OzzyApu on April 18th, 2013
Floating Through The Underworld
Starting here, Koivusaari didn’t do growls (until way later). I loved his easygoing, relaxed growling style. Pasi Koskinen’s given the full responsibility of frontman duties, and that’s mostly done with his accented, increasingly-refined clean singing. He’s got rare times when he grunts, as well as “Greed” which showcases this in a fuller form. Nevertheless, it’s an album based around heavy psychedelic / progressive influences on top of airy rock. Rhythmically, it’s frank, but what Amorphis created here is perhaps their most moody work. Pasi’s elevated cleans, the soundscapes brought forth by the keys, and Esa’s sailing leads are the strongest points of this album. With the band’s most polished production yet, Tuonela goes further with the band’s experimentation into non-metal realms. More important than that is the fact that it’s a damn good album.
Spacey, virtuous, cool, and catchy are a few descriptors that sum up this album. “The Way” is one of a few perfect cases that define this era of the band, right next to other expressive, distinctive songs like “Divinity” and “Alone”. Hearing the keys lay the groundwork for Esa’s scuttled, echoing leads and the lingering distortion of the guitars afterward before Pasi’s souful entry is a blissful way to build momentum. That’s only the opening to the song, whereas the rest of the song peaks that formula at the unflustered, dreamy solo. It’s a style that allows productivity between all instruments while keeping Amorphis’ sound charming. The hook portion is clearly Pasi’s onus, as he warps and lucidly accentuates the album’s morose, ringing tone through his mid-ranged, grainy voice. It’s Esa’s leads which puncture with their crafty harmonies instilled with plenty of progressive inspiration and added effects.Tuonela’s proggy sensibility are applied very appropriately. The same can’t be said in terms of compositional strength overall. While the style of clean background riffs, blubbery bass lines, and well-paced drumming under spiraling harmonies and wholesome vocals creates innocent music, it’s only good when there’s passion and bearing. “The Way,” “Divinity,” and “Summer’s End” are the hits that make it work to the fullest potential. There isn’t a major drop off after that, but “Rusty Moon” with its manic flute solo feels like unnecessary showmanship while taking away from the album’s gloomy vibe. The title track also feels a little lacking in a fiery hook until the saxophone solo helps add some neat flavoring to the song.
Other than that, it’s a direction which was further refined by the band on Am Universum. Like that album, this one means a lot to me in terms of how I developed my appreciation for Amorphis. It’s a more well-rounded approach to what the band did with Elegy, except without a conflict of identity. It’s professional in performance and presentation as it retains much of what Amorphis are known for now. Don’t go in expecting metal, just good music that’ll certainly have an impact.
kluseba on May 16th, 2011
A hypnotizing soul with lights and shades
This album is a truly hypnotizing and chilling record. Amorphis moved away from their experimental death metal roots and passed through a short transitional era to arrive at a very progressive and experimental point of their career. This album has many interesting folk elements, some from the band's Scandinavian origins but also a few ones from the Arabian and Indian cultures. There also a lot of jazz influences to hear that give a progressive touch to the album. Flutes, saxophones and especially keyboards get more and more prominent and the metal passages are much smoother and cleaner than before. In comparison to many other progressive bands, that doesn’t mean that the album is overloaded and complicated as Amorphis have the rare talent to create catchy diversity in a rather short length.
Some erupting death metal parts like in the still very experimental highlight "Greed" or the short and sweet and still very modern bonus track "Northern lights" become exceptions while dreamy and floating progressive metal tracks like the unusual opener "The way", the very jazzy folk track "Nightfall" or the hypnotizing title track "Tuonela" dominate this album. It's rather difficult to point any particular song out as the album works as a whole structure. The single "Divinity" has been chosen because the song has a slightly addicting chorus but that's the only thing that points a little bit out. But in the end, this album drowns you into a unique atmosphere and won't let you out until the very end as there is no change of style, no filler and no interlude in this album. Once you listen to the first seconds of the album you are already caught in a very hypnotizing mood. This is a perfect melancholic record for stormy or rainy autumn days. This album has a unique mood. I would even go as far to say that this album has a very particular soul. There is a lot of light and shade to discover in this masterpiece. The album cover of a mysterious flower in front of a somewhat light but still depressing brown background perfectly illustrates the musical content. Any open minded metal head should check out this album no matter what he normally listens to. It's worth being discovered.
