Amorphis Elegy 1996Amorphis has a special place in the hearts of everyone involved with Angry Metal Guy. In fact, it was the review of 2009’s awesome Skyforger by AMG Himself that got the ball rolling for your favorite group of opinionated miscreants. As for myself, the Finns had a profound personal effect on me as well. They got me to check out the Kalevala when I was a teenager. Their music woke me up to the fact that I can never let my brother ever water his warhorse upon the seashore. But above all, one of their albums also acted as somewhat of a security blanket during a rather tumultuous time in my life. That album was 1996’s epic Elegy, and it just turned 20 years old.

Anyone who grew up listening to Amorphis knows that the band had three different phases. The first, starting from their Disment of Soul demo through breakout album, 1994’s Tales from the Thousand Lakes, was the band’s early doom/death period. The second phase started with Elegy, where the band started shedding its primitive skin to gestate into something special. As soon as the opening sitar of “Better Unborn” weaves its way into your psyche, you begin to fully appreciate the progressive leanings once hinted at with Tales. Esa Holopainen’s melodic guitar runs soared, Tomi Koivuusari’s guttural growls remained clear yet brutal, but it’s the performance by then-new clean vocalist Pasi Koskinen that hooked you in and kept you enthralled. His energetic singing and beautiful vocal patterns were a clear highlight throughout Elegy, and further punctuated just how far this band had grown in such a short time. This was the sound of a band coming of age, embracing their influences, and turning them into magic.

And there is little ill to be said about this album. “Song of the Troubled One” carried the album’s heft, and is the only song on Elegy to not feature Koskinen, but it remains optimistic and beautiful due to Holopainen’s melodies and the keyboard work of Kim Rantala. “On Rich and Poor” contains one of the hookiest melodic riffs in the band’s entire catalog, and is now enjoying life as a live favorite. “The Orphan,” a heart-wrenching ballad, was made more poignant due to Koskinen’s performance before turning hopeful towards its transcendent ending. Once again, the band drew upon the Kanteletar for inspiration, and once again, they capitalized beautifully. The richness of the production on Elegy is also of importance, as this does not sound at all like an album produced at Sunlight Studios, then OR now.

Amorphis Band 1996
But there was one song that always got to me from the time I first heard it. That year, my dad suffered from complications due to years of heavy smoking and not taking care of himself, and required bypass surgery to keep his heart functioning. During that time, I must have played “My Kantele (Acoustic Reprise)” about ten times a day, as it brought me a small level of comfort. It was one of the few songs my dad enjoyed in my collection, and he said it was a favorite up until his passing in the summer of 2008, and it’s easy to see why. The arpeggiated guitar melodies, expert use of accordion, Koskinen’s powerful performance, and that moving sitar at the end made “My Kantele (Acoustic Reprise)” arguably the most endearing song in all of Amorphis‘ catalog.

Elegy would be the band’s benchmark album for quite some time, as they would go from its lofty peaks to some rather unfortunate lows before Koskinen left the band in 2004 to be replaced by current vocal powerhouse, Tomi Joutsen, signalling the third era for AmorphisElegy is also one of the few albums I can safely proclaim as a “desert island” album, as playing it always feels fresh and puts a huge smile on my face. It was, and still is, a remarkable album, and now it’s almost old enough to drink. Happy Birthday, Elegy.

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  • El_Cuervo

    It’s been old enough to drink in most countries for 2 years, oh Grymm.

    • Ah, you youthful Euro-alcoholics….

      • El_Cuervo

        It’s considered a rite of passage to drink cans of Strongbow in a park when you’re 15 here.

        • Here we just go with Night Train, other hobo wines or exceptionally cheap beer.

          • hazukihachi

            In Spain, we do the whole Wine+Coke thing, and I’ve seen less than 15 sadly

          • [not a Dr]

            Around these parts, we used to be able to scribble a “note from our parents”, take it to the convenience store, and buy “them” [Carling Strong] beer.
            Now they ask for fake ID all the time.

          • El_Cuervo

            Carling? Fuck me, your poor destitute childhood.

            I think that’s literally my least favourite beer in the world.

          • The Calgary Nerd.

            Oh dear. If you come to North america you have to try some of the cheap beer. Beer Beer is the worst I have ever had the misfortune of drinking. Colt 45 a close second.

          • Grymm

            American here, and some of the worst I’ve had were PBR, Schlitz, and of course Bud.

          • The Calgary Nerd.

            Ugh. I’ve had Bud. Up here we’ve fortunately got more good beer than bad.

            If you have it down there Try Alexander Keith’s. It’s an IPA so it’s a little stronger but it’s so damn good

          • Grymm

            I love IPAs.

