Amorphis - Tales From the Thousand Lakes (1994)Release ID: 2463

Amorphis - Tales From the Thousand Lakes (1994) Cover
Ben Ben / March 26, 2019 / Comments 0 / 1

An incredibly unique and creative album that defies the genres normal aggressive tendencies

Back in 1994 things were very different when it came to acquiring metal music. I certainly couldn't connect to the internet and download 468 albums in a day (most of which I will never even listen to) to try to find a new favourite. I couldn't get on to sites like Rate Your Music to find out what others considered to be the most worthwhile albums to acquire. The only options we had were monthly magazine reviews along with good old trial and error. I remember the day very clearly when I picked Amorphis' Tales From the Thousand Lakes out of the extremely limited metal section at my local record store, thought that the cover looked pretty cool, and decided to take a punt. A few hours later, I think my whole concept of music had been forever changed!

Tales From the Thousand Lakes is most definitely a death metal album. But then strangely, it has no real aggression whatsoever. It doesn't attempt to be evil or dark, nor does it attempt to be violent or rebellious. Most death metal music that I'd been listening to at the time (we're talking about bands such as Morbid Angel, Carcass, Deicide, Suffocation etc.) could be considered oppressive music that's more likely to kick your ass than calm you down. Amorphis' album, while still containing base elements of death metal, contained masses of pleasant melodies, copious amounts of musical creativity and a level of innocence that I'd never experience in my beloved genre of destruction. But instead of being completely put off by what I was hearing, I was entirely transfixed and just couldn't stop myself from pressing play again and again.

To this day, I'm still not sure I've heard an album that sounds quite like this one. The songs are extremely catchy, and the melodies are just exquisite. There are various vocal styles utilized (death growls, cleanly sung, female) and various sounds thrown into the mix including keyboards and even a moog. The lyrics are all based on the Finnish national pole book which is called Kalevala and can be considered cute and strange, but entirely fitting for the wonderfully unique music they accompany. I think the current Rate Your Music genre classifications for the album are spot on. Melodic Death Metal as primary with Folk Metal, Progressive Metal and Death Doom Metal all as secondary. I think you'd be hard pressed to find another album that fits into all those categories and certainly not one that sounds as natural as this one.

Tales From the Thousand Lakes is a landmark album not only for the world of metal music in general, but for my musical development in particular. I still love the album completely today and have listened to it hundreds of times without ever getting bored. Amorphis have created many good albums since this one but I don't believe they've ever created anything this good again. If you've never experienced it and you think you can handle some very melodic death metal, then do yourself a favour and pick this album up. Highlights for me are the wonderful intro Thousand Lakes, The Castaway, Black Winter Day and Drowned Maid, but every track is gold in my opinion. A definite 5-star album!

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / March 18, 2023 / Comments 0 / 0

I've been trying to get back into the melodeath zone lately, and upon seeing this album mentioned and reviewed, I knew I needed to try again to get onto that boat. Amorphis is known as one of the most essential metal bands around, and the very first band added to the Metal Archives website. Their second album Tales from the Thousand Lakes is an early developing album of melodic death metal and one of the first Kalevala-based concept albums. This ambitious offering has carved the band's name in stone!

The album shows the band jumping from the death metal formula of The Karelian Isthmus to something more memorable. The compositions are much more melodic while keeping their deathly roots, which pretty much defines melodic death metal.

"Thousand Lakes" starts the album as an ambient piano intro that slowly embraces you with its beauty. Then "Into Hiding" kicks off the metal action, standing out with slow doomy riffing that then takes on mid-paced galloping like a horse riding in a dark forest. After the expected death growling, clean vocals enter the music, which might turn away the more extreme listeners. While I agree that it's a little unfitting from a heavier point of view, it perfectly fits the ominous mood here. While the clean vocals became part of Amorphis' sound from then onwards, the excellent rough growls still take the stage. "The Castaway" has some epic experimentation with Middle Eastern-like synths and a jazzy bridge. "First Doom" has the slow doomy melody of early 90s Paradise Lost, and is one of the darker tracks here.

From that 10-second piano intro of "Black Winter Day", I knew it was gonna be a total standout. The keyboards have dark atmosphere, as opposed to the synth shredding of Children of Bodom, who by the way, made their own cover of that track two decades later. The melodic "Drowned Maid" shows how much the band influenced many other melodic death metal bands. "In the Beginning" is another highlight with lyrics from Finnish passages of the Kalevala in English translation. The lyrics are understandable for those who have read the epic, but if you're like me and haven't read it yet, they make an interesting fit to the music worth jamming out to.

"Forgotten Sunrise" has a blues-like pace as you explore this pure melodic twist in the death metal realms. "To Father's Cabin" is closer to a slow take on Metallica-esque thrash. While in good quality, that's actually my least favorite track here, and it subtracts a few percentage points from the album's still perfect score. "Magic and Mayhem" transcends through melodeath bliss, along with acoustic sorrow and synth grace. There's a breakdown reminiscent of sludgy groove metal, and later some cool prog synths.

