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Amorphis'' gathering popularity in the 90s went a long way towards their record label''s flexibility in releasing material outside of the norm, starting with the EPs that accompanied their early albums, and later evolving into a series of (mostly) worthless singles. My Kantele stands at a crossroads, because it''s the last of this type of release from Amorphis that was actually worth buying. There is a lot in common with the previous EP, Black Winter Day. You get some cover material, a pair of related new tracks, and an album cut (in this case, the acoustic version of "My Kantele". In fact, if you were into cassettes, you may have already picked up the version of this release that featured Black Winter Day on the B-side.
Though Elegy is hands down one of my favorite metal albums ever created, for its brilliant mesh of death/doom, folk and 70s prog rock influence, "My Kantele" is surprisingly not my favorite song found there. However, it does translate extremely well into an acoustic setting, complete with Kim Rantala''s organs and Pekka Kasari''s percussion. Pasi Koskinen proves here how he was the best and most versatile vocalist this band ever had, with a nasal discontent that conveys the cold streams and woodlands of his own backyard into lush folk abandon. "The Brother Slayer" and its sibling "The Lost Son" sound like pieces that could not make the cut for Elegy, taking the psychedelic elements to the extreme. "The Brother Slayer" is like a mixture of Hawkwind and "My Kantele", both spaced out and endearing, though it never really busts into anything as far as heavy guitars, preferring to follow the vocal melody and crashing acoustics. "The Lost Son" is a little more freeform, with percussion and psychedelic synthesizers that cut into a cross-current of Phish and Hawkwind. Speaking of Hawkwind, Amorphis do a cover of "Levitation" on this EP, and while it fits the motif of their Elegy-era writing, it has nothing on the original. The final track on the EP is a cover of Kingston Wall''s "And I Hear You Call", which is surprisingly the best non-album tune you''ll find here, as it is given the full on Amorphis treatment, catchier and more powerful than any of the tracks preceding it, with some great Pasi growls that would rarely be heard again (in this band).
The My Kantele EP does function as a prelude to what will follow, the controversial move into pure folk/rock/metal territory that is Tuonela. But, as I''m having a hard time enjoying that album these days (with the exception of 2-3 tracks), I''m also not so fond of this release. It has a couple moments of psychedelic bliss that border on too derivative of Hawkwind, and judging by the cover of "Levitation", this was intentional. Nothing here lives up to the astounding Elegy, and though I wouldn''t call it a ''money grab'', you can hear why none of this material was good enough to appear elsewhere, aside from "My Kantele" itself. It was only a few bucks, and diehards and collectors all bought it, but just not something I would have listened to again had I not been writing this review.
If you’re looking for death metal, look elsewhere. With their third full length album, Elegy, Amorphis began to stray from their death metal roots and started to explore more experimental territory. The My Kantele EP is a continuation of this trend, and sounds quite different to what Amorphis had put forth in their career thus far. The music on this release represents the softer, more relaxed side of Elegy, focussing heavily on acoustic guitars and keyboard melodies to create the well crafted songs.
An acoustic version of My Kantele (one of the best tracks off of Elegy) is what opens this EP, and by the balls of Christ, is it beautiful. I am so thankful that Amorphis chose to do an acoustic rendition of the song, because when you hear it, it just makes perfect sense. The amazing melody from the original version is that much more clear and gorgeous when played acoustically. What a great way to open things up. Next up is The Brother-Slayer, which basically sounds like a solid Elegy track, with only clean vocals. Pasi really shines here as he sings a tale of a young man who has murdered his brother and confesses his sin to his mother. The chorus is catchy and the guitar and keyboards work really nicely together on this song. The Brother-Slayer smoothly leads into an instrumental track which experiments with various guitar effects and includes some great solos. A nice break in the EP before the two cover songs. Levitation is a cover by Hawkwind, which is quite the ambitious choice for the brave Amorphis. It’s quite true to the original, but is filled with Amorphis’ own personality, making it a very fun, energetic song. Closing the EP is another cover by a prog rock band , Kingston Wall from Amorphis’ homeland. Pasi is the highlight for me here, as he creatively weaves in and out of clean and harsh vocals, adding another layer of diversity to the song.