            Funky Buddha Hop Gun, Southern Tier Compass, Intuition Aleworks I-10, and Stone’s Drink By IPAs are all amazing. The hoppier, the better.

          • The Calgary Nerd.

            Next time I’m down in the states I gotta try those. I’m more of a hard liquor kind of guy but when I drink beer it has to be IPA’s. I agree with you hoppier,the better

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Colt 45 is allowed to be legally labeled as beer?

          • [not a Dr]

            What about Wild Cat, Bull Max, Coors Light and Bud Lime? Now I’m depressed and need a drink. A different drink than those. And somewhere else.

          • The Calgary Nerd.

            Bud Lime I had on a dare. NEVER again

          • Monsterth Goatom

            When my wife was a kid in what was then Czechoslovakia, she could take a jug down to the local village pub and get it filled up with Beer for her parents. I don’t think that happens anymore.

            One tradition they haven’t done away with in Czech is Beer on tap at most campgrounds. It might be a restaurant, or just a small, slapped-together hut, but there’s usually always something. You just get off your chair, grab a glass, and walk over to get a fill up.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            My dad used to send me to buy beer for him when I was about 8… No need for any notes or anything, the guys at the liquor store just assumed a kid buying a six pack of beer and a pack of cigarrettes was running errands for his dad.

        • 3L bottles of White Lightning more like. Though they’ve reduced the ABV to 5.5% these days!

          • Dethjesta

            Parks are the best place to drink White Lightning – then, when drunk, you can play on the swings and merry-go-rounds

          • [not a Dr]

            Ironically, at that age, you drink because children’s games and activities have become boring.

    • madhare

      Yeah, having witnessed Finnish teens, the album was getting smashed on cheap white wine (bought by the older brother of a friend, or something) and puking its guts out when it was 14. So it’s been regularly destroying its liver since 2010. (Most likely this is how the band members grew up too.)

  • Dammit, now I’m stuck spinning this thing all day long.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Well, it’s probably about time you took a break from Gloryhammer.

      • You aren’t qualified to make that diagnosis!

        • madhare

          This discussion should have happened between you and [not a Dr]. Would have made the punchline so much better. :D

          • [not a Dr]

            My utterly unqualified prescription would be to listen to tracks from both on shuffle.

      • The Calgary Nerd.

        Truthfully, I can’t stop listening to that damn album. Every 3 days I have to listen to it. It’s so fucking good.

  • Genezer

    Damn, now I have to get up from my chair, turn off blues god Stevie Ray Vaughan and put on this Finnish master piece!

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Soooo good

  • Dethjesta

    Great write up Grymm, My Kantele is a wondrous song and I feel better in it’s acoustic form.

    Elegy is, to this day, one of my three or four favourite albums of all time. It’s also probably the first album that alerted my to all the amazing Metal coming from Scandinavia.

    An album definitely worthy of high praise.

  • Hammersmith

    I always considered Tales from the Thousand Lakes to be their pinnacle. And then Skyforger came out, and I was conflicted. I have this album somewhere, but haven’t listened to it in well over a decade. Perhaps I should give it another shot.

    • jageorge72

      I have both Thousand Lakes and Skyforger….. both are great, but Elegy is even better. I would say the other two are a little more immediate, but there is a trippiness and depth about Elegy that just sucks you in, and keeps you coming back year after year.

  • RuySan

    While the Joutsen era is still filled with great albums, the band lost the unpredictability they once had. Tales, Elegy and Tuonela is one of the best streaks of any band ever, and while sounding distinctive of each other, they still carry the same vibe and gravitas.

    • Aleksandar Živanov

      I’m so glad that I am not the only one thinking the exact same thing. I must also say that, IMO, Amorphis had bigger balls back then when writing the legendary Elegy and then Tuonela (my favorite one) which was totally avant-garde for that time…and still is.

  • Wilhelm

    I remember when this came out; I was following the band on the heights of their Tales album and was flabbergasted by the switch in sound and style. I guess it’s not as weird and shocking today, but given that the band was formerly an obscure doom/death band, and they were now doing proper clean vocals, inserting prog rock, odd timings, and traditional instruments/melodies in their sound, it took the metal world by storm. I remember picking up a Metal Maniacs issue with them on the cover with the title of (I think) “What Is Amorphis?”

    After repeated listens, I ended up loving Elegy – the album was fresh, daring, and original and still is today. Recent Amorphis albums are highly predictable and with every release I wish they could capture some magic they had conjured with this album.

  • The Calgary Nerd.

