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I got into Amorphis backwards; I was first introduced to them a few odd years ago by the singles "House of Sleep" and "Silent Waters" and went from there. I still enjoy those songs (and the albums they're on) for what they are- straightforward pop-rock numbers with more sweet saccharine melodies and catchiness than is probably healthy to stomach. Whether or not the fact that their new era was my first exposure to the band should color what you think of my perception of the album is debatable, but it's worth mentioning nonetheless. Either way, perhaps it doesn't really matter where you start considering the fantastically varied nature of Amorphis' discography; there's just so many different styles and genres covered but, as cliched as it is, they all sound similar because all the albums incorporate that trademark Amorphis sound. That unique vibe this band gives off works well in certain contexts; the melodic death/doom setting seen on Tales from the Thousand Lakes is not one of those.
The year is 1994. Amorphis is on the heels of a musically solid (albeit lacking any standout qualities) release in The Karelian Isthmus but that was perhaps the only point in the band's history where they sounded fully comfortable playing heavy metal music; every subsequent release sounded like they were trying to distance themselves from the genre (but for some reason they always retained a small portion of it, even if the inclusion of it in a given song seemed arbitrary). Concurrently, death metal itself was having a bit of an identity crisis; Entombed just turned to beefy rock music with Wolverine Blues, Heartwork had been released and Slaughter of the Soul was on the near horizon. Melodic death metal was on its way to becoming A Thing, and this ending up laying down a lot of the groundwork for Finnish bands to come; more specifically, the melodic parts of the album still rooted in metal show a very strong connection with the more somber sections of melodic death/doom bands like Insomnium, Swallow the Sun et al. This is, in that sense, a genre-defining album; this is most certainly an album ahead of its time and a lot of this particular doomy melodic stuff on Tales from the Thousand Lakes hadn't quite been seen around yet and would end up being borrowed and incorporated by many others. The difference between this and later bands in this vein, though, is that for the aforementioned bands the style had already been established and as a concept was refined and cohesive; here, the seams are much more evident and the different styles at play within are like atoms, hovering near each other but never quite forming into a bonded molecule. It's very easy to dissect Tales from the Thousand Lakes in that sense to see exactly what makes up this melodic death/doom molecule; it's one part death metal, one part doom metal, and three parts meandering prog-rock styled melodies that would come into much fuller bloom over the next few albums. Here, where they are still behind what is for the most part a metal aesthetic, they sound horribly restricted and limp-wristed. The parts that most resemble melodic death metal in the leads and riffs are probably the weakest parts of the album overall; lacking the draw and accessibility of a good prog rock song as well as any of the punishing qualities of the death or doom metal as a result of being an insecure straddling of the two poles.
Part of the reason that the more melodic death/doom leaning songs like "Into Hiding" and "The Castaway" even being a formative example of the style can't get me going at all is because they're stitched into a horrendously assembled patchwork of more pure death and pure doom segments and songs as well as straight out upbeat rocking numbers like "In the Beginning". There's a lot of different styles being thrown into the mix suddenly and somewhat unpredictably, which I suppose is why people give this album the "progressive" tag from time to time but this is the worst kind of thing that gets dubbed as progressive- a mishmash of ideas scattered haphazardly with no real narrative tying them down. Some things work better than others ("In the Beginning" is an enjoyable tune at times even if it's really not on any deep level) and some songs such as "Magic and Mayhem" have a really nice groove that shows traces of their origins, but this is really the last time we get that true death/doom dirge sound in full form and it's only in bits and pieces. It's not quite as pummeling as it was in earlier years, either. The melodic-death-pseudo-prog that surrounds it doesn't make the listener juxtapose the two but rather notice the similarities as they're more alike than different, and it weakens the power of the death metal as a result. The production is rather thin and not really suitable for what they were trying to accomplish and the harsh vocals are reduced to a muddy gurgle that seems completely detached from everything going on around it, not really lining up with the music any way but rhythmically.
The album's structure and approach is further derailed by an additional couple of glaring and obvious flaws. The clean vocals are just...really bad. Noticeably warbly, nasally and just plain fucking weak. They're not used as frequently as they were on the album that followed, Elegy, and while I think Pasi Koskinen did cleans on that album they're equally awful; the only difference between that album and this one is on Elegy you're reminded of how bad they are all the time while Tales from the Thousand Lakes only brings it up occasionally at parties right when you're about to get with a girl. Both the clean vocals and the keyboards take the center stage of the music a few times here and there; a majority of the time they interrupt the flow of the album and are the shit thrown at the wall that didn't stick for Amorphis. The keyboard is on what, three tracks? It's just some bland, effortless sugary keyboard melodies included with no rhyme or reason as to their position and purpose in the song; that doesn't make a band "progressive" and I'm tired of that being the case with a lot of people. Melodic death metal bands are the most frequent offenders of this and I know these guys were one of the first ones to do it but being the first band to execute a bad idea isn't much to brag about, much less so when it ends up becoming a sort of stereotype of an entire fuckin' subgenre.
There's a couple dim spots of light resembling the band's golden oldies and most of the enjoyable parts of the album are the ones where they ditch the metal leanings and go super uplifting and accessible, showing the buried beginnings of their later career but this is an awfully constructed mess of an album with no idea what it wants to be. The good ideas don't work the way they should and they're surrounded by more bad ideas. Those bad ideas ended up being responsible for a lot of the trends in melodic death metal I cannot stand, and this album was the beginning of the low point of far and away the weakest point in this band's discography. If you're a fan of this album reading this, Tales from the Thousand Lakes, though ahead of its time, is an underachieving incoherent pile of consonant garbage and you should feel bad for liking it; for anyone new and unfamiliar to Amorphis' sound, start from either the latest or earliest points in the their discography; better to have your meat, potatoes, veggies and dessert eaten separately rather than to consume them as one big pile of unintelligible mush.
Today is the day of "Kalevala" here in Finland. Elias Lönnrot wrote his foreword for this Finland's national epic, that he had compiled, on February 28th in the year 1835. Finland is known as the "land of the thousand lakes", so I think you've guessed what this albm is all about... I decided to choose this, the band's second full length album for the review today, because this worked as an introduction to the band for me, simple as that.
Synthesizer introduction 'Thousand Lakes' sounds Finnish to the core. What, no death metal anymore?! No. Well, there's death metal riffage and throat-lacerating low growl vocals of rhythm guitarist Tomi Koivusaari (with legendary "rai" growls, of course), as 'Into Hiding' proves. Doomy, meaning some kind of darkly atmospheric what's seen on the album's cover artwork, heavy mid-paced death metal is what's heard first, but soon enter the sweeping melodies. Finnish to the core in their style, with some exceptions that sound Mid-Eastern, from lead guitarist Esa Holopainen's pen. The synths by Kasper Mårtenson work their magic in prog rock way. And goddamnit: Clean vocals! Yes, Kyyria's Ville Tuomi provided his individual, if not very adept, voice on some of the songs. Okay, the album is weaved from various elements, Rechberger'sand that is its potency. All this proved to be too much for some older fans, as I personally know. On this album Amorphis was at their most exceptional. The band were more adventurous as they were skilled, but that's the spirit, the soul of this highly unique album. Splendid and vast use of guitar and synthesizer sounds give every song their own, special feeling. The only negative element is the "dance beat" part on the closer 'Magic and Mayhem', which is a pretty lame idea in itself, but when executed with cheap midi sounds, it's simply appalling.
The sound is thoroughly organic. You can almost see the band playing in your living room! Every element is well audible in the mix. Olli-Pekka Laine's bass and Jan Rechberger's drumming provide sturdy backbone for the album. The cover painting is simply breathtaking, if not very Finnish scenery. The lyrics might look mythical, but usually contain everyday tips for how to live.
The album is a fine piece of Finnish metal music. In 1994 I would have gave this as big a score as possible, but not anymore, thanks to the midi tomfoolery on the last song. It just destroys the spirit of the album when it happens. This, however, doesn't obstruct me from giving 'Tales from the Thousand Lakes' the classic mark.
(originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com on 02/28/2008)
The second album from Amorphis is a considerable expansion of their epic and melodic style. At this point, the band's sound is no longer death metal in a true sense. Tales From the Thousand Lakes finds Amorphis incorporating Finnish folk music, a full-time keyboard player, ‘clean’ vocal parts, and progressive rock influences into a style of metal better described as atmospheric and melodic folk-influenced doom/death metal, with the growled vocals of Tomi Koivusaari remaining the only real link to death metal. Musically, there is very little association with death metal, as Amorphis have approached the album’s concept from a wider perspective of expression which works to provide the music with an aesthetic distinction and direct expression as a result of acute conceptual communication. Previous work from this band, particularly in terms of melody and dramatic composition, slightly hinted at the potential realized here, which has blossomed into a richer, more wide-ranging style that allows a broader exploration of themes.
Powerful and memorable riffs drive these songs, which most often find comfort in a steady, moderate pace and simplistic rhythmic constructions, in which the deep growling vocals blend as a shade of mood, while the drums maintain a fairly straightforward tempo without much in the way of stylistic variation, yet tastefully performed with an ear for rhythmic transition and timing, as each song discovers melodic harmony which carefully guides the way to resolution, either in the form of climactic punctuation, or gentle fade-out. The music transitions seamlessly, maintaining a gliding affect even when convergence occurs abruptly, attributable to the skillfully composed and executed riffs, which, while no longer truly speaking the language of death metal, remain firmly grounded in the spirit of metal, driving songs towards animated conclusions, with the sheen of melancholy common to Finnish metal, yet which is here more closely associated with the enlivened melancholy of Finnish folk music as expressed through the voice of classic metal.
"Waters of the sea
So much blood of mine
Fishes of the sea
So much flesh of mine"
Keyboards are now a significant feature in the music of Amorphis, functioning more than atmospheric layering through guitar shadowing, but as an instrument of illumination and occasional lead, as in the moog solo during "Black Winter Day", working in tandem with the soaring guitar melodies and solos, which, escalating the compositional dynamic through spectacular atmospheric effect, are often responsible for a song’s dramatic culmination. The captivating melodies and strong riffs sail over mostly uneventful, yet fluid and adequate, drumming, harmonizing in a unification of rhythm and tonality resulting in a solid, firm foundation upon which crystal clear melodies reach for the sky. The growling vocals rarely provide emotional dynamic, acting more as a shadow-tone expression in conjunction with the instruments, occasionally emerging with a well-placed and excitable growl to assist with an introduction to a new theme with added urgency, while the session ‘clean’ vocals, sounding perhaps like a less-masculine and less-skilled Bruce Dickinson, achieve a different shade of expression, and are generally well-placed, though a more talented vocalist would have given these sections more conviction and impact. Overall, the music, benefiting from a full, clear, organic sound courtesy of Sunlight Studios, has made quite a progression from the first album, both in range of expression and musical vision, having acquired a more graceful flow and clarity of articulation that was whispering through the debut, not yet ripe enough for proper realization; on this album, Amorphis have more effectively unified their ideas into a stronger sense of conceptual direction, with less hesitation to explore different ideas and with more confidence in their collective ability to realize those ideas.
The band have taken inspiration from ancient Finnish poetry and folklore, particularly based on the Finnish national pole book Kalevala, the themes of which center around the equilibrium of darkness and light, struggle and reward, sorrow and joy, a balance inherent to metal music, brought to life here in Amorphis’s distinct expression of foreboding gloom in the growling vocals and melancholic riffs, and life-affirming triumph in the ascending melodies and illuminating keyboards, and in the dynamic rhythmic and tonal character of the purposeful and terrifically enveloping music, which poetically flows like a cool autumn breeze and establishes an early-morning seashore atmosphere, clear like the bluest morning skies with a scope as vast as an ocean. Tales From the Thousand Lakes stands as a highly individual and mature album, a rare work of metal that manages to rise above stylistic expectations through a brave creative spirit, combining youthful ambition, brilliant imagination and musical intelligence, revealing Amorphis at the most creatively inspired and exciting moment of their artistic career.
This album is probably the most courageous one I have ever heard. One could have expected a diversified album after the death metal meets progressive doom metal album that gave birth to a legacy before, but this record is high above everything one might have thought of. This album presents us a mixture of melodic death metal with many folk influences and some progressive and psychedelic parts. There are a lot of keyboards, many sweet piano melodies, some flutes and even some electronically elements to find. There are smooth and atmospheric growls that have improved since the first album and from time to time clean male vocals but not too many. This album is truly diversified and innovating in every sense of the two words. Let's also underline that some of the songs are really catchy and that wasn't overall the case on the first record. Once again, there is no single weak track to find but the difference to the first album is that there are almost only brilliant tracks on the whole album. I would also like to point out that the album cover is one of the best ones I have ever seen and it fits perfectly to the atmosphere, lyrical concept and musical diversity of the forty minutes of genius. If you happen to like this album, you absolutely must also check out the brilliant "Black winter day" EP that was released shortly afterwards.
If one meets such a high standard it turns out to be difficult to point any song out in particular. Let me tell you that I immediately fell in love with this record. To give you nevertheless a hint of what you might expect; I would like to briefly describe the songs.
“Thousand Lakes” is haunting and eerie piano introduction with some mystic female choirs in the background. After a few seconds, you are already in a very peaceful and dreamy mood. The sound of the bells is absolutely chilling. “Into hiding” is dark metal song with some smooth growls and I wouldn’t even call this style death metal anymore. The music has a strong Arabic touch and the rhythm doesn’t stop to change in the fine details. The clean vocals used for the very first time in a song by the band give an epic touch to the song and collaborate in an amazing way with the growls. The keyboards dominate the ending of this varied track. Other bands would put so many ideas in a song with a length of ten minutes, this song doesn’t even clock at four minutes. “The castaway” has a melodic guitar riff and pumping bass guitar and varies as much musically as the song before. What one recognizes for the first time and what would be repeated in many other tracks of the record is that there are almost no lyrics in the song that concentrates pretty much on the music and its atmosphere. Decent flutes underline this courageous fact as well as a great and short guitar solo with an oriental sound. The last minutes of the song are completely slow and we hear organ and weird guitar sounds in some interludes that heavily remind of the progressive and psychedelic rock of the seventies. I would even say that these elements are close to the “Krautrock” style. “First doom” varies once again in rhythm, structure and melody and has overall a doom metal touch as the title suggests. “Black winter day” is the catchiest track on the record and convinces with an amazing piano melody and a great chorus with energizing clean vocals that shows us a lot of the future development of the band. “Drowned Maid” is much faster and almost reminds of a power metal song. It still has many breaks and slow passages throughout the song but the melodic guitar harmonies are the most stunning thing about this track that fades out with the noises of an ocean. “In the beginning” is much slower once again and has a very majestic atmosphere. Mystic clean vocals in the background and smooth growls harmonize in a perfect way. The keyboard solo sounding like a Hammond organ fits well and adds another degree of diversity to the track. “Forgotten sunrise” starts with a slow drum introduction and gets in with a slow and catchy guitar riff. The song is filled with atmospheric breaks and has strong gothic touch. Moog as well as flutes and keyboards underline a dark folk atmosphere. The short and sweet guitar solo in here is probably the most beautiful one on the record. “To father’s cabin” is dominated by the keyboards that create an atmosphere that would also fit to the score of a horror flick. The vocals are spoken this time and quite eerie and weird, sometimes whispered, sometimes hypnotically like an unholy spell. Sure thing is that I never heard something like this before. The final “Magic and mayhem” isn’t less surprising and plugs in some electronically elements. Gothic Metal goes psychedelic rock and techno but in a very consistent and progressive way. Once again, this is something I have never heard elsewhere and this experiment is probably the most outstanding one and a perfect surprise to close the album. Now, I have told you about every single song on the record which I would not often do, but the reason is simple in here. The tracks are all different from each other and still have a clear guiding line that unites them. By the way, most of them are all masterpieces and the only reason this album gets one point less than the top rating is that nothing is perfect.
In the end, this album feels coherent by its dark and majestic folk atmosphere, everything else is pretty much diversified and surprising. Every song has something unique and great but I must point out “The castaway”, “To father’s cabin” and “Magic and mayhem” that are worth one hundred percent and grow more and more on you each time you listen to them. It hasn’t been a long time ago since I discovered this record but I already consider it as a masterpiece and big classic of the entire metal scene and that’s why I don’t exaggerate when I give such a high rating. This album is visionary, courageous and highly progressive. Anybody that likes atmospheric and varied music in general must check this album out. It should be considered as a milestone no matter if you come from the doom, death, progressive, power or gothic genre. I never heard a band that reached such a high degree of intensity, diversity and professionalism with their second record already, maybe with the exception of “The Vision Bleak” and “The Old Dead Tree” that you might also check out if you like the kind of music you are experiencing here. I can only congratulate and continue to let this record spin once again and in the end over and over again.
