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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.