This is how a greatest hits album should be done. As celebration of reaching their twentieth anniversary Amorphis chose the best of their music from their first five years then they went back to the studio, updated and re-recorded each and every song meaning that even the songs from 20 years ago have a touch of today's band to them. The excellent choice of songs and the way the album flows creates an enjoyable summary of where Amorphis have come from for existing fans or makes a fantastic introduction for new fans.
An added bonus for fans is that all of these songs were originally recorded with a different vocalist. Re-recording them has meant that fans get to hear how classics such as Vulgar Necrolatry, Black Winter Day, or My Kantele sound with their new singer Tomi Joutsen. Whilst I can't say that I prefer these versions I enjoy the fact that the band haven't taken the 'easy' route and just thrown together old recordings but taken the time to show fans what they really sound like now!
Opening the album is Magic And Mayhem, with a melodic intro and Tomi's growling vocals that send shivers down my spine this song sets the perfect mood for the rest of the album. Into Hiding brings in a few of the more melodic vocals, but if you're expecting melodic vocals like those on their last release Skyforger then you are in for a big surprise, these are a few melodic backing vocals and that's where it ends. This song, like most of this album, is much more grit ridden and hard on the ears and mind!
I have to say how much I love the opening riffs of The Castaway, who needs vocals with musicianship like this? I'd be quite happy to spend the full 5:56 mins listening to the music alone! Sign From The North is a strong song with some intense chords thrown in to the mix along with a bass line to shake the ground. Against Widows has a very folkish feel, and Tomi's opening vocals have a biting grip that rip through every nerve ending.
Closing the album with the cover Light My Fire was an amusing choice, not at all what you expect from Amorphis, hearing these old school vocals thrown out in growling metal style was a surprise, but actually quite enjoyable once the original version has been cleared from memory!
If you're only familiar with the Amorphis of recent years then you are in for quite a surprise with this release, less of the melodic and melancholic, more of the pure old school metal that had metal fans quaking in their boots when the band burst onto the scene in 1991. Less of the progressive more of the metal! For the old school fans that needed some proof that Tomi is up to the challenge of 'old school' Amorphis then you need look no further, whilst the growling vocals aren't his forte, his voice is far more suited to the melodic, he pulls off these classic vocals with convincing expertise. He truly is the right man to be fronting this band!
On a final note Magic & Mayhem: Tales From The Early Years is not only a fantastic listen, it also has one of my favourite covers of 2010. The artwork is fantastic!
Amorphis's Magic & Mayhem: Tales From The Early Years is out 17 September 2010 on Nuclear Blast/Riot.