Amorphis’ first “official” release (the aborted “Privilege of Evil” being their actual debut) showed the glimpse of something special. Appearing right in heat of the American death explosion when everyone was pretty much either a Morbid Angel, Obituary or Suffocation clone, “The Karelian Isthmus” offered a slower, simpler and more melodic sound; very Eurpoean in it’s maturity and restraint and very Scandinavian in its sound and scope. It was – if not groundbreaking – the sound of four Finnish high-school kids already maturing into what would become one of the 90’s most impressive, inventive bands.
The album opens with a fairly folkish acoustic/keyboard intro, followed by the slow plodding of “The Gathering”. From there, the album alternates between slow and upper mid-tempo, rarely venturing into total doom or blast, but wavering in the areas between. Throughout the record, you can hear Amorphis borrowing the Paradise Lost technique of letting one guitar holds down the chord progression while the other plays slow, simple melody lines on top. “Gothic” had been out for a year or so at that point, and it’s interesting to see how it must have influenced the songwriting on this record. “Black Embrace”, picks up with some of the most impressive instrumental ideas on the album and “Exile of the Sons of Uislu” follows up with some damn good Viking riffs that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Amon Amarth record.
While only a few of these songs are great from start to finish, nearly every song has at least a couple of really catchy ideas musical in them and many of them flirting with ideas Amorphis would later shine to brilliance.
This is a loving reissue, gorgeous from top to bottom. The vinyl sounds great, the gatefold jacket is a big, beautiful thing to hold and the Finnish flag vinyl coloring is a nice touch. Relapse reissued Songs from The Thousand Lakes at the same time as this and they make a great pairing. Highly recommended!