Amorphis – Magic and Mayhem (Tales from the Early Years)

File:Amorphis - Magic & Mayhem.jpg 2010 Nuclear Blast

I remember in high school and college talking with my bro Dr. Peto about how cool it would be if Iron Maiden went back and re-recorded their self-titled debut and Killers with Bruce Dickinson on vocals. Of course that never happened but man would it have been cool.

One of my absolute favorite bands is Finnish band Amorphis, and they just seem to get better and better with age. Further proof of this, as if 2009’s Skyforger wasn’t enough, is their new/old CD Magic and Mayhem – Tales From the Early Years.  New/old because they’ve re-recorded material from their early years…namely from The Karelian IsthmusElegy.   Some purists may scoff at me saying this, but everything is the better for it.

That’s not to slag the original recordings because they were excellent for sure, but there’s no denying the band sounds truly better than they ever have and the old material sounds better with Tomi Joutsen’s vocals. He is an absolute one-of-a-kind vocalist and the best thing that ever happened to this band.

Black Winter Day” was the song that initially made me a fan of Amorphis back in 1993, and I’m still in awe of how superior this re-recording is both production-wise and because of the inhuman vocal performance of Tomi Joutsen.  His deliberate and powerful roar is balanced by an equally powerful melodic voice that will have you shaking your head at the fact that both are from the same singer.

Their tongue-in-cheek cover of The Doors’ classic “Light My Fire” was a cool novelty when they originally recorded it during the “Tales From The Thousand Lakes” sessions, but it’s even better here and comes across as less of a mere novelty and more of an honest re-working of it in frightening Amorphis style.

In all, there are 3 remakes from The Karelian Isthmus, 5 from the classic Tales From the Thousand Lakes, 4 from Elegy and the aforementioned Doors cover as a bonus track (the original version is from the Black Winter Day EP).  Every single track is an improvement on the original.  Again, that’s not to slag the originals…it’s just that a once really good band is now great.

Highlights for me are Drowned MaidExile of the Sons of Uisliu, Sign From the North Side and the absolutely stunning reworking of My Kantele, which hypnotizes me the same way The Tea Party’s “Sister Awake” does.  I’ll stop right now before this gets any more ridiculous than it already is, because there’s no other band that consistently leaves me awestruck like Amorphis.  I honestly can’t believe what they have accomplished here.

Raging CD cover art, too…especially when you know the story behind the giant pike fish, as told on the song “Majestic Beast” from last year’s Skyforger CD.

Rating:  5 out of 5


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