Review Summary: A rough and vigorous start. But you've got to love it for that.
Most bands have a tendency to change their sound over time. Some might do it after a few albums, others take drastic shifts after their debut alone. Oftentimes, said approach is given scornful remarks from those who've listened to the band's first albums and then their subsequent material. Such is the case with a band like Amorphis, a group who initially had a dark doom/melodic death metal sound before taking a more (though only slightly) progressive approach on later albums. While the results of their more recent works might be regarded by some as meager, it's generally agreed they're at least better than what many other bands have come to deliver. In spite of this all-too-debated factor, one thing definitely holds true: Amorphis' debut, The Karelian Isthmus
is a damn-fine album.
The Karelian Isthmus
opens with a dark, brief yet beautiful intro that has a customary calm before the storm type of relation with the album. "The Gathering" doesn't kick things into full blast when "Karelia" fades out, but it gives the listen a good idea of what to expect through the rest of the album. Though Amorphis have generally been considered a band who exhibit a more cold nature to their songs on certain albums, this is an ice age compared to everything else they've done. Only harsh vocals exist on this album, which reinforces the doom influences present. Meanwhile, the instrumental side of the music is low but quick for the sound and tuning brought forth. In short, this is a vigorous album to hear, but this is all the more reason it's so rewarding.
Something that later Amorphis albums began incorporating were studio effects to compliment the style which the band quickly became known for. While those releases have had the said approach work to varying degrees, The Karelian Isthmus
is on a more barren side, by comparison. You're not going to find much more than the band themselves playing here. Although this might be argued as less interesting when described, it's for these reasons that The Karelian Isthmus
is Amorphis' most at-heart album in regards to the darker side of their themes. We might not be getting the softer, more elegant ballad-like pieces present on Silent Waters
, but the nature of the album adds a cold and dark feeling that allows it to feel that much more natural. And thanks to the surprisingly effective pacing of each song, there's seldom a moment to find that drags out or feels mundane. Truly an accomplishment given the style Amorphis provided.
Regardless of how you feel towards the group, Amorphis definitely got off to a great start on their first two albums. And while Tales from the Thousand Lakes
might have brought an ideal balance of what subsequent albums exhibited and The Karelian Isthmus
, the latter definitely flows and sounds much more true to their roots and original aspirations. A lack of songs that truly stand out significantly from the others (in quality) does make finding the best points of recommendation a challenge. However, this level of consistency feels all the more appropriate when on sits down to enjoy the album. Is it the band's best album? Not quite. But this doesn't mean it's in any way far behind.