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.

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  • http://www.clivemurray.com/ Clive

    So the text of this review appears to indicate it’s not written by Mr. AMG himself, but I can find nowhere on the page any indication of who it *is* written by!

    Byline FTW? :-)

    –c.

    • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

      Look right under the title. It says “Steel Druhm”.

  • Steel Druhm

    That would be me Clive. The reviews I handle for AMG have “Steel Druhm” under the title.

  • Rodion

    I never really appreciated Amorphis before. But with Magic and Mayhem I decided to invest my time and I was really amazed. So, although, I guess for a fan like you this wasn’t really anything special, a neophyte like myself really enjoyed it and now I’m ready to revisit their previous work.

  • http://thatdevilmusic.blogspot.com Rob Liz

    I really need to check this out. I love Tomi era and enjoyed ‘Lakes’. I wasn’t much of a fan of Pasi era stuff except for maybe Elegy. I too am not a big fan of redo’s but I just might check this out to see what Tomi does with the songs.

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

    Although also a long-time Amorphis fanboy, with regards to the the issue of “avoid[ing] the temptation to totally rework the older songs”, I kind of wish they had in fact succumbed to that temptation. After all, if I want to hear the originals, I have them — and anyone else can buy them. Sure, wildly rearranging the old material could have resulted in disaster — but, then again, the current band is pretty good at what they do, and it might have been interesting to hear a slightly more adventurous and risky take on things. Still, I’d agree that what I’ve been able to hear of the album is pretty solid; perhaps interesting for newer fans, perhaps not essential for older fans … but essential for fanboys, of course! :)

  • Steel Druhm

    Carl,

    I can’t fault what you say about trying something new. I guess I’m just very closed minded about the old Amorphis stuff since it seems so damn near perfect to me. Can’t argue this album may be essential for fanboys either! :)

  • http://www.last.fm/user/opeth027 Kyle

    I consider myself I huge Amorphis fanboy as well, so I’ll definitely have to give this a listen! From what I’ve heard of the older songs played live on the ‘Forging…’ DVD, I think this should be pretty good!

  • http://www.thesonicabyss.com MooseJuice

    Just wanted to add my two cents to your “fanboyism” for Amorphis, a band wholly deserving of it. I’m an Amorphis fanboy myself and proud of it. I’ve been a fan ever since I heard Tales From the Thousand Lakes back in my radio days, and it amazes me that they could create an album like Skyforger nearly 20 years into their career. The idea of them re-recording older material with Tomi Joutsen just has me stoked. Rock on, my friend.

  • Steel Druhm

    Nice to hear from other flagrant fanboys! I first heard Tales from the Thousand Lakes back in 93′ and was totally blow away. I think I have played that CD more than any other since then.

  • mahon451

    I actually like most of what I’ve heard of the reworked versions as much or better than the originals, and this is coming from a fan who has been hard for Amorphis since “Tales”. My only question is this- where are Tomi K’s vocals? Because most of what I’m hearing of the death growls sounds like Mr. Joutsen…

    • http://loudbadguitar.blogspot.com nous

      Koivusaari trades vocals with Joutsen on both Vulgar Necrolatry and Drowned Maid. Listen carefully and you can hear the tradeoff happen. Tomi J’s growls are a little higher in register and more resonant because they come from his chest. Tomi K’s growls are lower, throatier, and more hollow sounding:

      J- Waters of the sea
      K- So much blood of mine
      J- Fishes of the sea
      K- So much flesh of mine etc.

      Pretty even handed review, even with the blatant fanboyism, but then who can blame you for that?

  • Steel Druhm

    Mahon,

    I think all the death vox are from Mr. Jouten though I could be wrong. Seems like letting Tomi K doing some of the older songs would make sense but as far as I can tell, he didn’t on these tracks.

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