This EP is a continuation of the Elegy style, and is certainly true to what Amorphis were doing in the late ‘90s. If you are of fan of experimental and melodic metal with excellent folk flavour, then this release is what you are looking for.
This EP marks the point in the band's career when they finally had stripped their sound from any death metal leanings and had started to develop towards the progressive rock/metal that would dominate their later albums. Although Elegy, the EP's predecessor, is widely regarded as their masterpiece in terms of fusing the various influences, I always prefered their more undiffused works - be it their early death metal or the latter-day prog-metal. Insofar, I consider this EP to be just great!
The first track of the EP, the acoustic version of the title track, was already released on Elegy, where it somehow seemed utterly out of place and not a track on equal terms with the rest of the album. I totally agree with the preceeding reviewer in saying that the song seems destined to be played acoustically, being far superior in its stripped down version without death metal growls.
The Brother-Slayer and The Lost Son (The Brother-Slayer Part II) should be regarded as one long song, the later being a solely instrumental addition to the earlier and nearly a kind of space rock jam. Nevertheless, both tracks are great. Especially the Brother Slayer would have fitted perfectly on Elegy in terms of melody and atmosphere, but it spares the death metal influences that made Elegy - at least in my opinion - sound callow.
Levitation is a great cover version by space rock pioneers Hawkwind, very close to the original song, but nevertheless having that unique Amorphis sound. Less melancholic than anything on Elegy, but with a great sing-a-long chorus instead. In my opinion, the Amorphis version is still far superior to the already great original song.
And I hear you call, the last song, is another cover, this time by Finnish prog-rockers Kingston Wall. Again the result is great, the oriental atmosphere that is typical for Kingston Wall fits perfectly with Pasi Koskinen's voice and the band's version of the song. Only the slightly growled vocals in the chorus seem a bit displaced and don't fit the "new" Amorphis sound too well.
People who liked Elegy should give this EP a try, it is still very close to the album in terms of atmosphere, just a bit calmer. People who love Tuonela should definetly get this great EP (and perhaps a copy of Hawkwind's Space Ritual) to see were Amorphis took their inspiration from.
My Kantele is an EP that was released after the full length Elegy. I spotted this album for cheap, and because I've been enjoying all of the works of Amorphis (save for Far From the Sun.) I decided to purchase this. Money well spent I say.
As with alot of EPs this one includes versions of songs, unreleased songs, and cover songs. The CD starts with the acoustic version of "My Kantale" which is alot better than the regualar version. Somehow Amorphis managed to write the song around the acoustic guitar and still make it sound metal. Of course since the song is an acoustic the song is more melodic as a general rule. After the mellowness we get into the Brother Slayer, and The Lost Son (Brother Slayer part 2). The acoustics are gone, now replaced with the electric guitar. Of course Amorphis's style has always been to seep melody into their music.
Then we get to the cover songs. First up is "Levitation" a Hawkwind cover. I've never heard the Hawkwind version, but the Amorphis version is just awesome. This song implements alot of differant noises, or field noises if you will. The song also implements a couple of galloping riffs, and a keyboard noise to give the song a more science fiction feel. This of course is a far cry from the "solumn myths about Finland" vibe given off in the earlier three songs. A little under halfway of the song it goes into a keyboard and guiar solo. The keyboard does even more weird science fiction sound effects and the guitar does more galloping riffs. Very awesome!
Finally there's "And I Hear You Call" which is another cover song, but again I haven't heard the original. This song has a definate Indian or Middle Eastern feel to it instrument wise. The lyrics though ooze of a "love long lost" vibe, and even go into the bizarre with talks about Strawberry Icecream
All in all this EP is very good, and aside from some trouble spots (the third song is lacking, and the keyboards in Levitation do become slightly too eccentric) it's an EP worth your money.