Crash Course In Amorphis
Posted by Mark/Angel
It seems that in my experience of showing people the following band, most people have heard the name but are not overly familiar with their albums. This is fairly understandable given the width and breadth which their discography covers, so I intend to provide a crash course into the band’s various styles, for your education and entertainment. Amorphis (taken from the word amorphous, meaning shapeless) have shifted their sound a surprising amount since their formation in 1990, taking elements of melodic death metal, doom-death, folk metal, and some psychedelic influences. I intend to take you as the reader on a journey through their albums, but for the sake of brevity I will divide their career into four eras.
The genesis of this band came out after the demise of two metal bands in Finland: Abhorrence (death) and Violent Solution (thrash). Guitarist Tomi Koivusaari formed Amorphis from the ashes of these bands, and the band soon had two demos and an album to their name. The style was rough and doom-like death metal with guttural vocals from Tomi, and introduced another important element of Amorphis’ sound: their inspiration from the Kalevala, Finland’s national epic poem (which I have yet to finish reading, but is worth a read). Here is an example of the music from this period, taken from The Karelian Isthmus, entitled “The Pilgrimage”.
This rough-n’-ready style of death metal was, however, not to last, and in ’94 Amorphis unleashed Tales From The Thousand Lakes, including some melodic doom moments and the addition of clean vocals from guest Ville Tuomi. This album is heralded as a landmark in the melodic death metal genre, providing inspiration for countless bands. This melodic touch was extended even further on Elegy (my personal favorite of the older period), which added more a prominent keyboard/synth role and some psychedelic feel, along with the permanent addition of vocalist Pasi Koskinen. An example of the marriage between melody and death metal can be seen in the live classic “Black Winter Day” from Tales…, enjoy.
Pasi’s entrance into the band marked a departure in the band’s sound, and alienated many of the band’s original fans over the release of the following three albums. Amorphis began to play a kind of folk-inspired melodic metal, almost devoid of extreme influences, instead seeing a broadening of instrumental horizons including sitars, saxophones and flutes. Tuonela, Am Universum and Far From The Sun remain my least-acquainted albums, although those who are not a fan of the heavier side would do well to listen to the following track “Alone” from Am Universum, Amorphis’ most psychedelic album to date:
After the release of Far From The Sun (in my opinion Amorphis’ weakest), long-time vocalist Pasi departed after 9 years in the band. Stepping in his place was Tomi Joutsen (of Sinisthra fame), who urged the band to incorporate both their recent melodic style and extreme past together, re-introducing growls on his début Eclipse, which my first experience with the band. In my opinion, Joutsen has given the band the necessary kick back to making top quality music. I can select pretty much any track from Eclipse, Silent Waters, Skyforger (my favorite album) or their latest The Beginning Of Times and know that it will be kickass, either in his growls or singing, and catchy besides. Case in point, take a listen to “The Smoke”, my first love affair from Eclipse:
Now, Amorphis have struck a balance between writing songs which fit together stylistically but don’t fall into the rut of being formulaic. I see it as a compliment to the band that, looking back over the 22 years together, the band’s name turned out to be true to their musical style: fluid and changing. Whether unleashing evil-sounding death metal such as “Exile Of The Sons Of Uisliu” or tender ballads such as “Her Alone”, Amorphis have managed to incorporate it all into their style in a way very few bands have successfully accomplished. And now, as if to explain this point succinctly, but more to put a smile upon all your grim metal faces. No introduction should be necessary.