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Since most people probably own this release in its modern form, as an attachment of bonus tracks to the iconic Tales from the Thousand Lakes album, the physical product that is the Black Winter Day EP has very little independent value. However, if you are not privy to the CD release, and own the original LP, it's probably worth tracking down for the sake of completion, as the non-album material is decent enough to justify ownership. Featuring five tracks at about 17 minutes length, it's not a bad listen of its own accord.
As this EP was released post-Thousand Lakes, most people would already be familiar with the title track. "Black Winter Day" is really great, with its proggish Moog synthesizers and mix of gruff and clean vocals; circular melodies that embellish the pioneering folklish edge that the band would fully explore in its future releases. "Folk of the North" is probably meant as an intro, a brief piano piece with some percussion and guitars for atmosphere. It's not the highlight here, of course, as this duty falls to the two parts of "Moon and Sun". The former half features this amazing breakdown before :50 where the haunting organ plays as it summons back the guitars. "Moon and Sun Part II: North's Son" is longer, with a beautiful and desperate mid-pace that rocks hard through its inescapable melody and charging guitars. The cover of "Light My Fire" is almost silly, but in a strange way it actually fits Amorphis' direction towards 70s rock and folk, and it was the first guttural Jim Morrison I had heard by this point.
The bottom line for the Black Winter Day EP is that it's worth owning if you don't already have access to the "Moon and Sun" duology, a pair of great tracks that fit in well with the amazing album of the previous year. It was nice to not have to hold one's breath forever for a little more of the same...though the piano piece and Doors cover are curiosities at best.
Amorphis’ Black Winter Day EP was released several months after their monumental Tales From The Thousand Lakes album. The fact that this release is named after, and opens with the most well known song from Tales, makes this EP seem more like a very generous single. However you look at this little gem, it’s packed with fourteen minutes of old school, doomy and gloomy Amorphis excellence.
What really sells me to this output is the that the music retains the same beautifully captivating atmosphere that I fell so much in love with on the Tales album. Black Winter Day opens the EP, setting the ominous mood for the rest of the music. This song is a true melodic death metal classic, and one of the finest Amorphis have ever created. Folk of the North opens with a slow paced piano piece, leading into a great plodding guitar medley. This instrumental does just enough to hypnotize the listener before the epic, doom-laden riffs of Moon and Sun kick in. This song is a great example of Amorphis’ early doom style, and is truly an underrated track. The melodies are outstanding, and the synth and guitar work as one to create a very memorable song. Closing the EP is Moon and Sun Part II: North’s Son. This is, more or less, in the same vein as the previous track, but the synth plays a much more prominent role, making this a nice transition into the keyboard heavy Elegy album. One notable aspect about this EP is that there is no use of clean vocals, aside from in the title track. The gutturals are the same deep grunts and growls from the previous two full length albums. No complaints there.
The Black Winter Day EP is a very fine slab of old school Amorphis for those who can’t just get enough of this kind of material. I would say that the songs on here are definitely up to par with their masterpiece of a second album, and so I would recommend this release to any Amorphis fan and anyone who is looking for some great atmospheric melodic death metal. The way it used to be done.
After the innovative Tales From the Thousand Lakes (TFTL) this is an inadequate follow up to say the least. Aside form the first part of Moon and Sun, Black Winter Day (BWD) is very keyboard oriented making this seem like a showcase for Kasper Martenson who joined the band on TFTL. This lackluster effort may have been a contributing factor to why he was let go shortly after. BWD suffers from the same problems as most EPs, it's comprised of material we've already heard, songs that were not good enough for the previous album and bad covers.
The song Black Winter Day, written entirely by Kasper, is slow and atmospheric almost to the point of being doom. It's alternately driven by keyboards and melodic lead guitar and features the new elements of keyboard solos and clean vocals which later become trademarks. Not my favorite track from TFTL but it is a good representation of the album and more importantly it is the song that highlights the future of Amorphis.
The first track of the new material an instrumental consisting mainly of a keyboard doing an impersonation of a piano. Reminiscent of Thousand Lakes but more complex and happy sounding. Though we later learn it is only a rehash of pieces from North's Sun, making it very unimaginative. With the guitars simply letting chords ring out and the drums playing a basic back beat it all sounds half-hearted. Clocking in at only 1:20 it's more of an intro than a real instrumental.
Moon and Sun is a regression to The Karelian Isthmus (TKI) era. A straight forward, mid-paced pure death metal song which could easily have been a left over from that album. TKI was great, but not up to par with their creative standards at the time.
Moon and Sun Part II: North's Sun is easily the highlight here. A keyboard intro segues into TFTL style riffing with melodic lead guitar before breaking into some TKI grinding, then randomly switches back and forth. It closes with a long piano solo which is mostly guitar-less. The patchwork nature of the song feels disjointed and epic at the same time, making for an interesting listen.
The LP version comes to a disastrous end with a cover of The Doors classic Light My Fire. It starts off promising with keyboards true to the original and Amorphis' heavy guitars bringing new power to the song. Within seconds it all falls apart as Tomi starts singing "C'mon baby, light my fire" with his gurgling growling vocals, it just becomes embarrassing. They might have pulled it off if they had used clean vocals. It was originally intended for a Relapse Records tribute to The Doors compilation which was thankfully canceled.
BWD is now included with the re-release of TFTL for the new listeners, but for the old school fans who already have the original it's not worth purchasing or searching for the out of print EP. Containing only two new original songs that fall short of TFTL it simply lacks quality and quantity.