From what I can tell, in the past 15 or so years, Amorphis has become some sort of Nuclear Blast-funded experiment into just how far away from metallic qualities or, you know, heaviness a band that’ll still find itself in any record shop’s metal section can go. I’ve gathered that they’re pretty successful, too; nothing on a Hanoi Rocks scale as far as Finnish bands go - but plenty of international tours and acclaimed albums. Tales From the Thousand Lakes is the first full-length in this new style; a bit more progressive, more obviously melodic and it’s catchy, too. But also as a sort of “transitional” album you’ll get a bit more of their old style thrown in: heavier riffs, with better harsh vocals than the dread-locked fellow and altogether it’s a bit more convincing as a metal album.
Still, I begin to think that Amorphis be much better off if they dropped the whole metal sound and went ahead as a prog rock band. From what I gleam they did such a thing in the late 90s, but it didn’t turn out too popular with the fans… oh well, never mind. Maybe they went back to prog later on? I’m no expert, really, nor do I want to be. It’s one of the more unique “death metal band has personality crisis” albums I’ve heard what with its pretentious, vaguely folky, slow melodic death metal. Most of the album’s death metal remnants are played out through generic token-Eastern sounding moments (not counting the lead guitar, which sounds like Ritchie Blackmore after several handfuls of sleeping pills). Thing is, while Tales From the Thousand Lakes must have been offering something new to an extent back in 1994, most of the riffs seem pasted from elsewhere. There’s the shallow Eastern sounding parts (because Finland shares its borders with China, right?), other death metal riffs watered down and played slower and even the odd Master of Puppets era Metallica homage. And hey presto, add some fluffy keyboards, tone down the aggression and you’ve got yourself a fresh sound. Just wonderful.
Since this is a transitional album you’ll have to suffer through the same shit you’d find on later Amorphis albums, expect this time it feels a little more out-of-place. It’s those Mike Patton-esque vocals that have my teeth grinding, mainly. I mean, I think Faith No More are a crime against humanity that should have been punishable in some grand, Nuremberg-esque trial - hanging all those responsible but this manages to be even more irritating. It’s probably something to do with the fact that the rest of the music isn’t nearly as bad as any Mike Patton project I’ve heard, and as such those vocals just stand out that little bit more. Honestly, though, if you ever needed an album to warm someone to the idea of harsh vocals, this might be a good one; after all that nasal whining one can’t help but rejoice when those parts are over. The harsh vocals and heavy riffs are just there to provide token metalisms but after those vocals they seem golden. As it turns out contrast is key to Amorphis’s success.
Still, at times, Tales From the Thousand Lakes despite its annoying and overbearing traits is as it least pretty memorable in the songwriting stakes. Even if for me, it’s for all the wrong reasons - and I will take that into account in my rating - but I can’t really deny that some of the songs have a “Look mother, salmon and trees!” quality about them. Worth something, I must admit. Still, it’s far from being “my thing” but I’m sure if I were to explore more slow melodic death metal (forget what you heard there’s not much in the way of death/doom here, it’s just a little bit too jolly for that).
I can recommend this to fans of later Enslaved, Opeth and maybe Katatonia’s shite albums. All things considered, they’d probably have a great time. Those wanting something with a bit more bite to it, something to sink your teeth into… well, look elsewhere. I mean it’s not the worst, post-death metal “growing pains” album I’ve ever heard (Carcass’s Whitesnake albums, anyone?) but far from enjoyable. The mix is a peculiar one; unappealing ingredients coming together in a way that’s, well, not as bad as you might’ve imagined. Colour me impressed!
Something old, something new
Something borrowed, something blue...
The old Victorian wedding rhyme describes Tales from the Thousand Lakes better than you'd expect. There indeed is something old, new and borrowed on the album, and while it splits opinions much more than necessary, it still definitely is one of the ten best-known Finnish metal albums of the 90s. It also is one of the ovarall best albums from anywhere from the 90s, but reaching that conclusion requires both understanding and knowledge of the subject matter and origins of the songs, and setting the rules of the competition in a slightly skewed way.
Tales from the Thousand Lakes was truly original -or new, as mentioned in the rhyme- at the time it was released. And it wasn't original only for the world around, it was a completely new thing for the band itself, as well. The transition from their excellent Karelian Isthmus era death metal to this new death/doom hybrid was already a rather innovative thing on the band's own part, and while it perhaps wasn't really that much ahead of its times in that respect, the fact that they blended in a hefty dose of folkish tunes tips the scales, and there's no avoiding the fact that the album was revolutionary in its own way. The final ingredient, the adding of many facets of 70s prog rock into the music, especially in in the keyboard work, turned Tales from the Thousand Lakes into something new and truly original.
The odd thing about anything successfully progressive is the way it turns from progressive and innovative to everyday business and nothing special in people's minds within a decade or two. It's natural, of course, since anything useful and usable the progressive and avant-garde bands manage to come up with will be copied by others, and will turn from rare caviar to a can of tuna that most people take for granted. For every progressive idea that gets approved by the mainstream, there are a thousand acts that will discover nothing that turns into a musical staple food for the majority. And the folk/death/doom blend from Tales from the Thousand Lakes is one of those staples nowadays. Obviously, it does not sound that progressive any more, but that's because its progression was no of the "funky time signature blended with wanking 'til it bleeds" kind, but of more subtle and innovative kind.
Of course, the "folk" part in the pile is not merry fiddling, mead drinking or a stupid accordeon, either, but almost hidden melodies with hints of a certain kind of Finnish folklore, the poetic and epic qualities of Kalevala, and that something the kinds of Burzum have unsuccessfully tried to create when composing their silly ambient works. That part of the music is, by default, dependent on the way the listener experiences and interprets it on a personal level, and also tied to the audience's cultural background; in finding the true spirit of Tales from the Thousand Lakes, being a Finn, knowing the kind of folk tunes included on the album and the works of Jean Sibelius, and generally just knowing the stories Amorphis took from the Kalevala, is definitely not a hindrance. Deep within, this is not an easy album to understand, even if the superficial, purely technical and musical levels seem easy to follow.
While the concept and songwriting on Tales from the Thousand Lakes is new, many aspects of the album are less than revolutionary -or old, as in the rhyme- and the teeth of time have not exactly been too kind to it.
The part that gets mentioned almost too often is the production. It reeks of the old-fashioned and the unpolished, and not in a good way. It already sounded old-fashioned when the album was released, and while the injections of 70s prog rock are easy to understand on the musical level, using an aged and vacuum-tube-analogue sounding production certainly downplays the metal part of the mixture a bit. The target has probably been an atmosphere that has a bit of the feel of an ancient dusty tome, perhaps a snapshot of an old-fashioned black-and-white documentary movies, and a painted natural scenery, but unfortunately, the result is less than perfect, and has grown truly old quicker than would have been necessary. The sound is flat, for the lack of a better word, coarse and occasionally powerless, and gives too much space for the proggy parts, at the cost of the metal's bulk. There is fidelity, with every single instrument completely audible throughout, but it comes at a cost.
The worst offenders on the album are the keyboard sounds, varying from artificial sounding Hammond, through early 80s pop synth and a crappy synth flute, to something not-to-be-named. They take the album back in time a whole decade, and a more careful process in the choosing of the sounds for the keyboards would have made a great difference. Not much better are the high tenor clean parts performed by Ville Tuomi, a necessary attachment to the band until the later arrival of Tomi Joutsen, the incredible jack-of-all-trades. Tuomi's voice is instantly recognizable, but it also has a character that doesn't suit the whole quite as well as Joutsen's later interpretations of the same songs. His surprisingly powerful and soaring parts have been mixed into the songs in a peculiar way, and seem to be detached from the rest of the soundscape, as if they were just an afterthought, and not a part of the original plan.
