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Tuonela - * * * *

My blood flows ever skyward

- Greed

I've heard a lot of good stuff recently but this is pretty fucking amazing. I had this album tucked away in a drawer full of dub tapes which have accumulated over the years. It took me a full four months to realize I actually owned an Amorphis album. I can't make comparisons to their other albums, but I will definitely be picking up a copy of Tales From The Thousand Lakes as soon as I can find one. The band has evolved a lot over their career, unapologetically moving amongst genres and causing their fans much grief in the process. Like I said I haven't heard their earlier work, but what I have heard on this recording is absolutely fucking brilliant.

If you haven't heard Amorphis it is really impossible to classify what they do. The closest comparison for this record is Fear Factory with all clean vocals. There is no doubt that Fear Factory is a quality band, but this singer puts even the mighty Burton Bell to shame. The vocals are harmonic and laced with echo effect which resonates every note. This band must have been pretty fucking impressive with the death metal vocals of its past, but in the vein of My Dying Bride, the move to clean vocals only progresses the music to its full realization. They are technically perfect with the music. There is one track done in all out death screams and it does not seem the slightest bit out of place. The fact that the transition is so smooth between styles is a testament to the talent at work here. Musically, there are still the elements of death metal at work, but that formula has been built upon and evolved to a point where it is impossible to differentiate styles. There is definitely some gothic influence present in the minor tones, keyboard effects, and resonant sorrow of the vocals. Their Finnish origin offers some traces of black metal in the atmospherics and epic feel of the whole recording.

The major influence on this album however lies solely in 70's prog rock. The intro to the first song nails that style so perfectly that it is impossible not to recognize immediately. The death metal churn and grind has been sacrificed in favor of layered keyboards and sweeping epic guitar patterns which recall the glory days of bands like Pink Floyd and Iron Maiden. Tuonela is the song which Metallica never wrote when they were good but should have. Everything about this song is amazing. The lyric is incredible in its sorrow and sense of eternity and the vocal is absolutely brilliant. The one true death metal song on this album, Greed absolutely crushes everything in its path. The vocal is so fucking dark that I had to check to make sure it was the same singer. It is. The guitar is a brutal bludgeoning death riff thatís set off with perfect drumming. It churns and pounds with the weight of a sledgehammer. Then the album once again shifts seamlessly into prog rock metal on Divinity. Amorphis does not just play around with styles, they make them their own. I have a feeling that whatever this band chooses to do it will remain brilliant. The term amorphous is defined as "without definite shape or form". They have lived up to their namesake in perfect fashion. Everyone should own a copy of this album. If you are into progressive metal bands like Fear Factory or 70's bands like Pink Floyd I would definitely recommend this. This should also be appreciated by fans of black metal, 80's metal, gothic doom metal, and even the trendy alternative radio people. A band this good demands to be heard by everyone. Their mix of styles is so unique and flawless in execution that I doubt anyone would be disappointed at having picked this up.

* * * *

Reviewed: December, 1999

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