    My Kantele and On Rich and Poor are in my top 10 Amorphis songs. This is a fantastic album from beginning to end. Great retrospective Grymm

  • Brother Ben

    I found this album at a half price book store for like 8 bucks American, and while I was familiar with Amorphis, I knew nothing from this album. I almost didn’t buy because the band photo on the back screamed “90’s Metal Weirdness.” Luckily I did! Excellent review Grymm. By the way, every time I read your name, it is spoken in my head in the voice of Abbath, which is not a bad thing

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      The upvote goes for that Abbath voice bit..

  • Chris Timbó

    There is much to love in this album. I bought it a long long time ago (maybe a year after the release in Brazil), and it was one of the odd records in my collection, resting between Angra’s Angels Cry and Alice Cooper’s Hey Stoopid. What a trip!

    Need to re-listen one of these days. My copy come with My Kantele EP as a bonus, and I love their take on Hawkwind’s Levitation…

    Cheers everyone!

  • Chigo

    Awesome review, Grymm. It really captures how we can have a genuine relationship with a piece of music. I think of some of the albums in my collection almost in terms similar to how I think of friends and family members; they have been there with me through a lot, and I have a real, emotional connection with them. It’s interesting to see how those relationships change and evolve over the course of six months, 20 years, etc. Thanks for sharing. Sorry about your dad.

    • Grymm

      Thank you for the kind words. It was a progressive, steady decline over 12 years, and he died relatively young (69).

      As for albums and their connections in our lives, I may be working on a piece on that soon for AMG. Stay tuned.

      • Chigo

        No problem. I’ll look forward to that piece.

  • Love this album. I can remember MTV Headbangers Ball always playing Against Widows and me thinking this singer was a bit strange with his Life Of Agony shirt.

  • Refined-Iron Cranium

    Few albums have gripped me from the first listen than Elegy has. From the folky intro of Better Unborn to the beautiful acoustic My Kantele, it’s impossible to not listen to the whole album in one go. While my love for Tales of the Thousand Lakes has little competition, Elegy stands side-by-side it as one of this bands best works.
    I’m glad you brought up the production, because it sounds AMAZING. Clear, spacious, punchy and still atmospheric. I absolutely love it.

    This was a great write-up and a reminder that I need to give it another (read: many) spin.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    This is the first Amorphis album I ever heard and I still consider it to be their best… I bought it because of the cover. 20 years later I consider it one of the Best Metal abums ever, a timelesss classic. This album together with “Down” by Sentenced were the first albums I heard from Finnish bands and to this day both bands (and both albums and both bands’ discographies) are still a great reason why I consider Finland to be one of the countries producing the best Metal.

    • Jm from nj

      I’m pretty much with you on all of this (except change “down” to “frozen” by Sentenced).

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Frozen is awesome too! I listened to it as soon as it came out, by which time I had already listened to a lot of “Down” and was already convinced to check ANY Metal album coming out of Finland.
        And regarding “Frozen”… “For the Love I Bear” is likely the only song ever to feature a burp as a linchpin to the song structure.

  • Jm from nj

    I’m pretty sure the guitar solo in the title track makes me cry every time i hear it. My favorite song on a stellar album.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    About the song “Cares”… It is always Exhibit A when I decide to convince someone that Metal musicians play Metal because that is what they like and they could play any other genre they want to play.

  • jageorge72

    Still have this on cassette. One of my all-time favorite albums.

  • OzanCan

    My Kantele is my favorite in this album too, very special in a very special way. I am sorry about your loss Grymm, thanks for writing & sharing
    m/

  • Jani Toivola

    Nice to see that our revered national treasure gets the attention it deserves outside Finland. I also grew up listening Amorphis and regulary go to see them live, as they tour a lot in their home country. Every time they release an album it will take number one spot at charts, but that is not so strange thing up here north as right now number one spot is being held by Moonsorrow :D

  • Shangsean

    I just never got into these guys. I remember when this came out and I didn’t care for it. Having now listened to it again, I just find everything about it to be dull. The songwriting, the vocals, the guitar work. I don’t mean to say they can’t play, it’s just really flat.

  • Danny Becker

    Its belly out of hard days

    Its soundboard from endless woes

    Its strings gathered from torments

    And its pegs from other ills

    Truly they lie, they talk utter nonsense

    • Grymm

      To this very day, that chorus hits me in the heart hard.

  • c210344

    Gah, an absolute classic. Everything about this record is perfect (but I still prefer Tales and Am Universum over it!) It’s a shame you didn’t cover Tales in 2014, maybe we’ll have to wait until it is 1/4 of a century old in 3 years ;)