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Only a reminder of how good they were - 80%

Lustmord56, November 17th, 2010

Review published at http://www.teethofthedivine.com

If you are only recently getting into Amorphis and their somewhat resurgent last three albums, (Eclipse, Silent Waters and Skyforger), you must grab this 20th anniversary retrospective album, to see just how really fucking good Amorphis were on their first three albums. Coinciding with the recently released Forging the Land of a 1000 Lakes DVD/CD, Tales From the Early Years sees Amorphis rearranging and rerecording some of the best tracks from their seminal first three efforts, before the band took somewhat of a mid-career, non-metal tangent (Tuonela, Ad Universum, Far From the Sun).

You only need to listen to these songs to appreciate just how good the band were early on, and though this CD basically glosses the already definitive tracks with some of the band’s more recent proggy textures and of course the new line up, specifically vocalist Tomi Joutsen, the new lick of paint is still a nice touch.

From 1992’s debut album, The Karelian Isthmus, you get the cover of Abhorrence’s brutal “Vulgar Necrolatry”, “Exile of the Sons of Uisliu” and the earthy “The Sign from the North Side” and these three tracks are the ones that benefit the most from the new sheen and synths, seeing as the band were basically a Stockholm styled death metal band for the debut. In particular, hearing “Exile of the Sons of Uisliu” (my first introduction to the band from 1992s Death… Is just the Beginning II compilation) is pretty nostalgic and the new version is pretty darn impressive also. “The Sign From the North” and “Vulgar Necrolatry” are just nice to hear because is shows Amorphis at their most brutal and down-tuned, even with the cleaner hues.

1994′s classic Tales From the 1000 Lakes is heavily represented by “Magic and Mayhem”, “Into Hiding”, Black Winter Day”, “The Castaway”, “Drowned Maid”. All of which sound as brilliant as they did 15 years ago. Though Joutsen’s clean vocals aren’t quite as impressive (notably on the otherwise still breathtaking “Black Winter Day”), they aid with adding a little more modern character to the already classic tracks. Still, one can’t help shudder with nostalgic glee, (how can you forget the first time you heard the start of “Into Hiding”?) as even with the slightly more proggy window dressing, the tracks all stay true to their original versions. My only personal gripe is that my very favorite track from the album, “In the Beginning” wasn’t included in the re-recording treatment.

The tracks from 1996′s more progressive masterpiece, Elegy (“My Kantele”, “On Rich and Poor”, “Song of the Troubled One” and “Against Widows”) initially seem a bit redundant, because that album saw the bands turn into more 70′s/prog pastures anyway, so the new polish doesn’t seem as immediately noticeable. But I can’t deny just hearing the brilliance of “My Kantele” (where Joutsen’s voice works much better) with just a couple of new nuances. Where is “Elegy” though? As a bonus, you get Amorphis’s redo of the bands cover of The Doors‘ “Light My Fire” — one of the better, most fitting covers ever done by a death metal band in the mid 90s.

In all, Magic & Mayhem – Tales From the Early Years isn’t really a must have purchase if you already own the band’s early discography, but even die hards might be curious to hear some of the classic tracks with a spiffy new delivery. New fans should grab this as it essentially serves as a ‘Best of…” of one of metal’s most influential acts and contains some of the best metal ever laid down in the 90s.