Even though I happen to like every single album that Amorphis made with their amorphous style and constant progression, I think that the era that begins in here with "Tuonela" and continues with the brilliant "Am Universum" and that is slightly included on "Elegy" before and "Far from the sun" afterwards is the my favourite époque of the band. It's something very emotional, progressive and unique that I have never heard before while the other albums are great and all very entertaining but maybe lacking of this uniqueness and soul that is present in here. From an objective point, "Tales from the thousand lakes" and "Am Universum" are both very close to perfection but personally, I prefer the second one. That being sad, I must underline that you should check out "Am Universum" if you happen to like "Tuonela" as it is even a little bit greater in my opinion.
autothrall on January 4th, 2010
Past the summit and headed down the far slope
Sometimes it is possible to have simply too much of a good idea, and Tuonela is an album that feels guilty of that flaw. On the surface, it seems a natural progression from the cleaner side of Elegy. People seemed to like that album, now let's see how far we can take this direction. Where that masterpiece still had its share of the heavier guitars and a steady use of the growled vocals, Tuonela has very little, focusing instead on the cleaner, progressive rock aspects that the band had been exploring and transforming them into morose but shining anthems. When I first heard this, 3 years after salivating myself into dessication over its predecessor, I was pretty satisfied, having expected them to travel this path. But over the years since, a lot of the lustre has flaked off its gorgeous, minimal skin. Tracks that might have once had me nodding along to their semi-catchy chorus have now become tired, and I often struggle to listen to it in its entirety.
Amorphis continued their practice of swapping out their keyboard player on each successive album. They are performed here by Santeri Kallio, but used to much the same effect. Otherwise, the lineup here is that of Elegy, and Pasi continues to sharpen his cleaner, bitter vocals. This is a 90% 'safe' record, that is to say, if you seek out the beautiful balance of growling death and doom with the progressive/folk elements, you're only getting it on one song. He might growl out certain words or phrases in other tracks, but this is the only one where they are prominent. That song also happens to be one of the best of the album, "Greed", which saunters forward at a bouncing, chugging pace before coalescing into the huge rock & roll groove ala Jimmy Page. Of the cleaner fare, album opener "The Way" has some very memorable picking patterns that blaze over the somber bass line, ever shifting into a hypnotic chorus ala Koskinen.
"Withered..." has a similar feel to "The Way", a driving psychedelic stream of mystical guitar rhythms and a vocal bridge akin to something Simon le Bon might produce. "Rusty Moon" has some excellent, trilling flutes courtesy of Sakari Kukko (who also performs sax on a few tunes here). "Shining" has a great guitar line to it which flows through the verse like the frost melting off a drumlin on an early spring morning. "Summer's End" is very moody and gothic as it drives like a family of R. tarandus fennicus against a setting season, the balance of life and death to be tested in the near endless cold ahead. "Divinity" was one of the more popular tracks on the album, with a decent chorus and occasional grunt, though it's not my favorite here.
'Someday fire wipes the rain
Fears are frozen tears whisper
Things that no one hears
Cry now, cry now for me again
Tomorrows pride and pain'
Those are all pretty good, but the rest of the tracks don't do a lot for me. "Morning Star" is groovy and scintillating, but doesn't ever develop a catchy sequence of notes. "Nightfall" feels busy and funky, and the saxophone works when it appears, but again I leave the track wondering where the payoff is. The title track "Tuonela" itself is perhaps my least favorite, a bluesy dirge which flushed right back out the ears through which it entered, even the use of the sax here feels a drag.
Despite my mixed feelings towards this album, I don't really intend to come across as completely negative. Certainly there are good tracks, and the mix of Tuonela is one of the best the band has had in their career. Perfectly balanced instrumentation, from the pumping bass, guitar melodies and tight drumming to the non-intrusions of the flute and saxophone. It has a great depth to it, but not all of the songs offer enough meat on the bone. I like that they've continued their lyrical approach into this morphing medium of sound, but I just never get the urge to play through it all, whereas with the last two albums I would not pass a drop of their whiskey. It's not the worst of the Amorphis albums; no, that is still several years out...
Alas, I suppose if you were ever 'turned off' by the growling excess of prior days, Tuonela was a godsend. But the blood of Ukko is not storming through this album in all its glory as it was before, and the result is something understandably less inspirational.
Highlights: The Way, Greed, Withered..., Shining
Razakel on June 2nd, 2009
The Evolution Continues
Apparently Amorphis realized for themselves that albums like Tales From The Thousand Lakes and Elegy could not be repeated; it was time to take a different path. With the departure of their keyboardist after Elegy, it only made sense for the band to release an album with a more straightforward, earthy atmosphere. Their fourth full length, Tuonela, is a guitar-driven album, and contains solid consistency as well as a few classics.
