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I am a new member to Amorphis' legacy. At first I listened to some of their new songs. I can't say I was disappointed because I really dug some of their recent work. But then again I found out about The Karelian Isthmus. The thing is that although I listen to many tons of metal, I do not listen to black or death except some specific bands (for example, Rotting Christ) or songs. Somehow yet, I was truly absorbed by this album.
At first I heard the intro, "Karelia", and then the great, the epic, the one and only "The Gathering". For a new death metal listener, I must say they impressed me. I was taken aback and listened to this song over and over again. It was just a matter of time for me to discover the rest of the songs, which are great, too.
Their dark, abysmal, and unbearable heavy riffs combined with the slow tempo drumming and the original and brutal vocals are just perfect. A slow demonic music for the fans of this kind. It also gets fast with the nice drumming and picking, but still it doesn't go far from death metal. That's a lot to ask, but they made it. The epic melodies blend excellently with the darkness of their music. You really can't help but be mesmerized by their gloomy excellency. Their ancient-sounding melodies take you back in time where Scandinavian warriors were chanting the great hymn of Karelia in the frozen battlefields. At least that's what I like to think, although many of the songs talk about Celtic mythology (like "Exile of the Sons of Uisliu"). There's not even a single solo throughout the album, but that's very usual for bands of that kind.
In any event, the one thing that you gotta admit about this album is its novelty. Considering the year of publication one can understand that they did their own unique thing, meaning that they accomplished something that even today's black or death bands can't: originality. It seems common today to listen to songs such as "Black Embrace", but it really isn't. Of course, the vocals have much to do with it. The brutality and the growls come out so naturally it's like Koivusaari didn't even try.
Regarding the lyrical themes, it is just what it needed to be. Dark themes talking about wars and, strangely enough, Celtic mythology rather than Scandinavia and religion. "Grail's Mysteries"' lyrics are very special in their own way, depicting a coronation of an ancient king of Cornwall, a man grown to be a king, grown to be a wild boar. It's like you're there! Moreover, they definitely put some thought in "Lost Name of God" and "Misery Path", proving that they ain't just some angry guys screwing around.
In general, the whole album flows easily. The auditor feels like he's travelling on a drakkar, watching all of these mythological stories and epic battle scenes unfold in front of him. It surely has cohesion as a whole effort while much care seems to have been given to the continuity of the songs, meaning that if it weren't for the gaps you wouldn't precisely understand where a song ends and where the next begins.
A special album not to be missed by the fans of the genre. Place it in your stereo, turn it up, and dive into the battlefields! Only one question is not answered yet: what happened to the old good Amoprhis? In the beginning of my review I stressed that the new Amorphis are nice, but I truly wish that we could have more of this. What can I say, those are Amorphis' mysteries! Even Tales from 1000 Lakes isn't like Karelian Isthmus. A one of a kind!