Amorphis has always been a band to live up to their name. Not since their early self titled 7″ in 1991 has their sound failed to progress, keeping them always one step ahead of their death metal peers. While their early material was not much different or better than most other brutal death metal bands, in the early 90’s, their subsequent releases, The Karelian Isthmus and Tales From the Thousand Lakes , began to dabble into epic structures, folk melodies, lyrics derived from ancient Finnish folklore, and contrasting vocals. Their 1996 release, Elegy , was a true metal masterpiece, and one of the best releases for that year. Psychedelic keyboards and a new vocalist brought in for the “clean” parts brought them into their prime. Elegy was one of those albums you had to listen to beginning to end, not a single track deserved to be skipped over.
Now, I know that they had to progress from their last disc to this one, but Tuonela seems more of a regression than anything. When I heard that guitarist Tomi Koivusaari would not be performing any vocals, I didn’t realize the dire consequences it would have. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not the kind of person to disown a band just because they stop doing the death-grunt thing; hell, I even like Sentenced’s and the Gathering’s new material! But the contrast between vocalists was one of the most important parts of Amorphis’s sound on Elegy . In fact, if you cut all the heavy bits out of Elegy , you pretty much end up with Tuonela . Gone too are the epic structuring, most songs go the typical verse-chorus-verse structure. Sounds very radio friendly, in fact. And no longer are the lyrics derived from classic tales, but now are written by vocalist Pasi Koskinen. Only the track “Greed” (the only with death metal vocals) sounds like a true Amorphis song, but yet, the contrast in that song still isn’t as powerful as anything on Elegy . Old school Amorphis fans will be VERY disappointed, but maybe some fans of Elegy or the My Kantele EP will stay on deck. Me, I’ll just try to jump boat and drown before this once incredible band finds a way to let me down again.