Of course, it's not very far fetched to ask if the post-Karelian Isthmus Amorphis ever really intended to be purely metal. Considering the developments that took place after this album, and especially starting with Tuonela, somehow betray a band that was mildly fed up with the confines of the genre, and definitely expanded to the direction of rock. So, what if Tales from the Thousand Lakes is metal because metal is the medium they were used to, and provided a suitable platform and tool set to convey the ideas they had and wanted to express? This is perhaps far-fetched and silly in the case of this particular album, of course, but if you spend an hour analyzing the complete career of the band, it's difficult to avoid the possibility that, post-Privilege of Evil, they never paid too much attention to any intentional metal purity, but rather played it because it served the songs, and provided the things they needed to make their music; if metalness got in the way of their compositions, they were willing to ditch the metal and compose on with other means.
In any case, the keyboard melodies and certain guitar parts are obviously influenced by the progressive rock of earlier decades. Someone with more knowledge of that era might perhaps tell if actual recycling takes place; it seems unlikely, though, since the 70s prog rockers had little in the way of metal to use as a context, and fitting a melody that reeks of unwashed hippies needs plenty of pummeling before it fits a fundamentally metal song.
There's plenty of stuff copied and emulated -or borrowed, in the context of our stupid rhyme- on the album.
The atmosphere and emotions of Kalevala were defined by a few famous Finnish artists in the late 19th century. Jean Sibelius composed his Karelia Suite, a set of orchestral pieces worth a metalhead's time, and defined something essential, epic, and perhaps heroically fairytalesque in his music. Akseli Gallen-Kallela painted his most famous Kalevala themed works, and if a pure silent picture can be found in a metal song's sonic form, Tales from the Thousand Lakes has a bit of Aino drowning herself, a dash of the heroes in a boat defending the fabled Sampo against the evil woman from the far North, and a bearded smith forging his bride of silver... all incidentally turned into individual song themes later in the band's career, and all famous poems in the national epic. That elusive something is in the mood and atmosphere of the album, and it's perhaps the most inherently Finnish aspect of this piece of art, a condensed essence of something national, an almost spiritual thing. If you've never smelled the fresh leaves of a birch in a smoke sauna next to a chilly lake in the silence and twilight of a midsummer night, you probably lack something necessary to appreciate all the aspects of the atmosphere.
Some of the borrowed things are more straightforward and obvious, of course. "Magic and Mayhem", the song that has been one of the band's most successful national calling cards during the first half of their career, starts with a guitar melody that essentially recreates an old folk tune, "Tein minä pillin pajupuusta", a song about a humble shepherd boy who fashions a crude flute out of a branch he cuts from a willow. The other loans from the national chest of tunes are not quite as obvious, but they are there.
So what is the blue part on the album? Besides the cover art?
Nothing, really; no blues here. Unless you count the final emotion as a "blue" feeling. The Finnish depressive mentality, the main reason for the massive numbers of suicides and alcoholism in the country, finds a new expression in these songs. The melancholy, distictly different from the Slavic kind, is there. There's the feeling of the autumn eventually crushing the hope of summer, the falling leaves, the eternal twilight of the winters, and the cold of the north, all blended into the stories of great deeds, permeating through the whole album. It would perhaps be better described as a "blue and white" emotion, because Tales from the Thousand Lakes wears the national colours proudly. If someone says that the album is one of the best Finnish metal albums ever, the part to be stressed in the analysis is the word "Finnish". The nationalistic character of the music shares some of the passive-aggressive mentality of the nation, probably unintentionally. It still might make the album a bit more inaccessible to foreigners, even if the metal crowd everywhere is probably much more receptive to this part of the emotional spectrum than the listeners of other forms of music. The same depression has lately surfaced in the works of Viikate, and the early works of the now popular Kotiteollisuus were essentially fueled with it; both bands are unfortunately even less accessible to outsiders, because they use the Finnish language.
Tales from the Thousand Lakes is a mighty fine album, even if it suffers from premature aging and some questionable choices that amount to mere details in the big picture. However, when listening to it for the first time, especially if you're young and a foreigner, you should remember that it's not as accessible as it at first claims to be. There are many more layers under the surface, and understanding them is a huge task; most will never find their way to the innermost chambers, because those vistas spring from the depths of ancient tales that shaped a nation, evade analysis like reflections of the opposite shore on the surface of a forest lake, and work their magic in the soul. It's still worth a try, even if it might take years to accomplish. There's guaranteed to be enough food for the soul underneath the skin.
This is my first review for Metal-Archives. The reason I chose this album to be the first one being reviewed is that this was the album that made me understand gutural vocals, what they are, why they exist and what they mean.
If you follow them since the beginning, something to notice immediately is about the style. They used to be more like "old school death metal", then turned a bit melodic, then turned to doom metal in this release. They were really good as a death metal band, and usually when a band is considered good, and they change their style, it turns out bad. But that's not what we have here. The album is creative, melodic, heavy, and beautiful. The atmosphere is just like the artwork (which is amazingly beautiful) suggests: dark, gloomy, and Scandinavian.
The album starts with an intro piece on piano, very touching and beautiful. And soon you're into a tide of good/heavy/melodic riffs and a low pitched growl. Into Hiding is the perfect song to summarize the whole album. We have clean vocals here also, interacting with the gutural voices. The next song, The Castaway is clearly influenced by local melodies and Pink Floyd. Yes, Pink Floyd. Check it out yourself at the mark of 4 minutes. First Doom shows some influence from the past with faster riffs than the rest of the album, and lots of double bass.
The next song is a masterpiece. Best song of the album in my opinion, and the first song I heard by them. Magic melody and creative riffs, which is more like a solo. The clean vocals strike again with grace and beauty. The main solo is played by a keyboard then it is followed by the essence of the riff, which, as I said, is more like a solo, and if you play guitar, you should try to learn this piece, soon you'll realize this isn't easy at all!
Drowned Maid's got the best groove of the album. and the best chorus as well. Lots of riffs keeps looping during the song for like 20 times, but turns out this is the magic of the song, every time the next riff comes, you feel like you're hipnotized by the melody.
The rest of the album keeps showing more progressive influences and local melodies. The use of keyboard solos/arranges are very creative and deserves to be noticed properly. Forgotten Sunrise has a nice time signature which will make you look to your guitar and say: "I want to put up something like this for one song of mine". Same occurs when you listen to the riff at 2:50. Very heavy and catchy, maybe the heaviest riff in the album. Followed by a solo that will surely crawl your skin. To Father's Cabin starts with a progressive wave, then clean vocals declaimed like a poetry are followed by a nice piece of improvisation and good riffs, like the one at 2:32. No vocals until the end of the song: magic! Which is by the way a part of the name of the last song. Magic & Mayhem. Soon enough at :20, you'll see a beautiful bridge which leads you to a festival of riffs, until, finally the song starts. It's a great song filled with finnish influences also. Some versions have the weird and funny cover Light My Fire (The Doors). It's heavy and awkward. If you haven't had yet, the opportunity to listen to that, you might wanna. Funny stuff.
Overall, the album deserves the rate I gave to it. Not only because is an important album for me, which I consider as a milestone, but this is a true masterpiece that should last forever as one of the best doom metal albums.
Though their recent offerings have slacked off in the progression department, content with simply cannibalizing the range of their previous works, there was a time in which every step Amorphis made was extremely fresh. From the primitive death/doom of their debut Karelian Isthmus to their glazed hippie folk rock on Am Universum, they continued to bring something new to the table. After that, well, they struck a plateau, acquired a new vocalist, and now continue to rehash (and to be fair, refine) a few of their earlier ideas. Tales from the Thousand Lakes is not my favorite Amorphis record, I would have to bestow that honor upon the successor Elegy, for it's wild and imaginative mesh of 70s prog, folk rock and eternally memorable melodic death metal. But this album is where the levee broke. The band's name was no longer a whisper on the tongues of a few underground death heads, but a roar throughout Europe and beyond.
The real draw here is the increased atmosphere that the band initiatied through the acquisition of Kasper Martenson, whose Moog and pianos fit fluidly with the bands gruff, bottom feeding atrocities. But he was not the only marked difference from the band's debut; the addition of folk-like, wandering melodies into the guitar elevated the entire experience, and many bands in the future would adopt a similar style and tone. This album would be the last before Pasi Koskinen joined the band, so the growls here are handled by guitarist Tomi Koivusaari, with some Ville Tuomi of Kyyria contributing some cleans. Add the band's lyrical themes, derived from the Kalevala (Finnish folklore collection), and the result of these shifts in direction were nothing less than spectacular. Tales from the Thousand Lakes still sounds amazing, 15 years later.
