Amorphis takes its name from the word "amorphous" which means "lacking definite form, shapeless". Looking at their huge back catalog, it should be easy to see that they've lived up to their name, as no album sounds like its predecessor or follow-up. Amorphis started out as a fiery death metal band evolving into a keyboard-supported midtempo death metal band and then into a more progressive band with folk and classic rock influences.
Elegy is their 1996 release and in many ways their most ambitious work. The album features two new members whose impacts make it perhaps Amorphis' most amazing album to date. Vocalist Pasi Koskinen is the new clean singer alongside former rhythm guitarist/vocalist Tomi Koivusaari's occasional death growls. This is their transition from their earlier extreme metal roots to a more folky, progressive rock soundscape. Koskinen's clear vocals are very emotive and provide a nice contrast to their former singer's brutal delivery on tracks like "Better Unborn" (with a sweet Arabic guitar melody), "Against Widows", and "On Rich and Poor". New keyboardist Kim Rantala (whose debut with the band was the previous Black Winter Day EP) brings a very progressive edge to the band's music mining the melodic veins within Elegy. It's a shame he didn't stay with Amorphis for another release, as his analog keyboard work meshed very well with the awesome guitar themes. Rantala's playing often lends itself to 70's Floydian atmospheres, such as on the ballad "Orphan" where the keyboards function as a lucid texture below folky guitar melodies; or on the powerful "My Kantele" adding complex harmonies and a very well played synth solo. This is one of the finest tracks on this disc with timeless guitar melodies, excellent clean and death vocals, and a balanced guitar and keyboard duel. However, Rantala's curious keyboard work is mostly noticeable on the experimental cut "Cares" featuring plenty of electronic samples and a very Floydian synth solo contrasting Koivusaari's brutal singing.
The songs on Elegy are based on Finnish literature and draw their inspirations from the traditional Finnish work the Kanteletar which is comprised of hundreds of poems reflecting Finnish people's philosophical and religious beliefs. This is what is written in the booklet: "Inspired by the intensity of the poems and their ability to communicate everyday simplicity with such vigor, Amorphis have created the music of Elegy to reflect the honesty and majesty found within the Kanteletar's legendary verses..."
I guess this also explains where the heavy Kingston Wall-inspired folk melodies come from. The folk motifs on "Weeper on the Shore", the title track, and the instrumental piece "Relief" have also mined the band's next release Tuonela, which is basically a testimony to folk rock with Koskinen doing all clean vocals except one song. The title track, also the longest song, conjures a variety of moods with lots of guitar and keyboard interplay, some interesting sitar and tambourine elements, and intense vocals from both singers to match the dark mood built by elaborate keyboard work. There is a very catchy guitar theme on this song that soars passionately over the track during the choruses and it's easily one of the most beautiful songs Amorphis have penned. Elegy is the highlight of their career along with Tales from the Thousand Lakes, though I'd have to give Elegy the edge. Given its release date, this disc easily transcends all expectations, perhaps only rivaled by Opeth and Edge of Sanity at the time.
- Better Unborn
- Against Widows
- On Rich and Poor
- My Kantele
- Song of the Troubled One
- Weeper on the Shore
- My Kantele (acoustic reprise)