The music on Tuonela showcases the maturity that Amorphis have grown up to this point. Although many fans of the early doom-laden riffs and death growls probably abandoned the band upon hearing this album, it doesn’t seem like this was a concern of Amorphis, and it certainly didn’t hinder their progression. The melodies are honed to perfection and were evidently created by a band that simply love to play music.
Despite toning down the meandering complexity of Elegy, Tuonela is still an ambitious output. The tracks are still quite diverse from the huge rock anthems, Divinity and The Way, to the slow, sorrowful title track. You won’t find too much metal here, in fact I’d say the only song that resembles Amorphis’ early career is Greed, which is introduced by an excellent sitar melody, leading into a mid-paced, pounding track.
Although the riffs are vastly different in nature from those of the past albums, they are still as memorable as always, with highlights including Rusty Moon and the title track. The captivating effects on the powerful opener, The Way, really set the melodious mood for the album. Vocals are performed entirely by Pasi this time around, including the few remaining grunts and growls (which he handles very well on Greed). I would safely call Tuonela Pasi’s peak with Amorphis. Not that he began to decline after this record, but the music lends itself perfectly to his emotional, yet intense vocal style. As I stated earlier, Tuonela is primarily a guitar album, however other instruments such as keyboards (The Way), saxophones (Tuonela), and flutes (Rusty Moon) are tastefully added throughout.
Unlike Amorphis’ earlier releases, I certainly would not recommend this album to death metal fans. If you are interested in checking this album out, please do so with an open mind and forget everything you know about Amorphis. If you give Tuonela a spin with that in mind, I hope you will be able to see it for the astoundingly beautiful album that it is.
Axonn on June 22nd, 2007
Further from the roots
Tuonela proves the fact that Amorphis are not one of the bands that can be chained to a particular genre or style. Such bands are great because you always wonder with what they'll come up next. You can't say that Amorphis is that or is this, only that in the period xx-yy they were singing in a way and then in another way and so on. They stay true to their name (since Amorphis comes from a word that means "no determinate form or shape"). Their creation is always surprising and even though this may cause a "recycle" of their fans from period to period, it doesn't lessen their artistic merits. I like all their creation but Tuonela (along with Elegy, Am Universum and Eclipse) are among the highlights of their career, and as far as I'm concerned, they all deserve buying! Pasi Koskinen does a great job here with the vocals and the only song that still has harsh "old-style" vocals is Greed (granted, it's one of the best songs on this release). Other definitive highlights include “Summer’s End”, “The Way” and “Rusty Moon”.
This album finds Amorphis experimenting with many more sounds and instruments and the good production sure helps to show it. Yes, it sure is a departure from the style of Elegy, but not for the worse. You can still tell it’s an Amorphis album, they kept true to their sound, which is something quite hard to accomplish considering how much they changed since their first releases. As for the quality of the lyrics, I never found this area particularly strong in Amorphis, but they do a decent job . Overall, this is a very good album and in the past few years, I’ve been listening to it constantly from time to time. It’s a very enjoyable listen and I recommend it to anyone.
arkbath on March 31st, 2005
A huge and strange change for Amorphis. They went from metal to a fusion of modern/old rock. It seems that the folk elements were left apart for this release, with the exception of Greed, which also means the last performance of harsh vocals and grunts from Tomi Koivussaari in Amorphis. This album has great songs but it doesn’t reaches the great work achieved in Elegy.
The Way is a nice way to start the album, a memorable chorus and main riff, but it could have been in the middle or the end of Tuonela. Morning Star is a little boring but OK. Nightfall gave us an idea of what was coming up in the forthcoming album, Am Universum, because of the saxophone parts, but the difference with the Am Universum style are the great guitar melodies. Tuonela is a slow song but too emotional thanks to the great vocal performance. Greed is one of the best songs of the album, I mentioned the oriental/folk style on the riffs and the remains of grunts in Amorphis, just for that is the special song of Tuonela; it reminds me of the old Amorphis, I would say that is the transition between old with new Amorphis style. Another good songs from Tuonela: Divinity, the single (even though is not the best song from the album); and Shining is one of the songs with an “old rock” style, just as Rusty Moon, but this includes some traditional flute melodies that will make you remember osme kind of jazz, new age, I don’t know.
The whole album keeps on the same line so you can have an idea since you push play on the stereo. Maybe that would disappoint some people, but if you are an old Amorphis fan this can be the last album you buy, and if you are fan of new Amorphis, this is the first album you must have from them.
WitheringToSerenity on April 6th, 2004
Wow.... this is good!
