Yeah, sure, technically atmospheric death metal isn’t a real genre, just a made up classification for albums like Amorphis’ second full-length album Tales From The Thousand Lakes
. Technically, this album is a hybrid of progressive death metal and melodic death metal, incorporating the non-traditional song structures of progressive death with the sugar-coated riffs and synth melodies of melodic death metal. However, the two clash in a middle ground where Amorphis’ earlier, more straightforward death metal sound shines through. Throughout the album, an amalgam of nearly every sub-genre of death metal is thrown into a stock pot and melted together until buttery smooth. It’s true, though, that Tales From The Thousand Lakes
is an undeniably great album, with each track sounding distinct and unique, yet holding the same thick atmosphere which the album sets from the very beginning. It is, for lack of a more descriptive term, a very smooth death metal album.
The entire running time of Tales From The Thousand Lakes
is awash with the staples which made melodic death metal shotgun toward the forefront of the Scandinavian metal scene. There are harmonized leads aplenty, guitar solos incorporating both your shredding and
your wailing. There are majestic keyboards which, aside from a few select moments, work absolutely wonderfully with the rest of the band, and simply feel like they belong. Tracks like the renowned “Black Winter Day” showcase exactly what this album is all about. The opening synth melody is quite simply one the best ones ever written, it is the definitive piece which describes Tales From The Thousand Lakes
as a whole, as well as Finnish metal. It is a song which makes the listener feel as if they too are in the land of the thousand lakes, a feeling quite unlike anything before or since. Yes, considering keyboardist Kasper Martenson wrote many of the songs on the album, the keyboards may seem a bit overbearing, perhaps purposely put right in your face by Kaspar when he wrote the songs, but for the most part everything works in harmony to create a single cohesive lineup of songs which are not only downright heavy and brutal at times, but also a treat for the ears when the melodies decide to shine through.
Complimenting the music are the solid vocals laid down by vocalist Tomi Koivusaari. Tales From The Thousand Lakes
is the last Amorphis album where the majority of the vocals are growled, which is a shame considering that the screams suited the music so well. Yes, the growls are a bit one-dimensional, and pitch variance isn’t something the band was too concerned about, and the clean vocals really aren’t the best and don’t compliment the music as well as they could have, but it doesn’t really matter because of how well the deep, throaty growls of Koivusaari fit the dark, depressive atmosphere of the album. It’s no wonder why everyone tends to label this album as atmospheric death metal, because above all else, when all is said and done the listener tends to remember the mood of the album, and how distinct and thick it was. Partly due to impressive musicianship and partly due to brilliant songwriting, it is really hard to let yourself not want to give Tales From The Thousand Lakes
another spin, just so you can be back, sucked right back in to the album.
The riffs vary from undeniably Scandinavian (“Into Hiding”, “Black Winter Day”, “Drowned Maid”) to even having a hint of middle-eastern influence (“The Castaway”), and the pace varies as well. The tempo is always, always changing during the course of the album. There are moments where the picking of the guitars is unrelentingly fast, yet there are times when the album feels almost doomy, very slow and deliberate. Aside from the slightly dragging intro, every song on this album has something to offer to fans of all genres of metal.
There’s the melody, the brutality, the grandeur, and the talent that it takes to create a truly lasting album inside of Tales From The Thousand Lakes
. It is to many, including myself, the crown jewel of Amorphis’ career, and one of the definitive metal albums from the 1990’s. The band just can’t top something like this, because there is so precious little to improve upon. It is an album which is instantly likeable on the first listen, and holds the lasting power for audiences to still actively want to listen to the album almost a decade and a half later.