The "Thousand Lakes" itself is an excellent intro piece, Martenson combining a string of resonant piano strikes with some subtler notation, lush female choir synthesizers and electronic noise like running water begins to fill it out until it swells to a climax 2 minutes later, to inaugurate "Into Hiding", which arrives in sodden, melodic despair. The low end retains the death/doom mantras that dominated their previous album, but the folk feel to the melodies makes the track instantly recognizable, a hybrid of arabesque and Scandinavian composition. "The Castaway" opens with some of the best guitars on the album, immediate and glorious, to which the elfin ghosts of the cold forest traipse about uncontrollably. It was a year when thrash metal had all but closed the grazing grounds, and death metal felt soon to follow, and here comes Amorphis to help open the floodgates and re-invigorate the ailing metal scene. "First Doom" slowly churns itself into a gorgeous, glistening doom melody reminiscent of Paradise Lost's first two albums, one of the darker and more pensive tracks on the album. And following this, the album's most timeless track, "Black Winter Day", which got it's own EP release (most copies of this CD will have the EP material attached). A cycling, crushing track with excellent melodies provided through both the guitar and keyboard, against a swelling backdrop, and Tuomi making his best contribution to the record through his cutting clean vocals.
'This is how the lucky feel
How the blessed think
Like daybreak in spring
The sun on a spring morning'
"Drowned Maid" picks up the pace for a winding, churning foray into submerged terror, dense overarching melodies compete for your affection below the weight of Koivusaari's grunt, and then at about :55 they bust out that INCREDIBLE riff. Drowning never felt this lovely. "In the Beginning" has a great interplay between the growling and Tuomi, and some bustling synth work during the bridge that would foreshadow some of the better moments of the followup album. "Forgotten Sunrise" is an almost blues-like, elegaic exploration, with swaggering melodies accompanied by the Moog, and some pure, flowing old school death metal expression. "To Father's Cabin" has a dash of Metallica-inspired, slow thrashing before it turns into a curious jam. There is quality to be had here, but it's my least favorite on the record (probably the one reason this album is not a 10/10). "Magic and Mayhem" more than compensates with its blissful descent, the acoustics and organs burdened in sorrow and grace, then transforming into a groovy metal breakdown with some proggy synthesizer strikes.
The production standards here were immense for the day. It was by far one of the best death metal sounds to arrive in the 90s, and it HAD to be, because of the added layers of synth to the core composure, and the separate vocal styles. I would not change a damn thing here, it seems as impressive to me in 2009 as it ever did before, and I can still lose myself deep inside the tones. The lyrical matter is fantastic, the band's dedication to their own heritage never feeling cheap, and rather than just write gallivantin' melodies they most often explore the darker side to the fables, which is more suitable to their music. This is the last truly 'dark' Amorphis album, in fact, as Elegy would be a lot more enthusiastic (though not lacking in the metal department). Though a major progression over the previous album, this is hardly an 'experimental' album, the clarity of vision is evident as the one direction this band could travel in. And it gave them great, deserved success. That you can now pick this up with the added tracks of the Black Winter Day EP is a given. Tales from the Thousand Lakes is an essential metal album, for more than nostalgic reasons, with only one track lagging behind the rest.
Lowlights: realizing that no matter how inspired I ever might become, I could never produce something like this, even through divine intervention.
I've been stalling on reviewing this album, because I really just did not want to listen to it again after the horrible first impression it made on me when I first heard it. This was the sophomore effort from resident "mommy do we HAVE to play metal?" Finnish flip-floppers Amorphis, the band who could never decide what they wanted to be and could never produce an album that was straight out quality all the way through, and you'll have to excuse me if I don't like it quite as much as some people seem to. It has grown on me quite a bit since my first couple of plays, but I still just don't think this band is all that great.
So, yeah, this album really doesn't want to be metal. It's got growls and heavy riffs, but those are like the last remains of flesh hanging off the bones of a human skeleton; this album is structurally almost purely wish-washy synth Pink Floyd rock all the way. It's got all the trappings of that sound, from the hypnotic, dreamlike synths to the oddly laid back sort of tempo that all of these songs resign themselves to. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I just can't help but think that it could be done better. Something about this band's combination of sound just doesn't do it for me, that's the best way I can describe it. They write some solid songs, but it doesn't seem like they really have much conviction; if they aren't sure about where they want to go with this, how are we supposed to be?
I guess the main draw of this album is supposed to be the "wintry, frosty, lake-like atmosphere" that the band uses here to a great extent. And by that I mean, the atmosphere that draws comparisons to the algae on the bottom of the lake, or maybe the mist from a shower that collects on your mirror as you turn up the water...which I guess came from a pipe in the lake, if that helps this album's credibility. And I'm not just being a sarcastic asshole here, that's really what atmosphere this album evokes. It's something about that synth sound, really; that's what it is. This album is definitely the Tales of the Thousand Lakes (and before you email me telling me what the title really means, hold your horses - I already know), but what they don't tell you is just what part of the lake you're going to be taking journeys to. So take this as you will, because while I don't like it, I imagine some of you won't care as much about being musically whisked away to the base of the sewer pipe at the bottom of the lake.
There is a certain novelty value about this, obviously, but that only means that some songs have atrocious clean vocals that sound like something you'd hear out of a Latin radio station; or more like someone attempting to try out for one and failing. I am dead serious. He makes appearances on a couple of songs here, and I have to say I can't take off many points for it, because his role in the actual album is pretty small, but the annoyance remains. Pretty much all of these songs are pretty well written for what they are, even though I can't say I enjoy it that much. "Black Winter Day" is the only exception; a really lame song with a shitty keyboard melody that I cannot stand at all. Come on, are you really going to tell me with a straight face that you enjoy this song? A lot of people seem to like this song, which confused me at first until I remembered that most people have terrible taste. But the rest of the stuff on here is passable enough, in the context of...watered down Doom Death blandness with atmospheric keyboards and vocals that don't leave any impression on you.
This album is flighty, insincere and pretty boring most of the time, and I don't really get why anybody likes it. I can't say I really enjoy this album much at all, even in its best moments. At best, it's just inoffensive music to tap your feet to, but a lot of the time it bores me even in that regard. This isn't that horrible, but there are just so many other things you could be listening to besides this. There are better doom bands, better Death Metal bands, better mellow rock bands...just all around better bands. So if you are considering listening to this soggy sandwich on metal's proverbial lake surface...don't.
Depending on who you believe, Tales from the Thousand Lakes is either the point where Amorphis sold out, or where they produced one of the all time great melodic death metal albums. Truth is, neither are correct. Tales is a transitional album, a midway between the brilliant atmospheric doomy DM of The Karelian Isthmus, and the ambitious riff-tastic progressive masterpiece Elegy. Tales takes elements from both but compromises too much of their earlier style for a newer aesthetic not fully mastered.
To be honest, how this is cited by anyone as Amorphis' best is beyond me. The production is really subpar for the era, which is even more disappointing given that The Karelian Isthmus is a shining example of almost perfect production. Tomi Koivusaari's vocals are lacking in intensity and, without the cleans of Pasi Koskinen as a contrast, become fairly monotonous. The lyrics are embarassingly awful, although given the unintelligibility of the vocals, this is not the most critical flaw.
That honour belongs to the riffs, which are unoriginal and unmemorable, and even more so when compared to the preceding and subsequent albums. The Karelian Isthmus was chock-full of simple, slow, atmospheric and memorable riffs, and Elegy showed the emergence and mastery of a new style, blazing, melodic and catchy. Tales shows this latter style trying to emerge, but these riffs are same-ish, too often chuggy and when a good one finally does appear, it gets drenched by goofy sounded keys (Black Winter Day being a perfect example). There are some decent leads here and there, but they lose impact when the rhythm guitars are so often going chug-chug-chug underneath.
As for being a landmark of melodic death, this isn't anything which hadn't been done better by Eucharist and Sentenced. Only with the realisation of Elegy did Amorphis succeed in contributing something significant in this respect.
Tales From the Thousand Lakes is Amorphis’ 1994 second full length release, and is widely considered a definitive album of the melodic death metal scene. There is no denying that this is a wildly ambitious album, and whether or not you agree with the hype surrounding it, its legacy is written in stone.