Upon hearing Tuonela for the first time, I was completely shocked at how great Tuonela is. I was slightly disappointed with Amorphis "Am Universum" and never gave this a listen until awhile ago and was pleased how it leaned more in Elegy's direction. It isn't a "metalheads" album so to speak since prog rock(occasional heavy guitars), saxophone, keyboard, and various other beautiful instruments dominate(with obvious hints of metal here and there) but it is still an impressive piece of work nonetheless. The vocals, with the exception of the Elegy-like Greed (50growl-50clean) are 99% clean. Pasi's vocals are great although far from outstanding. I would consider them an improvement from previous albums without considering other things. The music on the other hand is more toned down, progressive and most likely to alienate fans because of how much softer and accessible the music has become.
That being said, Tuonela is still loaded with memorable guitar melodies (ala The Way) even though I wouldn't they are quite on the level as the superb Tales/Elegy. As critical as you can be on Pasi's vocals, you'd have to at least recognize the memorable vocal melody on the chorus of Divinity. Basically what I'm trying to say its alot different, not suited for fans of pure metal and not quite as good musically although its greatest strength is how great the music is altogether. I wouldn't ever call it their best, but still a very worthwhile effort and is definitely to my liking. If experimental, prog rock influenced, psychedelic, semi-alternative music with bits of metal on the side might interest you then check this great CD out. If you really liked their previous albums and were critical of Elegy being too accessible, GO BACK!
Favorites : The Way, Tuonela, Divinity, Rusty Moon
ironasinmaiden on March 23rd, 2003
the devil has shown me the way! and it's amorphis!
Relapse records: the home of ridiculous, boundary pushing grindcore and sonic extremity. Amorphis hardly qualify as extreme, but boundaries they do push... Tuonela is a logical progression for Finland's finest metal export. In fact, it barely resembles metal at all, a transition expanded upon by Am Universum. Instead, Amorphis weave abstract keyboard and organ playing with pyschedelic guitars and the occasional power chord. Tuonela is lush, organic and beautiful... imagine cruising through the desert at night, tripping on Peyote. This is the soundtrack.
"the Way" and "Divinity" are breathtaking "tundra rock" (my genre for amorphis lol) classics driven by pulsating organs and powerhouse riffs. The laid back jam that caps Divinity is as close to sonic transcendence as I can go. Nu-morphis is all about texture... see "Morning Star". At face value a classic rock jam fest, woven with swirling brushstrokes of psychedelia and an... well... an amorphous chorus. I FUCKING LOVE IT. Pasi sounds like the guy from Paradise Lost and sings his scandinavian ass off
"Nightfall" is a mindfuck in every sense of the word. Somehow these Fins incorporate sax and flute in their beat heavy acid rock... and make it WORK. If can't see yourself rocking out to a brass instrument invest in Tuonela. "Greed" is the sole rootsy track... death metal vocals and jagged stacatto riffs accompanied by sitar.
Tuonela will flip your world upside down and force your mind wide open. If you dig sonic exploration and inspiration get it.
J_Paragon_S on October 1st, 2002
This is arguably Amorphis's masterpiece.
With the release of Tuonela, Amorphis has moved much closer to the 60s/70s space rock sound which influenced their last two records. While Tales from the Thousand Lakes and Elegy were dominated by metal riffing, Tuonela focuses on the entire picture. A hypnotic experience indeed, but one which may disappoint those expecting another album like Elegy.
The most noticeable change is that the guitar is much less overbearing. Rather than charging ahead with folky death-ish metal riffing, the guitars contribute to the whole of each song, at times taking a backseat to the other instruments. The guitar tone also shows a strong improvment; you'll no longer have to get past the sour, grating tone to appreciate what's being played. (I think there's also a lot more wah on this album, but that may just be the keyboards.)
Gone are the sludgy belches of Tomi Kovisuaari; Pasi Koskinen performs all the vocals on Tuonela. Death vocals are few and far between (a word or two during the choruses of some songs, and the verse of "Greed"), which does a good job in adding emphasis and effect to the specific points where they are used.
While the liner notes in Tuonela lack the references to Finnish folklore that Amorphis's past albums have, it's unlikely that they've stopped using the Kanteletar for inspiration. The lyrics retain the detached, almost incomplete feel that makes one want to hunt down a copy of the Kanteletar just to understand what Pasi is drawing from.
The keyboards are much more prevalent, and alternate instruments (sitar, saxophone, flute, etc) are more widely used. This all comes together to form a psychedelic, mesmerizing album which leans more towards Amorphis's probable future (alternative rock) than their past (death metal). While this may not appeal to those looking for another riff-driven album like Elegy, it is truly amazing.
Tuonela track list
|Esa Holopainen||Guitars (lead, acoustic)|
|Tomi Koivusaari||Guitars (rhythm), Sitar|