Amorphis // Magic & Mayhem: Tales from the Early Years
Rating: 3.5/5.0 —Warning: score may be result of flagrant fanboyism.
Label: Nuclear Blast [EU | US]
Websites: amorphis.net | myspace.com/amorphis
Release Dates: EU: 17.09.2010 | US: TBA

Legal Disclaimer: Long time readers of the mighty AMG may have noticed that Mr. AMG is a shameless Amorphis fanboy.  While his epic fanboyism runs to their newer material, I myself am an unapologetic fanboy for their older material, especially their first three albums, which I hold in extremely high regard. Therefore, my review of Magic & Mayhem, an album of re-recordings from those very albums, is subject to some serious fanboy bias and perhaps AMG should have handled this himself to insure a more objective (yet still fanboyish) viewpoint. Now that I satisfied those eggheads in the AMG legal department by disclosing said bias, we can proceed with the freaking review! [Whatevs, we’re good with fanboyism so long as I agree with it. – AMG]

Magic & Mayhem, sees Amorphis throwing their collective hat into the current trend of re-recording older material with modern line-ups and modern production tools and tricks. For the most part this trend has left me cold and I didn’t like the results at all when Exodus and Destruction tried it. Therefore, I was less than thrilled upon learning that Amorphis was going to perform an update to the sacred material off The Karelian Isthmus, Tales from the Thousand Lakes and Elegy. However, because it’s Amorphis, this turned out to be cool, interesting and enjoyable even though nothing here can hold a candle to the original versions.

For those not in the know, Amorphis recruited new singer Tomi Joutsen for 2005’s Eclipse album and thereafter experienced a creative rebirth of sorts, churning out three top-notch albums in a row and proving themselves one of the most original and enjoyable metal bands out there (Warning: obvious fanboyism). Although modern Amorphis is a very fluid, progressive metal band, the early material was much more doom/death oriented with the first three albums being much heavier in nature. Hearing the current line-up tackle the earlier, more brutal material with today’s sound is definitely a trip and I suppose it gives a good idea what they sound like covering this stuff live.

Thankfully, Amorphis manages to avoid the temptation to totally rework the older songs and they laregely remain faithful to the originals, although the vastly different production and modern style alters the mood of the songs anyway. For example, the upfront use of Hammond organs on tracks like “Into Hiding,” really alters the overall vibe of that song. Likewise, subtle tweaks on “Black Winter Day” really makes it feel like a different song, not bad, just different. With the two tracks from The Karelian Isthmus, the originals undergo more extensive updating and overhaul, as does “Vulgar Necrolatry,” a very old demo track.

So what is the value of this re-recording of old tunes and is it worth your cash? Well, for newer Amorphis fans, this is a great primer on where the band came from and what their early influences were. For long time fans, it’s surely interesting to hear Tomi perform all these old death/doom classics and he does a pretty respectable job handling the death metal vocals on most of the tracks. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is essential for every Amorphis fan, since these versions are not as powerful as the originals (Warning: blatant fanboyism), and overall this seems more a novelty/curiosity album (especially the regrettable choice of including a cover of “Light My Fireâ”). I enjoyed this because I love everything Amorphis does and I think its well worth a listen, but I’ll never choose this over those classic originals.