Review Summary: The start of Amorphis' long and varied career. Unfortunately, it wasn't a good start and doesn't nearly reflect the quality and thought of most of Amorphis' later work.
For those that are unaware of Amorphis and their past I’ll start with a short history. Amorphis started out as an average death metal band that cycled between fast sections and slower doom sections. By their third release, Tales From the Thousand Lakes
, they had shed the speedy death metal parts that were occasionally used before, and stuck with the slow doom metal that made up the other part of their albums. By their fifth album, Tuonela
, they had shed all the death metal and doom influences and were playing rock music with some 70’s prog influence. As of 2007 they have gone back to their roots a little bit, playing more metal-oriented songs and they also brought back the occasional death metal growl.
Moving on to the album at hand, Privilege of Evil
was the first release by Amorphis and took the form of a six song EP. One of the main problems with this album is the production. The guitar sound is thin and far too trebly. Due to this fact it makes it hard to listen to it at high volumes or with headphones. Another problem is that the bass guitar is almost non-existent and even when it does become audible it’s just about as trebly as the guitars. Those two things combined leads to an album with almost no bottom end at all, making it sound far too thin. The main source of any kind of lower end on the album comes from the bass drums which have a deep sound but still kind of hit with a dull thud. The same thing could be said about the drum sound in general - they just have a dull, hollow sound to them.
The music itself is your average death/doom offering with very little in the way of surprises or originality. The guitars cycle between fast, black metalish riffs and slow doom riffs, never really changing in tone or coming across in any kind of memorable fashion. Which leads to another issue with this EP; all of the songs just seem to blend together without much to differentiate themselves. It almost feels like the same slow riff, moving into the same fast riff, moving back to the same slow riff for six songs. The only minor flourish added to the songs is the very occasional use of a keyboard sound or two, which does help a little, if only because it slightly breaks up the monotonous music. The vocals are the typical deep growl associated with this genre of music and are another source of monotony as they maintain the same pitch and volume throughout. I do know that it’s possible for death metal vocalists to add pitch and inflection to their vocals, this vocalist does it on their next three albums just fine; it’s only this album that he hasn’t quite grasped that concept yet.
This EP is definitely not one that I would recommend to anyone that is looking for a good death/doom album. The music is average at best, and is made worse by way of the horribly thin production. Also, three of the six songs can be found on their first full length, The Karelian Isthmus
, with a better sound, better vocals, and also slightly re-worked. The only reason anyone might want to get this album is if you’re like me and just want to complete your collection or if you’re curious about how they started out. Otherwise, I’d recommend Tales From the Thousand Lakes
or even Elegy
as a good place to start checking out Amorphis' doom/death side.