Instead of sticking to the already original formula of their debut, The Karelian Isthmus, Amorphis go further with their sound to create even more captivating and memorable music. This time around, Amorphis increase the melodic side of the compositions, without compromising their death metal roots. After the entrancing piano intro, Into Hiding kicks things off with one of the many outstanding, slow paced, doom riffs you will find on the album. We also hear something brand new to Amorphis’ sound in this song, and this is clean vocals. This aspect of the album is controversial. Many people say that the clean singing is amateur and fails to fit with the production, while others (myself included) feel that they heighten the ominous mood that this record creates. Like them or not, clean vocals would go on to appear in every Amorphis release after this point. With that said, the vast majority of the vocals here are excellent throaty growls; essentially identical to the debut album, with a rough production to accompany them.
Although synth was used mildly on The Karelian Isthmus, keyboards play a large part of the overall sound on this album. Don’t let this scare you away. They are not used like Children of Bodom use keyboards, but instead used to push the dark atmosphere even further. Just listen to the first ten seconds of Black Winter Day and you should understand my point. As with all Amorphis albums though, it’s the guitar that makes me fall so deeply in love with the songs. Tales contains many of Amorphis’ finest riffs; whether it’s the doomy Into Hiding, the epic Castaway, or the melodious Drowned Maid, the song writing would go on to influence countless bands ins the melodic death metal scene.
As I said earlier, this is a remarkably ambitious album for a band such as Amorphis to produce. Using extensive keyboards, clean vocals, and lyrics based entirely on the Finnish national epic, Kalevala, was certainly not common practice among the majority of death metal bands in the early ‘90s. The song writing itself crossed boundaries into strange, unexplored paths. For example, the jazzy interlude in The Castaway is certainly something that wasn’t practical at this time.
I have no problem with admitting that when I first gave this album a listen, I didn’t appreciate it the way I do now. It wasn’t until I took it on walks during black winter days until I uncovered the true beauty hidden beneath these ten mournful, yet glorious tunes. I believe that the appeal to this album is not simply in the songs themselves, but rather in the atmosphere the music so effortlessly conveys. Although the songs on Tales From the Thousand Lakes may not necessarily be the finest Amorphis have ever written, the gloomy atmosphere presented is something that can never be recreated. I honestly cannot recommend this album any higher. I ask that you give it a chance, and try not to judge it on the first listen. I only hope it will grow on you in the same way it did for me.
Sometimes when I hear an album it takes me into another realm or another space. For example, I could have my headphones on and it could be 97 degrees outside and humid and what I'm listening to makes me feel like I'm minutes away from the arctic circle with the north winds smacking me in the face. An album that makes me feel like I am in the place where the songwriter has intended me to be. An album doesn't have to do this to be a good album but if it does, it's special.
"Tales from the Thousand Lakes" isn't just stereotypical death metal. Amorphis created a timeless masterpiece with this work. The culmination of atmospheric keyboards, gutteral vocals, ripping but melodic guitar work and deadly precise drumming make this an instant classic. It's hard to believe that this came out 15 years ago. This one was way far advanced for it's time. By far, this has to be the best overall metal album that I've heard come out of Finland.
As far as this albums production, it's a bit rough. I don't think this album would be as good as it is with anything different. Keep in mind, I haven't heard the re-release so I'm speaking of the way the original master sounds. It's not overly raw but you can still here some crackling. For 1993 I would say it's very mid grade. Not 80's primitive sounding but not modern.
Everything stands out on this album perfectly. The guitars are what shines the most. Very melodic and still brutal. The doom-laden pace of the guitar work carries the message of what they are trying to send very well. You can hear every note, every chord perfectly. The notes cut through like glacial winds in January. No soloing though. First time I heard this album, I didn't even notice. It wasn't one of those instances where I was like, "Hey where's the damn solo?" It's that good.
Amorphis incorporate much more keyboard in this album compared to it's predecessor, "The Karelian Isthmus". It's not a virtuoso keyboard style but it still fits harmoniously well with the rest of the composition. The keyboards on "Black Winter Day", the albums first and only single, are dominating in a good way. The song opens with keyboards and is peppered with measures of keyboards throughout. Another good keyboard friendly track is "To Fathers Cabin".
Vocally, Tomi Koivusaari is very minimal. If you read the lyrics you'd understand. There is no set pattern on any song. It seems as if Tomi just comes in randomly with his vocals when it felt right for him. Very nontraditional death metal vocal style for it's time. The gutteral approach is also very nontraditional with the music style it accompanies, especially with keyboards, but again it works phenomenally.
If you were introduced to Amorphis any album after this and haven't heard this yet, I'd say give it a shot. You'll be amazed at how different they are now compared to where they started. This is cutting edge metal, even for today. Every single song is good. This is a very mature album, and it may sound cliché, but this is a timeless masterpiece.
You know the old metal cliché: “I like their early stuff”. Or to put it another way, when was the last time you heard someone say, “I prefer their more recent stuff”? Rarely happens. Very rarely. And I’m certainly not talking about just AMORPHIS here. Although these guys certainly take the cake. In fact they baked the damn thing. The new stuff does the job, but the early stuff is where it’s at alright. And this is the album that saw them crowned before they were kings, only to get lost on the way to the coronation. Sad really.
‘Tales from the Thousand Lakes’ is something almost special, and not just for its time. Although it was certainly a landmark release of sorts for a 1993 album. Here’s why. The lyrics are mostly adapted from a traditional Finnish national poem. There’s a mix of metaphors and mythology that throws up everything from heroes to hens. But it starts working even before the words turn up with the opening instrumental title track. It’s by keyboardist Kasper Martenson. He wasn’t in the band for very long, but chipped in this reverent but grand opener that you just know the average metal head skips when they shouldn’t. Track 2 is the one they’re in a hurry to get two. It’s called into “Into Hiding”, and really it’s just layered been-done riffing until the vocals turn up and things turn doom/death deep. And a calculated smattering of clean vocals add that little something that's smart with a twist.
“The Castaway” recounts an eagle’s journey with the same game of clichéd opening riffs before the vocals inject something sorely needed. The problem with this one though is that it’s written by the whole band and it shows. There are hooks that work, and hooks that are out of work. But since they were in the same place at the same time, you get this. It’s not the last time it happens. “First Doom” is the exact opposite with words and music by lead axeman Holopainen. Despite the name, we’re not rely in doom territory on this one. But it is a good example of the can’t-help-myself prog meanderings that would eventually cost the band a lot more than studio time.
“Black Winter Day” is another Martenson tune that gives you every reason to get excited before a Moog turns up on the scene. You can tell it’s a good song every time the vocals or guitar (or both) are centre stage, but the Moog’s going nowhere in a hurry. “Drowned Maid” is strictly speaking the least heavy track on the album, but still manages to keep the tempo and intensity up to remind you this is metal you’re listening to. And the growling vocals actually bring a sad and powerful dignity to lyrics about a hen that drowned. The end result is the album classic track from start to finish.
“In The Beginning” pulls off the doom title and music act in a single stroke. It’s all there; indecisive riffs, lyrics lamenting something or another, and a burst of spirit for a kind of chorus. This is another one the old school fans jump straight to. The band’s even nice enough to throw in a crummy Moog outro to give you time to reach for the skip button to walk in on another Holopainen solo effort. It’s a death metal meets retro rock piece called “Forgotten Sunrise”. Prog overkill does exactly that though, and everything about what follows is a lesson in the golden rule that 50% of a killer track still leaves you with 50% trash. Which sort of sums up the rest of the release. In fact I’m going to go one further and say exactly the same thing about the half-inspired, half-asleep-at-the-wheel “Black Winter Day” EP (which is invariably released as a bonus track edition of this album).
So that’s AMORPHIS playing the doom/death game back when they were young, mean sounding, and from a place no one could find on the map. A decade or so later their business card says prog and nothing but. I’m a fan of prog, I really am, but only when it’s a language – not an excuse.
"Tales From The Thousand Lakes" is the second album from Amorphis, and their last album that had a lot more death growls than clean vocals. And in my opinion "Tales From The Thousand Lakes" is the best album Amorphis has ever made, and one of my all time favorite albums.
Music on this album is doomy death metal, with a lot of folkish influences on guitar and keyboard melodies, and there is a little bit progressive elements showing on song structures. Actually the music style has some similarities to Paradise Lost's "Gothic" album, but this one is a lot more folkish, and maybe a bit more melodic. Vocals are still mostly death grunts, but couple of the songs does have a small amount of clean vocals, like "Black Winter Day" and "Into Hiding". All the lyrics are from the book Kalevala, which is the national epic of Finland. And it is a nice change from the more usual metal lyrics, at least in my opinion.