I have to admit, this is my second attempt at reviewing this masterpiece. The first time was a few years ago and I didn't appreciate it enough, and a few more years prior, I tried listening to some songs from there, but they weren't for me at that time. But now, somehow I finally get the glorious beauty of this atmospheric offering, and I didn't even have to experience any snowy winters firsthand! Tales From the Thousand Lakes might just be one of the finest melodic death albums for me with its gloomy atmosphere, despite my earlier struggles. I recommend it for many metalheads out there. If the first listen doesn't work out for you, give it some time then try again. Let it grow and glow!

Favorites: "Into Hiding", "The Castaway", "Black Winter Day", "In the Beginning", "Magic and Mayhem"

Daniel Daniel / March 18, 2023 / Comments 0 / 0

It’s been many years since I’ve revisited the highly regarded 1994 sophomore album from Finland’s Amorphis. “Tales From The Thousand Lakes” was a very big record in my household back in the day but I recall it being a much more important release for my younger brother Ben than it was for myself. I certainly rmember finding it to be a very creative & inventive effort (particularly melodically) however I don’t think I was the target audience Amorphis had in mind when they wrote it, despite my being quite fond of their earlier work which was closer to your classic death metal model. If I had to guess at what score I’d end up awarding it though I would have been pretty confident of it being a 4/5 so I went into this re-evaluation exercise with the expectation of a rewarding outcome.

“Tales From The Thousand Lakes” kicks off with a beautifully executed darkwave piece by the name of “Thousand Lakes” which I really enjoy & it sets the scene nicely for what’s to come. The more melodic end of death metal has been something that I’ve had a rocky relationship with over the years though & it took me a few tracks to find my feet once the metal material kicked off to tell you the truth. I had no trouble recalling just about every note of the album once I got my teeth into it as the hooks entrenched themselves in me from a relatively young age but I think I’d forgotten that I didn’t buy into Amorphis as much as the metalheads around me did, at least not at that point in their evolution. Thankfully things start to really get cracking as we approach the middle of the record with the one-two punch of “First Doom” & album highlight “Black Winter Day” which saw my attention being fully engaged for the first time but despite the fact that there’s only one track of the ten on the tracklisting that I don’t get much out of (ironically one of the more popular tracks in the folky “The Castaway”) I’d be lying if I said that I ever find myself kneeling at the altar of Amorphis’ here.

So why is that? I certainly admire the record from a creative point of view as it sounded so unlike anything else that was around at the time & seems to succeed in most of its more expansive musical endeavours. I think it’s that some of those endeavours take Amorphis into more accessible territories that have me hesitating to jump on the train as it’s moving slowly out from the station though. You see, while “Tales From The Thousand Lakes” is generally tagged as melodic death metal, there are a lot more elements at play here. The doom/death metal sound of Paradise Lost is the most obvious point of reference & I really enjoy the more crushing doom sections. There are a few crunchy Swedish death metal moments too which can’t be a bad thing but there are also some less imposing influences on display. I really enjoy the clean vocals & think they add greatly to the infectiousness of Amorphis’ sound here. The prog rock influences are generally refreshing too but are a little hit & miss in their execution, particularly in the use of keyboards which can bounce from being a masterstroke to being a touch underwhelming in fairly quick time. Perhaps unsurprisingly though, the incorporation of folk melodies in several of the songs is something that I find a little difficult to stomach as folk metal has never been my bag. Tomi Koivusaari’s death growls aren’t particularly interesting either. In fact, I’m tempted to suggest that they sound pretty generic which perhaps goes a fair way to explaining why I enjoy the clean vocals so much.

Amorphis would go on to move away from death metal entirely over the next couple of records by focusing their attention on a more progressive sound. Their 1996 third album “Elegy” would be somewhat of a transition album in that regard but I’ve always remembered it as being a step up from “Tales From The Thousand Lakes” from a creative point of view. Perhaps that’s simply a case of misguided nostalgia & I might make a point of revisiting that album some time soon so as to see how it compares but there can be no doubt that its predecessor was a resounding success in its own right. It’s perhaps a touch too melodic for my taste but “Tales From The Thousand Lakes” certainly compares very well with other prominent melodeath releases & would still make my all-time top ten for the subgenre overall at this point.

illusionist illusionist / August 08, 2019 / Comments 0 / 0

Might just be one of the best and most atmospheric melodeath albums of all time. Amorphis combine a lot of influences here (death metal, doom, 70s prog, Finnish folk) that all unite to form a rich, dark atmosphere that grips you from the first note. Melodic and insanely memorable riffs, deep and resonant growls, tasteful keys, epic lyrics. Don't miss the "Moon and Sun" bonus tracks, which are true highlights.