Amorphis // Forging the Land of Thousand Lakes
Rating: 4.5/5.0 —The first time I’ve ever recommended a DVD
Label: Nuclear Blast (EU | US)
Websites: amorphis.net | myspace.com/amorphis
Release Dates: EU: 09.07.2010 | US: 07.13.2010

Amorphis is a band that needs no introduction, particularly if you’ve been reading this zine for more than a few weeks. When Skyforger came out in 2009, I was fortunate enough to be able to catch it on MySpace at the time and put up a review of it on this site: it was actually one of the first things that started increasing traffic to this site. At the time that I wrote the review I was particularly laudatory of the band’s new material. Despite the wave against them because they never re-wrote The Karelian Isthmus or Tales from the Thousand Lakes again, I have been nothing but enchanted by the last three albums. They are, for lack of a better word, genius. Modern, melodic metal done with class and style, Eclipse, Silent Waters and Skyforger are three of the best album from the 2000s and have re-established the legacy of a band that has seemed to have lost its way at times.

But that’s the modern band: Amorphis is celebrating their 20 years as a band with this DVD (and live CD if I’m not mistaken) Forging the Land of Thousand Lakes. The DVD is an assemblage of two shows, some fantastic extras, including all of the band’s promo videos all the way back to “Black Winter Day” from Tales from the Thousand Lakes and a live performance of “My Kantele” and an interview on Finnish TV (with a particularly “hip” looking girl wearing a 311 shirt.. Oh 1996.. haha). There’s also a photo album, but since I’m not actually a 14 year old girl who’s in love with the band, I didn’t actually look at that. I’m assuming the pictures are flattering, however. Finally there’s an hour long documentary on the history of Amorphis that was particularly well-done and enjoyable, though I’ll get to that a bit later.

The shows are probably the place to start as they are the focus of the DVD, in reality.  The first disc is a show from Oulu, Finland and is the longer of the two set-lists included on the DVD. And this video is basically living proof of what I had already known: Tomi Joutsen is the perfect front man for Amorphis. Seriously, watching this DVD just reinforced this over and over again as he bounded around the stage, performed his vocal parts with energy, power and finesse and was an engaging individual to watch. Not only is he a great front man, but his voice acts as bridge between all the various eras of the band’s history: perfectly performing material from Tales from the Thousand Lakes, Elegy, Tuonela, Am Universum and all the new material. In fact, when performed by him on stage, a lot of that material doesn’t really sound like it should form disparate eras, instead it sounds like one cohesive band with a wide variety of influences and some great songwriting, as it should be. As Tomi Koivusaari puts it in the documentary, “Now, with Tomi aboard I’ve never felt more satisfied with the band. It felt like everything clicked.”

Of course, the rest of the band isn’t bad either. Niclas Etelävuori, the bassist, is probably the other most active guy on stage, however. Both Esa and Tomi (guitars) are pretty much lumps on a log most of the time, but fortunately for them Tomi Joutsen really picks up the slack for them. The setlists help pick up some of that slack, as well, spanning all eras and playing some great songs. Though I’d like to express my distaste for medleys (specifically the Elegy medley and the combination of “Magic and Mayhem” and “Black Winter Day” into a medley-like track), the setlist is all-in-all pleasing the fan of later Amorphis and even sneaks in “Sign from the Northside” in order to get the obligatory “career spanning” sticker for the DVD. In some ways the setlist form the Summer Breeze show on the second DVD is better because it lacks medleys, but it’s also not as broad as the Oulu show.

However, in some ways the highlight for me was actually the documentary about the history of the band documenting the band’s history and unlikely longevity (also, their propensity for drawing penises on each other’s faces while members of the band are asleep). It was fascinating for me as a fan to see how the band actually perceives their own “eclectic” career and explains the development of band through what I really see as three eras: the early days through Elegy, the rock years through Far from the Sun and the modern era: which I think overall is their best (though I certainly don’t take away from the early period at all as I love those records, too). For fans, metal history nerds and people trying to learn Finnish this documentary is about as good as I’ve seen outside of Iron Maiden‘s band history DVDs.

I should probably say something profound at the end of this (wordy as fuck) review, but I think I’ll leave it to the thoughtful (and Boromir lookalike) Esa Holopainen (guitarist and founding member) to really sum up Amorphis‘ career: “Who would have believed, back in the day, that we could get as big as we did playing such eccentric music.” Here it is 20 years later and in spite of all the weirdness, German fans protesting over Tuonela and line-up changes, Amorphis is on top of their game, producing their best music and capturing a new fanbase. Few bands have ever had the longevity and, dare I say, renaissance that Amorphis has had and I hope they have a lot more where this comes from.

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  • http://highplains-drifter.blogspot.com/ Carl

    Top review — I haven’t seen the DVDs yet (hard to get, way down my way in South America!), but I agree 100% with your observations regarding Eclipse, Silent Waters, Skyforger, and Tomi Joutsen’s revitalizing role in the band. For many years, Elegy was my top Amorphis album (even more than Lakes) — and really one of my top albums by anyone — but very much to my surprise, I think the last 3 are jostling to displace it. When I do (someday) see the DVDs, I suspect I will agree with your observations regarding medleys (I recall an interview with the mighty Lemmy where he offered some choice observations regarding performing medleys; I don’t remember exactly what they were, but they weren’t positive!).

    But anyway: cool. :)

  • http://highplains-drifter.blogspot.com/ Carl

    OK, having now seen some bits of “fell off the back of an ISP” clips from this DVD (hey, it’s not like legit shops are actually carrying this down where I live, nor like you can just order it from yer friendly local online megastore!), not only is Tomi Joutsen as vox playing a key role, but credit must also go to Jan Rechberger on drums for providing a sonic foundation both solid an dynamic. (Those out there who’s played in band will know the difference a solid drummer makes!) And though you don’t really notice more in recent writing credits than in the video, keyboardist Santeri Kallio (who, obviously, can’t really jump around on stage) is likewise bring a lot of the table. So a great band effort, these songs, and the performances on this video. Now I just need to find a decent legit copy to see the whole deal properly!