Amorphis: Magic and Mayhem

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Amorphis: Magic and Mayhem
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Amorphis: Magic and Mayhem - Tales from the Early Years
Death Metal, Doom Metal
Nuclear Blast Records
September 17th, 2010
Release length: 1:02:49
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For what seems like ages, Amorphis fans have ben yearning for the group to return to their Death Metal roots for at least one more release. While the past few albums were highly impressive with the addition of vocalist Tomi Joutsen, it’s far from the original sound that broke the band into the Metal universe. Finally, Amorphis gives the fans what they have been asking for with Magic & Mayhem: Tales from the Early Years, a compilation of tracks from the band’s early three albums, re-recorded, with Tomi Joutsen performing the main vocal duties for the release. While it’s great to find the band getting in touch with their roots, it’s disheartening that the group decided to take this route, leaving us fans with an album that takes these classic songs and, sadly, removes all magic the classics had, as well as adds some of their more modern sound into the mix in an attempt to celebrate, and ravage, the band’s rich and successful history.

In all fairness, Magic & Mayhem is not at all a bad release. However, it’s far from one that really stands out as a unique Amorphis album. The songs on this recording really aren’t bad, infact sometimes they sound decent with the modern technology backing them up. “Black Winter Day”, for example, is a song that many hold dear to their hearts, and will find solace knowing that much of what made this song such a classic is still present, and is one of the very few songs on this release that manages to give off a genuine atmosphere even remotely reminiscent of the original recordings. There even seems to be a slightly stronger vocal performance backing the music as well, showcasing a fantastic, somewhat deeper gutteral performance that many other tracks on this release are missing, but the clean vocals that are performed on the track wind up being a little weak. The keyboards on this song, as well as many others though, just don’t really fit the atmosphere of the music, giving off more of an early Space Rock feel, being a little too science fiction sounding against such a heavy and down to Earth musical tone.

Aside “Black Winter Day”, there’s still a good chunk of songs on here that sound great, both in atmosphere and just overall performance, as well as some songs that don’t really seem to be altered in any way from the original versions. “Exile of the Sons of Uisliu” manages to keep the same intensity, heaviness, and atmosphere that “Black Winter Day” has. The song also comes off the band’s The Karelian Isthmus release, which sees only that and “The Sign from the North Side”, which winds up being a bit of a drag for fans of that release, and clearly have been dabbled in somewhat, differing quite obviously from the original recordings. “On Rich and Poor”, however, sounds remarkably close to the original version, but just doesn’t quite capture the atmospheric magic that the classic holds. Aside that, it, too, features a strong performance with plenty of energy everywhere in the mix. On top of them, “Drowned Maid” and on are also all great, powerfully performed songs that really just don’t stray far from the original tracks, as well as manage to carry on the atmosphere that many of these tracks try to give off, but fail, which comes off more like music from a snowcovered North region, best described as suiting to the three source album’s original artwork, as well as the art of this release, but just not quite as majestic in the long run.

Atop of Amorphis covering their own songs, there’s two other cover tracks on here, and they really don’t do much. The first is the Abhorrence cover “Vulgar Necrolatry”. In the long run, the song is as magical as the opening track “Magic and Mayhem”, which lacks anything genuinely interesting all together. The music itself lacks any strong atmosphere, as well as tries to reflect the band’s newer sound slightly, but ultimately just fails in the long run. Even the vocal performance on the song just isn’t quite as energetic, and in fact can become a bit monotone as the song goes on. Finally, the album concludes with “Light My Fire”, a cover of the classic track by The Doors. This track is as laughable as Graveyard Classics II by Six Feet Under and, even as a bonus track, just should never have been recorded, let alone tacked onto the end of this song. Had the vocal approach been anything other then gutterals, perhaps it would have been alright, as the music is alright and rather upbeat like the original track was, though it lacks the somewhat dark atmosphere that the classic had, much like all the other songs on this recording, which holds it back moreso.

The fact of the matter is that Magic & Mayhem: Tales from the Early Years is not a bad album, but at the same time it’s really not that good, and to many will come as a bit of a slap in the face. While it’s refreshing to hear the band acknowledging their Death Metal roots on a new recording, there’s no denying that Amorphis should not have hopped on the “re-record your classic material” bandwagon that many established acts have been pushing forward with lately. Granted, some songs actually came out well and are still enjoyable, but there’s simply nothing on this release that stacks up to the classic source material, leaving this release more as a cheap, updated version of the band’s original material for those who enjoy the band’s current sound and never heard the group’s earlier material.

01. Magic and Mayhem – 5:22
02. Vulgar Necrolatry (Abhorrence cover) – 4:43
03. Into Hiding – 3:52
04. Black Winter Day – 3:54
05. On Rich and Pooir – 5:23
06. Exits of the Sons of Uisliu – 3:56
07. The Castaway – 5:55
08. Song of the Troubled One – 4:13
09. Sign from the North Side – 5:03
10. Drowned Maid – 4:10
11. Against Widows – 4:18
12. My Kantele – 6:46
13. Light My Fire (The Doors cover) (Bonus Track) – 2:45
Overall Score: 5.5/10


Digital review copy of this release provided by Nuclear Blast Records.