Amorphis

There is power in a name, as ancient wisdom claims. And sometimes a prophecy. It was a moment of rare foresight when guitarist Esa Holopainen came up with a name for his new band: Amorphis. Derived from “amorphous” (without determinate form, shapeless), the choice would subsequently prove more apt than anyone could have imagined at the time. It was in 1990.
In 1991, Amorphis recorded their first, and only, demo. While not satisfying the critical tastes of the band members themselves, the three-track Disment of Soul caught the attention of Relapse Records, and the American label was quick to sign the young band. A few months later Amorphis was already back to record six songs. Only two of these were picked for the first 7″ single, but the full session was two years later released on the EP Privilege of Evil. They released their first full-length album. The Karelian Isthmus in 1993. The assertive début showcased many of the elements that would soon become the band’s trademarks. Majestic, doom-laden riffs combined with concise, folk-influenced guitar leads and atmospheric keyboard passages set this work apart from many of its contemporaries and offered a glimpse of future greatness. I
Although The Karelian Isthmus took its name from a historic Finnish battleground, its lyrics contemplated universal themes of warfare and religion, drawing on Celtic mythology rather than the traditions of Amorphis’ own native land. With its sophomore release, however, the group reclaimed its Finnish heritage in triumph, creating a monumental album that single-handedly put the small Nordic country on the map of progressive metal and is nowadays considered an all-time classic: Tales from the Thousand Lakes, a concept album based on the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala. While still strongly rooted in the death metal tradition, this 1994 release already branched out beyond the usual confinements of the genre. The boldest step toward a new direction was the addition of clean vocals, provided by Kyyria’s Ville Tuomi. Ville’s melodic voice, elegantly contrasting with Tomi’s growls, brought a new dimension to the band’s sound, as did the greater prominence of synthesizer and piano. Whereas the synth tracks on the first album had been laid down by drummer Jan, Amorphis has found a full-time keyboard player.
The album, Am Universum (2001), retained its predecessor’s atmosphere but introduced more varied soundscapes and a wider dynamic range. Where Tuonela had predominantly been a guitar album, now keyboards and saxophone were at the forefront, the latter again contributed by Sakari Kukko. Folk influences took a step back in favor of a more experimental and psychedelic approach, liberated studio jams included. The opening track “Alone”, a quintessential Amorphis song, was released as a single and topped the Finnish charts for three weeks. In 2002 the band was asked for a contribution to the soundtrack for the movie Menolippu Mombasaan. The commissioned piece was a cover version of the 1976 pop hit “Kuusamo”, which was given the full Amorphis treatment but, unlike any of the band’s original material, was sung in Finnish.
The search for a new frontman was no easy task. In the end, Amorphis found the right person through word of mouth: Tomi Joutsen (Sinisthra), a powerful, multi-faceted singer with breathtaking on-stage charisma.
In time for the 20th anniversary, Amorphis’ first-ever official DVD was released in July 2010. In addition to a one-hour documentary covering the Finnish metal pioneers’ entire career, Forging The Land Of Thousand Lakes comprises two full concerts, recorded in 2009, which vividly portray the band’s infectious live energy and sheer musical prowess.