Re-recording old songs as a full length album isn’t a new idea as ARCH ENEMY, HYPOCRISY, and various others have done it in the past, but whether it’s because members have changed, old, but classic songs needed some tweaking and updating, or just because it’s a cool idea for another album, it’s an interesting thing – newer fans get to hear older songs that they might not have known about or heard before, and older fans get to hear some classics updated with better production and recorded with the current lineup.
By compiling songs from the early albums – The Karelian Isthmus, Tales from the Thousand Lakes, and Elegy, the band finally appeases the old fans who have dismissed the newer, lighter side of AMORPHIS. While the songs from those albums are classics in their own rights, and have the unique magic and sound stamped from that era which can never be replicated, these re-recordings are a nice way to show that the band can still revert back to “old school death metal” if they wanted to.
The Karelian Isthmus songs were simplistic and raw, but captured the pure death metal sound that AMORPHIS were looking for at the beginning of their career. “Vulgar Necrolatry” was aggressive in its original form, but the new version amplifies the aggression with tighter playing, excellent production, and vocalist Tomi Joutsen utilizing his lower growls in top form. “Sign from the North Side” is another classic from the debut album which is played in down tuned form, which is both extremely heavy and brutal, with plenty of chugging guitar riffs.
Tales from the Thousand Lakes offered some amazing songs rich in melody with a doomy death metal feel, such as the opening to “Into Hiding” – original clean vocalist Ville Tuomi had a higher pitch in the old version, and it takes a short while getting adjusted to Tomi’s lower clean vocals, but it all works out. The original “Black Winter Day” had a magical sound to it, and while the new version is excellent, this is one track that should have remained untouched. Rounding out this era, “The Castaway” and “Drowned Maid” sound refreshed and updated, without much alteration.
The Elegy tracks have not been changed much either, and stay pretty true to their original form. Tomi’s death metal growls on tracks like “On Rich and Poor” and “My Kantele” are more powerful and enunciated than original Elegy vocalist Pasi Koskinen’s, but his clean vocals also replicate Koskinen’s vocals very well. The original “Light My Fire” cover was a fun track the band decided to record during the Tales recording session, and the new version is a fun way to close out this brutal and satisfying album.
Magic & Mayhem – Tales from the Early Years is definitely a must own for all AMORPHIS fans, old and new alike. The Tales and Elegy songs probably could have been left alone, but the Karelian tracks are a refreshing upgrade and sound great. Old fans who have been clamoring for years about the band never going back to the old style can finally rest, as this compilation sums up how great the songs were on their respective albums, and still stands strongly with the test of time. Turn this up, reminisce about the “old death metal days”, and enjoy. (Nuclear Blast Records)