Amorphis – Elegy (1996)
Speaking of bands returning to their apparent influences… here we see a foundational Finnish death metal band tossing the death metal, although you could argue that this album’s predecessor (Tales From the Thousand Lakes) did more to push the band away from its initial sound. Openly psychedelic/progressive rock where death growls fight a vocalist who wouldn’t be out of place in Seattle a few years before this album’s release. You might be getting the idea from my occasional discussion of this type of work that these fusions aren’t innately bad, and I don’t blame you.
Elegy does, interestingly, retain much of the morose and sullen side that almost certainly informed the Amorphis that was once death metal. I don’t know how much of this is due to the band’s main gimmick of sourcing their lyrics from the Kalevala and/or Kanteletar (more the latter here), but don’t look at me like that! I’m not intimately familiar with every work of folklore and literature in the world. I can say that it does fit with the darker themes of many popular ’90s rock and metal bands, because that was totally a unified movement coordinated by every single band who cracked the Billboard and/or the Official Finnish Charts.
Either way, the music more than contributes to this atmosphere, at least when it’s not aiming to make rock anthems. Elegy has a thick, dense production that drenches even its more accessible moments in a sludgey, psychedelic haze. To put it in a more opinionated fashion, it just sounds good; specifically in a way highly reminiscent of ’60s/’70s rock. Similarly to previously reviewed Agalloch, one of this band’s strengths is that they freely incorporate various strains of that era of rock into their own mix and the ensuing mix works nicely. I’m particularly drawn to the analog synthesizer and organ sounds that ornament many of these tracks. However, Elegy leans a LOT closer to those influences to the point that the only reliable trace of death metal is in the harsher vocals. Some metallic ideas remain at points, particularly in songs like “On Rich and Poor” with their more rapid and prominent guitar leads, and the dynamic range of the band occasionally heads into the more epic territory I’d associate with the genre. Otherwise, though, this is really more of a rock album than a metal album.
I’d be beating a dead horse if I kept harping on about the rockisms here. Even then, Elegy is a very good rock album, and should reward you with entertainment far beyond its length as long as you accept the genre Amorphis has chosen to perform in. Keep in mind that I find straight up rock music harder to criticize since I have overall less experience with it than metal…
Highlights: “Against Widows”, “The Orphan”, “My Kantele”, “Elegy”