Tales from The Thousand Lakes was Amorphis’ follow-up to their second “debut” (the aborted Privilege of Evil being their first album), The Karelian Isthmus (1992). Relapse must have know they had something special, because despite the debut’s poor sales in the U.S., Tales… was given a huge push, and they were rewarded tenfold for their effort as there were no second-record jitters or failed-promises from Amorphis.
The requisite intro track starts of with some lovely, but typical piano/keyboard prettiness. But then, rather switching into “we’re so evil” mode the way all the other bands were doing, Amorphis pulls you down with “Into Hiding” and its downward spiral opening riff straight into some middle eastern riffs, keyboard accents and then lifting up to the heartfelt…verse? Yup. Even the verse is good. By the time the clean-vocals on the chorus start, you should be wondering what these kids (about 20 years old at this point) were smoking in Finland and how to import it. These songs sound amazing today, but they were mind-blowing in 1993.
Spiraling up and down, turning arabic, then folkish, then grooving, then weeping, Amorphis never seemed to run out of new musical avenues to explore. The record just pours out song after song after song. And that’s something else that set them apart from the death mongers: yes, Amorphis, from day one, wrote songs. Catchy, hummable, memorable songs. Unconventional in their sound, structure and style, you still couldn’t help but have them rattling in your head for a few days. Songs on Tales… were pushed even further by the decision to use poems from Finnish traditional folklore for lyrics. So, rather than standard issue Satanism, we get “We seldom get together and meet each other on these poor borders, the luckless lands of the North.” Again, average age of the band: 20 years old.
In hindsight, it’s not surprising that Amorphis have turned into what they eventually did by Tuonela; all the pieces for that transformation are here. And it’s a shame they never truly got back to anything this heavy again. But it’s absolutely amazing that they ever were what they were on Tales…
Fantastic, soup to nuts. There aren’t any extras but what you get is high quality. Relapse Records reissued Tales… at the same time as they reissued The Karelian Isthmus (1992) with much the same treatment. If you only have money for one, this is the one to get but if you can swing both, they’re a terrific pair. Highly recommended!