free.” In other words, our higher callings can absolve all of humanity. Just as the sins of one person can damn us all, so can the sacrifice of one person purify us. This is almost Biblical, as with negative feminity of Eve cursing humanity (yin), and the saveuristic masculinity of Jesus saving it (yang). Like many ironies and dichotomies in life, this duality is a double edged sword. The better you act as a person, the further you advance the human race in general. But the more you hurt yourself and others, the more you set us all back.
In this sense, “passion” also has a double meaning. It could represent carnal lusts, or it can be of religious significance, as in the Passion of Christ.
Primal passions like lust, greed, and violence are normal human indulgences. But perhaps it is noble to transcend these vices. It could be our ultimate fate to rise above our own sins. To clarify, I believe that “fate” is a higher calling, which you may or may not fulfill, depending on your own free will. This is different from “destiny”, which I define as your predetermined path in life, which you will follow whether or not you want to, or whether or not you even know about it. Neuroscientists believe that conscious thought is no more than a biochemical reaction, governed by the laws of physics, just as much as a baking soda and vinegar volcano, or any other school time science experiment. In a way, I agree. I believe that some, but not all, thoughts, decisions, and personality traits are predestined, determined by factors such a DNA, chemistry, physics, and the laws of probability. Some things are out of our control, but not everything. We can still choose our own perceptions and attitudes.
Chased be the precious
When flesh is an enemy
Fair weather man
Once again, we have double entendres. “Chased”, meaning pursued or followed, is a homonym for “chaste”, meaning virginal or innocent. How ironic. The pure are targeted for corruption. The precious are defiled.
“When flesh is an enemy”, you hate your own body. You hate other people. You hate material possessions, and the physical beauty of the world. You hate simple pleasures like food, drink, song, and dance. If excess indulgence is one extreme, then puritanical abstinence is the opposite extreme. There has to be some kind of moderation or temperance in between. If you deny your own natural instincts and creature comforts, then you miss out on some of the rare joy that is to be found in this cruel world. You defy nature itself. You don’t need to be a hedonistic sleazeball, but you don’t need to be a stuffy religious zealot either.
If you only use your self righteous ideologies to judge others, then you are a hypocrite and a coward, or a “fair weather man”.
Step aside from the way of a better man than you.
So you fall at his feet,
he’s the one who betrays you.
It’s the servant’s devotion for the decay.
This is an alpha male emasculating and humiliating his rival. This stanza references the “fair weather man” of the previous, demanding him to make way for his superior. The alpha even commands his lesser to kneel before him. “It’s the servant’s devotion for the decay” is a cavalier way of saying “You like it, don’t you, bitch?” Finally, the alpha commands his inferior to rise and stand up like a real man.
There are no flowers on your grave
There are no chains
There I keep chanting for the forgotten name
Now, the “stand up” command from the previous stanza has a morbid connotation. This stanza seems to be about necromancy, or summoning corpses from their graves. Reanimating dead bodies has been popularized as zombies, vampires, or Frankenstein’s monster. Perhaps this mythology stems from the real life phenomenon of Rigor Mortis, or corpses stiffening upon death, sometimes sitting upright as if alive.
At any rate, the grave of this poor soul has been neglected and forgotten. Nobody visited, nobody left memorial bouquets of flowers, and nobody left prayer beads or rosaries. Nobody misses them. Nobody will know the identity of their dead body, brought up to wander among the living. This chorus is catchy, but it is also so dark that some fans have even described it as “demonic.”
Why do you feel so empty,
And still have everything?
Again, the tension between extreme hedonism and extreme stoicism appears. Was the grave that of a rich man, whose fortune and fame meant nothing after his death? What does it mean to have a legacy? How does one live a live that matters? Does anything really matter?
Money can’t buy happiness. But it’s still more comfortable to cry in a mansion than in a gutter.
I’ve got more companions
When I’m all alone.
Flesh is fetching.
Once more, we are dealt with the paradox of humanity. You can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely. You can be by yourself and feel full and content. Fake friends are worse than no friends. Heartbreak is worse than loneliness. Trust is a gamble. Lust is shallow. Material goods can be stolen or destroyed. The world is so dark, and what little light there is, can be fragile and fleeting.
This also reminds of the phrase “blood is thicker than water.” Many people misinterpret this cliché, as meaning “family comes first.” However, it actually refers to ritualistic blood pacts. Since you can choose your “family” with a blood oath, this conscious choice may represent your true self better than your biological family, or the embryonic “water” of the womb, over which you have no control. Again, this embodies your fate, or voluntary higher calling, against your destiny, or involuntary and immutable path. You can control some things, but not others. It is up to you to learn the difference, as in the serenity prayer.
This song embodies demonic perversions of prayers and other traditional rituals. Familiar, and yet uncanny, this song is otherworldy. The original music video features the singer wandering around some kind of Spa, and encountering different characters. A young boy wearing a top hat, hiding a locket in his throat, which he pulls out by the chain. Hot chicks in leather bikinis, with their hair braided together. A fat old man wearing nothing but a towel. A woman pinned against the wall in Crucifix position.
The singer himself is an interesting protagonist. Long black hair falling around his gaunt face, pale skin clad in dark clothes, silver piercings adorning his young yet sharp features. This is Pasi Koskinen, the vocalist for Amorphis after founding member Tomi Koivusaari, and before current singer Tomi Joutsen.
Even the setting of a swimming pool, has the deep imagery of water, which usually represents emotion in art. In literature, tears, rain,, lakes, oceans, and even ice, all embody water, and by extension, the human psyche. Even the human body is mostly comprised of this elixir of life. Similarly, the lead singer walking barefoot, and other characters wearing towels and swimsuits, represents naked vulnerability. Biblical connotations again rise to the surface.
In Finland, bloodletting is a common practice at traditional saunas. This archaic rite to let out the old, bad blood. This medieval practice is ancient, and some might say barbaric. However, it is still an everyday service offered at Finnish spas. There is no exact equivalent in American culture, but it does remind me of the exotic, painful catharsis of acupuncture. Amorphis also referenced bloodletting in their track Bad Blood, from 2015 album Under The Red Cloud.
This music video came out in the year 2001. This was an awkward yet adventurous stage for music, just like many of us were in experimental phases ourselves. I honestly love this era of music. Nu Metal just didn’t give a fuck. They weren’t trying too hard to fit in, they just played from the heart. Even if some aspects of it seem dated today, I think there’s something timeless about shamelessly diving in to the generational scenes. Just like the black and white footage of jazz concerts might seem campy, or poodle skirt doo-wop songs seem cheesy, or old school rockabilly seems quaint, it was genuinely badass at the time. And honestly, I think that this song and music video both hold up decently.
Even if it is nostalgic, that’s the point. The song is about the fleeting nature of life. Things change. They improve. But we should appreciate the stepping stones that lead us to masterpieces. You can’t change the past, even if you want to. You might as well embrace it. Or better yet, resurrect it and make it do your bidding, as in necromancy.