Once one looks back at the 90’s, it’s easy to identify certain patterns that were part of the (at the time, at least) uncertain decade. While plenty of bands started out as their most extreme, they would quickly move on with the times; sometimes doing so until they found their trademark sound. In Amorphis’ case, I can’t help but think of a band that waved goodbye to their death metal roots way too early. The transitional Tales from the Thousand Lakes isn’t quite a classic – let alone enjoyable to me, but does feature some comical value at least. Elegy is quite something else; a mess of an album that only makes me wonder what these Finns were thinking.
Elegy may feature many ideas, but this has to be one of the most confusing albums that I can think of. Calling it progressive rock or metal isn’t really saying much; you’ve got the prominent folky flavor that Amorphis introduced earlier (if you thought that the hilarious leads of Tales from the Thousand Lakes were pretentious, you’ll have a worse time here), plenty of thoughtless guitar noodling and flat chugging riffs and I suppose some more hooks to keep one’s attention and yet, nothing really matches. More often, the guitars sound so lifeless that they make the ‘heavier’ parts of the record sound brilliant in comparison; by the time that you’ll encounter the Maiden-gone-to-waste take of ‘On Rich and Poor’, Elegy doesn’t seem too much of a disaster anymore. Sure, it’s an ‘exotic’ and sweetened example of melodic death metal that’s ear candy at best, but since the clean vocals are kept to a minimum and the guitars are doing something slightly more interesting, it’s better than most of the songs on the record.
It’s obvious that Amorphis were trying to distance themselves from their earlier self at this point, but I find it amusing that the death metal growls remain present, because they’re hardly appropriate in this context to begin with. My guess is that they didn’t want to disappoint Tomi Koivusaari by cutting him off completely and therefore allowed him to bark in between Pasi’s awful croons. Whereas the clean vocals on Tales from the Thousand Lakes were limited, they’re one of the key ingredients of Elegy and if you can tolerate these with no issue whatsoever, you must be one brave weirdo. Pasi Koskinen reminds me of other nasal abominations who should have never been near a microphone to begin with (think of Niels Duffhues on The Gathering’s Always a Dance and that gothic guy of later-period Sentenced) and with a limited vocal range, this guy even makes Nick Holmes sound like Matt Barlow in comparison. In other words; hearing Pasi sing is the equivalent of watching a one legged smoke addict trying to run a marathon; it’s fun to a certain degree, but just pathetic when you think about it. Even the half-decent moments like ‘The Orphan’ and the title track seem to be decent chilling ballads for a while, but once Pasi decides to open his mouth, there’s no way that I can deal with these tracks anymore.
Even when there are no vocals in sight, you can be assured that the band makes a mess out of things. ‘Relief’ tries to rock your socks off and while it may seem slightly less irritating than the majority of these ‘serious’ songs, I’ve heard ballads that rock harder than this bore of a tune. Here’s an idea: next time you write an instrumental, having a talented guitarist who’s capable of creating magic may help, because, again, what’s the point of all these annoying guitar licks that have been introduced earlier during the record already? At the same time, no musical ideas seem to be too weird for Amorphis at this point. ‘Cares’ starts with some old been-there-done-that chug / pseudo-exotic lead combination… but quickly becomes disrupted by a DJ beat! Just when I thought that these clowns couldn’t come up with something more embarrassing, they manage to reach a new low. Delightful, isn’t it?
What else is there to say about Elegy? It may be some pleasant to some people, but it certainly isn’t my thing. If you’re after a laugh, then Tales from the Thousand Lakes is worth giving a shot; but Elegy isn’t going to cheer you up a bit!
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