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Amorphis - "Magic & Mayhem - Tales From The Early Years " (CD)

Amorphis - "Magic & Mayhem - Tales From The Early Years " CD cover image

"Magic & Mayhem - Tales From The Early Years " track listing:

1. Magic And Mayhem (5:22)
2. Vulgar Necrolatry (Abhorrence cover) (4:43)
3. Into Hiding (3:52)
4. Black Winter Day (3:54)
5. On Rich and Poor (5:23)
6. Exile of the Sons of Uisliu (3:56)
7. The Castaway (5:55)
8. Song of the Troubled One (4:13)
9. Sign from the North Side (5:03)
10. Drowned Maid (4:10)
11. Against Widows (4:18)
12. My Kantele (6:48)
13. Light My Fire (02:44)

Reviewed by on October 29, 2010

"Anyone willing to give it a try will find a good mix of old school flavor with newer recording techniques, and a good representation of where Amorphis has come from, as well as where the band is going."

Finnish act Amorphis has a long and storied history in the metal scene, and the band’s impact on death metal can’t be denied, regardless of how anyone feels about any era of the group’s discography. More so than nearly any other extreme metal band, Amorphis is a group that has experienced massive change throughout its history, and not just because it’s gone through three vocalists. From melodic doom metal to prog rock to progressive death metal, Amorphis has gone around the block and come back again. As a throwback to the band’s roots, and as an opportunity to let current vocalist Tomi Joutsen strut his stuff, Amorphis has re-recorded songs from the first three albums and released them as “Magic and Mayhem: Tales from the Early Years.”

The album updates the old songs to a modern standard of recording, which is a bit of a double-edged sword. It’s like taking a trip down memory lane, but upgraded to a more modern era. Each song unquestionably sounds more crisp and clear than the original version, but diehard fans of the first three Amorphis full-lengths may find that means some of the original underground appeal and unique feel is gone.

Anyone who is only familiar with the latest Amorphis releases will be in for a bit of a shock hearing these tracks, as most of the progressive sound found on “Skyforger” is completely gone on the older songs. That isn’t to say there isn’t melody or the album doesn’t have a few interesting twists, however. “Into Holding” is a notable example, using a pipe organ segment to put a little more prog rock into the death metal.

How much any given fan likes the early Amorphis material will play a big role in how well the updated versions are received. Since these tracks were written back in the early ‘90s as the band was still growing, the song structures aren’t nearly as varied or interesting as in later offerings. It’s the one problem that can’t be fixed by a better production. “The Castaway” is the biggest offender, as it has a lot of repetition and is a fairly uninspired piece. At the same time, it does also increase appreciation for how far the band has come.

As a final parting gift, Amorphis has included a cover of “Light My Fire” by the Doors. It’s a nice touch, if a bit of an odd choice. The song is rather silly as a death metal rendition, but anyone who isn’t trying to take it too seriously should have a good time with it.

Considering that Amorphis has had three main vocalists during its career, re-recording older material with the current singer isn’t all that bad an idea, as fans are going to have to hear these versions during the live shows anyway. Unfortunately “Magic and Mayhem” will probably be disliked by the vast majority of fans, whether they think the originals were changed too much, not changed enough, or shouldn’t have been changed at all. Anyone willing to give it a try will find a good mix of old school flavor with newer recording techniques, and a good representation of where Amorphis has come from, as well as where the band is going.

Highs: Old classics updated to a newer sound, Tomi Joutsen's vocals sound great with the older material.

Lows: The songwriting is nearly as interesting on the older tracks, and some of the old school heart and soul is gone.

Bottom line: An interesting update to old material that sounds great, but diehard fans who think the original tracks are perfect may want to skip it.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)