In my opinion Esa Holopainen does his best work on this album. He's guitar playing on this albums is simply amazing, lots of good guitar melodies and some great solos. Also Kasper Mårtenson's keyboard playing is great, sadly this is only Amorphis album with him. Rest of the band does a good job as well, but none of the other members does anything groundbreaking.
Production is far away from a perfect production, but in my opinion it fits to the mood of this album perfectly. Although when I first heard this album, the production sounded a little bit annoying, but after few listens I got used to it. Also every instrument can be heard easily so it isn't that big of a problem.
Anyway "Tales From The Thousand Lakes" is a great album. There really isn't any big faults, only a few bad riffs. I recommend this to anyone who likes death metal or doom metal, there isn't many doomdeath albums that are as good as this.
Highlights: All the songs are great, but best songs in my opinion are "Into Hiding", "Black Winter Day", "Into Hiding" and "Forgotten Sunrise"
Tales From The Thousand Lakes is regarded by many the highlight of Amorphis' career and I couldn't agree more. Personally I started listening the band from albums such as Elegy and Tuonela and it wasn't until few years ago that I first time heard Tales. Now as we have this fact here you can't tell me that I love this album because it brings memories, or anything like that. It just happens to be a nearly perfect album that dropped me from my chair when I realized that for years I had been listening to metal and had not heard a masterpice like this!
What we have here is doomy death metal spiced with folk melodies, keyboards and overall a very epic feeling. The songs are mostly quite slow or mid-tempo and not aggressive in the way most death metal is, instead there's all the time an atmospheric, almost dreamy feeling that makes your thoughts fly.
The production here is a thing that divides opinions. For some people the overall sound is too muffled, and sure if you're used to what newer Amorphis albums sound like, this sounds different. However, personally I think that the raw production gives even more feeling to the music. I mean the epic feeling. The guitars are heavy and low, the drums pound like hammers, and especially the vocals are awesome - Tomi Koivusaari's very low grunts on this album are probably the best death metal vocals I have heard. Add the wisely used keyboards and a pounding bass, and you have here everything needed.
If there's something negative among this brilliance, the occasional clean vocals aren't so great. Ville Tuomi's nasal voice doesn't really fit into the dark and low soundscape but you'll get used to it, and luckily there are clean vocals only in few tracks.
The compositions are great and there aren't any filler tracks. Ok, some songs are even more brilliant than others but there's not a single boring moment. In my opinion the highlights include at least "Into Hiding", "The Castaway" and "In The Beginning". The lyrics, as you may already know, are taken from the Finnish national epic "Kalevala" and translated to English. If you know these myths already, it helps to understand the lyrics but even if you dont' they're interesting and fit well together with the music.
A little trivia: some years ago in some music magazine there was a poll about which album could be the "Finnish national metal album" and this was ranked high, first or second place (the other succesful one being the debut of Stone.)
This really is a one of a kind album and I recommend anyone to check it out, unless you're a death metal hater who can't stand growling vocals at all. For anyone else into metal it's an essential, a true classic.
Surprisingly, this Amorphis was the one I bought after that crappy one Far From The Sun. I enjoyed Far From The Sun a little, but when I heard this for the first time, Amorphis played out some great tunes, and it made me wonder why they still don't write music like this. Trying to keep up with the times, or something, I suppose.
Many of the Finnish band's songs are remeniscient of Middle Eastern/Folk melodies, and this album is very atmospheric, which sets it apart greatly from many of the metal albums of its time. The music is still considerably heavy, but it engulfs you when you listen to it. Vocals are both growling and clean, the growling doesn't intrude too much, and this was before I ever even heard of or enjoyed growling vocals. The double guitar melodies are excellent, they melt together into one another like a caramel-nougat filling, for lack of a better metaphor. The guitarists are by no means virtuosos, so there's no badass shredding or solos, but they knew what they were doing when they put the music together. Excellent rhythm. The bass and drums are intact too. The drums are by no means fantastic, but they really go together with the other instruments. The bass, who is typically the unsung hero in many a metal song, really sets off the rhythm here, and I often like to hear that when I listen to Tales.
The only things I have to complain about are the lyrics, based on The Kalevala. The Kalevala is supposed to be a great Finnish epic, similar to Lord of The Rings and whatever, but a lot of the meaning of the original poem is lost in translation. It goes good with the music, and you can get somewhat of a feel of the story they are trying to tell, but it doesn't really work lyrically.
Black Winter Day is clearly the best one on this album. This song is a classic melodical black/ doom/ metal one, and it calls for some slow, steady headbanging. The riffs and keyboard meld together and create a great metal epic. The lyrics, as mentioned, are sub-par, but the music more than makes up for it.
Into Hiding follows suit, but it isn't as great. The beginning of the song, and the melody is great because it picks up and throws you through the rest of the song. The bass obviously helps this one out too. I still don't really like the lyrics in this one (or any of the songs on the album for that matter). Again, the awesome melody and rhythm picks up the slack for the poetry.
Drowned Maid is the 3rd best song on the album, in my opinion. It starts off with a fast melody, and the lyrics include "flesh" and "blood", so yeah... it's pretty awesome.
Damage Report (Synopsis):
Tales From The Thousand Lakes is among Amorphis' best Doom Metal albums, but isn't THE best. It keeps the band's traditional heavy yet elegant, ambient melodies and rhythms going, but it definately is lacking something lyrically... let's say, a coherent story. It would be stupid to base your opinion on the album solely on the lyrics however, because that's not what music is about, but lyrics should definately be considered when they're part of a song.
While the Holy Trinity between In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, and At The Gates was forming over in Sweden, Amorphis had already reached perfection with -Tales From The Thousand Lakes- in Finland.
Vocalist/guitarist Tomi Koivusaari does the growls/cookie monster vocals, which I think mix very well with the music. Amorphis also happened to hire Ville Tuomi to perform clean vocals for a sense of variety and so that Tomi's doesn’t get dull. In any case, his vocals are very doom-like; lazy, light growls straight dug from the throat rather than the powerful deathlike one from their debut. My theory behind the appeal that this album holds to so many people is the atmosphere it creates when you let it fully absorb you. The mood and vibe flowing through each song gives a stronger significance to them. I do find the production to be rusty on some tracks more than others, but everything one wants to hear is mostly reached (It’s their second album, c’mon).
The monster vocals are easy to take in, but the clean singing at first will appear shallow, which is probably the reason why they hired Pasi to handle them on later records. Songs like "Into Hiding" and "Black Winter Day" will have memorable passages that will automatically hook you with catchy riffs and keyboard parts (both the backbone of the album). Esa’s riffs and solos are seriously stand out to perfection, while Tomi settles the rhythm try and true. Jan’s drumming capabilities can’t go without saying they aren’t brutal, but they are well paced, solidly timed, and dusty as one would expect. Olli-Pekka’s bass lines are heard clearly when the rest of the instruments calm down, leaving him to never exceed or show any sign of intricacy exceeding what’s already being played by the riffs.
While the production isn’t near reaching the best quality of 1994, Tales… doesn’t let up with what is put on it. All the tracks seem to have some degree of catchiness while many of them are extremely memorable due mainly to Esa’s riffs and the structure of the song. Another thing that one shouldn’t worry about is the length. While the album almost reaches 38 minutes on the original, the re-release has a few more worthwhile tracks and the songs are so deep that one will dive into them, creating the “lasting” effect. Any (Melodic) Death fan that digs varied songs, both heavy and catchy, should not pass this up. Go now, the Karelian is waiting!
After hearing the gruesome lyrics of earlier Amorphis releases like, "Privilege of Evil," I was expecting more of the same. Tales From the Thousand Lakes follows basically the same path but with toned down lyrics, and more instrumental and talented tracks that are instant classics.
This album delivers heavy guitar tunes and very constant steady drumming work. Following the paths of Death/Black/Viking metal and mixing in tunes of melodic metal, and not forgetting about the harsh deep vocals this album is a must have. I have personally rated each track out of 10 (10 being best).
This first song, "Thousand Lakes," is an into track that delivers peaceful piano playing and an opera chorus that sets your mind up in an ocean filled world full of legends and mysteries. This tacks is short and completely done with keyboards, an all instrumental sound.
