Saturday, January 2, 2010

Amorphis - My Kantele EP (1997)

Amorphis' gathering popularity in the 90s went a long way towards their record label's flexibility in releasing material outside of the norm, starting with the EPs that accompanied their early albums, and later evolving into a series of (mostly) worthless singles. My Kantele stands at a crossroads, because it's the last of this type of release from Amorphis that was actually worth buying. There is a lot in common with the previous EP, Black Winter Day. You get some cover material, a pair of related new tracks, and an album cut (in this case, the acoustic version of "My Kantele". In fact, if you were into cassettes, you may have already picked up the version of this release that featured Black Winter Day on the B-side.

Though Elegy is hands down one of my favorite metal albums ever created, for its brilliant mesh of death/doom, folk and 70s prog rock influence, "My Kantele" is surprisingly not my favorite song found there. However, it does translate extremely well into an acoustic setting, complete with Kim Rantala's organs and Pekka Kasari's percussion. Pasi Koskinen proves here how he was the best and most versatile vocalist this band ever had, with a nasal discontent that conveys the cold streams and woodlands of his own backyard into lush folk abandon. "The Brother Slayer" and its sibling "The Lost Son" sound like pieces that could not make the cut for Elegy, taking the psychedelic elements to the extreme. "The Brother Slayer" is like a mixture of Hawkwind and "My Kantele", both spaced out and endearing, though it never really busts into anything as far as heavy guitars, preferring to follow the vocal melody and crashing acoustics. "The Lost Son" is a little more freeform, with percussion and psychedelic synthesizers that cut into a cross-current of Phish and Hawkwind. Speaking of Hawkwind, Amorphis do a cover of "Levitation" on this EP, and while it fits the motif of their Elegy-era writing, it has nothing on the original. The final track on the EP is a cover of Kingston Wall's "And I Hear You Call", which is surprisingly the best non-album tune you'll find here, as it is given the full on Amorphis treatment, catchier and more powerful than any of the tracks preceding it, with some great Pasi growls that would rarely be heard again (in this band).

The My Kantele does function as a prelude to what will follow, the controversial move into pure folk/rock/metal territory that is Tuonela. But, as I'm having a hard time enjoying that album these days (with the exception of 2-3 tracks), I'm also not so fond of this release. It has a couple moments of psychedelic bliss that border on too derivative of Hawkwind, and judging by the cover of "Levitation", this was intentional. Nothing here lives up to the astounding Elegy, and though I wouldn't call it a 'money grab', you can hear why none of this material was good enough to appear elsewhere, aside from "My Kantele" itself. It was only a few bucks, and diehards and collectors all bought it, but just not something I would have listened to again had I not been writing this review.

Verdict: Indifference [6/10] (I have been watering my horse)

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