After a gloomy set up intro track the album jumps directly into, "Into Hiding," a quickly paced track with great heavy guitar beats that guide the song into solo riffs that jump into the song hear and there. It talks about a man that is running away from bad deeds and escapes as an eagle to hide for the rest of his life. This track is one of my personal favourites.
The next track, "The Castaway," starts out with a catchy tune likely played by one guitar, which is followed by heavier guitars that try to follow the same tune. I believe that this section of the song could have been done better because it does not follow the first part of the song very well. This track never seems to developed much just keeps moving along playing the same tune until about 1:35 in the song when the heavy riffs come in with a steady beat, and the light guitars carry on with the starting tune. This track talks about the man who is an eagle and is soaring across the ocean. Overall this is a very well composed track but could have been played a little better, the track also carries on a bit long.
The following track, "First Doom," is not much better. It starts out heavy with good drums and a slow beat but slows down a little much, still good riffs keeps the track from becoming lame. The track finally speeds up for a while. The lyrics I can only guess what they are talking about; I may be wrong but I think that it mentions the man asking the queen of North for forgiveness... come up with your own idea if you want.
The next track is the classic of all Death/Black Metal. "Black Winter Day," is a true masterpiece that combines everything you could ever want in a Metal song. Catchy tunes such as the beginning keyboard solo and then the heavy guitars bursting in and the perfect death metal growl makes for a perfect song. Later on in the song some Guitar solo's come, meanwhile the drumming is perfectly timed and follows the song perfectly. Overall this is a picture perfect track (Amorphis's best). The track never gets boring and stays good until the end. The vocals to this song are yet again confusing, but what I get out of them is that the same man is feeling guilty of his crimes when he really shouldn’t be.
The following track, "Drowned Maid," is nearly as good as, Black Winter Day. Combining a good heavy tune with melodic guitars guiding the entire song. Three different tunes all really good come into place during the song, fitting the mood for the lyrics, which are played during each different section of the song. This track talks about the death of a maid and a hen where their blood and flesh is poured into the ocean.
Track # 7, "In the Beginning," combines all components of the tracks above but throwing in a normal man’s voice along with the growling voice. I am not sure if the two voices fit well together but it is something different. I have no clue what this song is talking about.
The next song, "Forgotten Sunrise," is an interesting song that starts out with a beat played by heavy guitars that follows a skilled solo which directs the track until about 2:40 in the song, when the heavy base and lead guitars carry on a very good sounding tune very different from the beginning of the song. Occasionally the two tunes mix creating yet another good melody. This track I believe talks about the man who was mentioned in earlier tracks; in this song it mentions how the corruptions of modern times have plagued the man turning him evil.
“To Fathers Cabin,” is a very different track that almost sounds out of place on this album; but the song itself is very well done. Starting out with a clean flowing sound using an extremely catchy tune, this track looses some of its glory in the middle section which starts at about 40 seconds into the track. This section is the vocals, which I think, are poorly done not matching the tunes much and the voice is lame and boring. After another minute of mindless playing the track really gets back on track at 2:05 in which the song directs a great solo and a well flowing beat that slowly ends the masterpiece of a track. The Lyrics are a bit confusing I am not really sure if they have much of a point other then talking about a powerful old man.
The 10th track, “Magic and Mayhem,” starts out with a slow beat that has a graceful and sad sound to it and is not entirely entertaining. At 1:00 the track changes direction very quickly, a grind/gritty sound is produced portraying a more sinister type theme. The lyrics I think are talking about an evil man who is rich and powerful with slaves, and treats people poorly.
The following track, “Folk of the North,” is another instrumental track using a keyboard and drums and a base guitar. Other guitars join in later, which make this song feel magical and full of mystery.
Track number 12, “Moon and Sun,” is a slowly paced song that has a dark sound to it, somewhat like earlier Amorphis albums. This track is quite similar to earlier tracks but with a different beat. Although the tune is not very exciting or has any catchy tunes this track is a good solid track to have on the album. The track talks about darkness falling over the land and battle commencing.
The second part to the, “Moon and Sun,” “Moon and Sun Part II: North’s Son,” is a more energetic sequel that is a good ending track for this album. Combing catchy tunes with good steady beats that are constantly changing, and building up and then going back to slow beats, this track talks about the ending of all that was talked about in the lyrics of earlier tracks.
The last song, “Light my Fire,” is just a remake of the original by, “The doors.” Amorphis do an excellent job of playing the song with a much heavy tone and Death metal lyrics. This track has catchy tunes and good guitar riffs.
So all in all Amorphis’s classic masterpiece, “Tales from the Thousand Lakes,” is an exceptional album with a perfect death metal type sound but not entirely death metal like lyrics. I would class this album as Death/Viking metal with a hint of folk. After listening to this album you will feel like you had been taken on a journey and met many new people, seen extraordinary events take place, and mysteries without answers spring up
Definitely buy this album I highly recommend it, the album is much heavier and darker then modern Amorphis and not as dark and deathlike as past Amorphis. I hope I have helped you decide if this Album is worth having because it definitely is.
I have been initiated into Amorphisiac fandom a long stretch of months ago. I swoon under the sheer genius of Elegy, I weep at the gentle fragility of Tuonela, and Am Universum brings me to higher levels of headbangdomness with its easy grooviness - yet I rage at this album's insipid inferiority.
What most Amorphis initiates hail as this band's best music is in reality their most amateurishly immature and boredum-inducing work. There are many areas of major importance which must be adressed when reviewing such a cheap album: lyrical shittiness, anachronistic sound quality, and impressively frustrating musical structures (or lack thereof).
My first point - lyrical shittiness - can be dismissed by most Thousand Lakes enthusiasts who will use the excuse that English is this band's second or - God forbid! - third language. I apologize, but from my - jaded, biased, and subjective - perspective, one should not attempt translating old poetry into one's second or third language, unless one - at the very least - masters that other language's grammar and tenses. The band - who translated some traditional Finnish poems for the purposes of this album - obviously do not have that kind of - rather basic - mastery of the English language. As a result, the - I have no doubts about it - fine poetry of the Kalevala is reduced into a meaningless stream of gibberish with poetic images that lost all their sense outside the context of their home language (And there I, a hen, was lost), lines which seem to have no connection to each other (I have a good mind / Take into my head / To start of singing / Began reciting), and awkward verses cut in two to fit a song's 4/4 beat (The mountains of North / Shall erupt and flames / Of darkland will raise). Oh, and the verb tenses are mostly wrong as well... (He whirled out of doors as snow / Arrives as smoke in the yard / To flee from bad deeds) Perhaps they should have sung everything in Finnish instead of disemboweling the poetry they so love.
The second point is the band's anachronistic sound quality. While some may argue that part of Led Zeppelin II's charm - that charming, godly, simple yet virtuosic, mostly improvised classic of rock - came from its shitty, scratchy sound, LZII was recorded and published in 1969...Thousand Lakes was recorded and published in 1994. Two very different contexts - and the 1994 one was not improvised either... Budgetary restrictions are simply no excuse; there many citable examples of underground metal bands who produced albums with extremely good sound quality on ridiculously low budgets, such as uneXpect and Children of Bodom, to name only two.
My third point concerns the musical structures of the songs. While a few of the songs are pretty good and are exempt to this rule - The Castaway, In the Beginning, and Black Winter Day, for example, are pretty cool songs - the others mostly have one finely crafted and downright cool riff in the first seconds or minutes, they all go downhill from there as the rest of the songs are extremely boring yet compelling examples of musicians who lack any inspiration whatsoever. Case in point: take the song To Father's Cabin. It starts with very good, adrenaline pumping, groovy guitar parts. Then that part ends. And then you wait impatiently for that cool beginning riff to come back again. But it doesn't. And you wait and wait and wait - until you impatiently decide to skip that song. Unfortunately the process is then repeated with another song (Magic and Mayhem). And if there's anything I hate the most in this existence, it is to wait for something that never will come. If you don't hate that sort of stuff, you definitely should.
In conclusion, the only reason I gave Thousand Lakes any points at all is for the really nice song introductions as well as for all of the two good songs it features. While this album may be worth the price because it's Amorphis and because it's been re-released as a 14-track album with some of the good songs from the Black Winter Day EP, I would eagerly recommend skipping this album in favor of Elegy, Tuonela, and Am Universum, which are all far superior in their own way.