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Tuonela

Finland Country of Origin: Finland

Tuonela
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Type: Full-Length
Release Date: March 29th, 1999
Genre: Doom, Emo, Gothic, Melodic, Progressive, Rock
1. The Way
2. Morning Star
3. Nightfall
4. Tuonela
5. Greed
7. Shining
8. Withered
9. Rusty Moon
10. Summer's End


Review by Stellarium on May 5, 2024.

"Tuonela" is the Finnish realm of the dead; the underworld. It is fitting that the album contains some of the groups most personal and tragic lyrics, but it also breaks the fourth wall as it acts as a goodbye to the sound that the band cultivated on all of its predecessors. Gone are the metal riffs, the tropes, the harsh vocals, and although these do make the most fleeting of appearances, this is Amorphis as a Progessive rock band, and the sound of the next seven years of its identity.

The album starts with one of the groups greatest ever songs -"The Way". A guitar strum opens the release with a pretty melody subverting it. The drums steal the show with a commanding rhythm, allowing Pasi to come in with one of his better clean vocal performances. The chorus to this song is the real majesty on this album. It's the catchiest track the band have ever written, building up to an arena filling hook. The electric guitars are used sparingly but come in to highlight the change between chorus, verse, and pre-chorus. Pasi ends the first verse with a rare growl before a progressive synth effect starts to fill the bars before the guitar solo leads into the chorus again. Amorphis are the least likely band to write a song designed to fill an arena, but this is as uplifting as all hell and absolutely unforgettable.

We then have the slightly weaker middle section of tracks - "Morning Star" being a bit more of a watered-down rock number that doesn't match up to the majesty of the opening track - but what would? The chorus is decent, and I'd comfortably call it one of the albums better tracks. Tomi's experimentation with the Sitar on"Elegy" takes on a full-time role here, and in truth, it works beautifully, complementing the bands sound with a maturity that doesn't give away the recent addition of it to the repertoire.

There's some reflection on the album, as the title track talks about the ultimate fate of us all, in a style used on the bands debut way back in 1992. The Eastern-tinged intro to "Greed" builds into a heavier, more metal track laced with growls; standing out here like a sore thumb but also reflecting the anger of the passing of the protagonist just a song prior. As always, with this collective, storytelling is the fire in which the songs are formed.

The album then begins to back-load itself into utter brilliance. "Divinity" is a haunting track filled with anticipation, as the intro is as mysterious as a covert note passed between forbidden lovers. It has another banging chorus and is an album highlight.

The only other track so important to this release is the closing epic "Summer's End. Sombre melody tells the tale of a final farewell from one entwined soul to a next, with the melody promising so much more.

"No love without sacrifice
No life springs without decay
The final kiss is a wormy one
In soils cold caress to rest we'll lay"

The Summary

After taking a few years away to figure out what to do with their new sound, Amorphis return with the most personal and melodic material that they ever put together. Both top and back-loaded with massive sounding choruses, this release sings about death and the comprehension behind it; using the usual Finnish influences. Produced very well and using the Sitar as the main figure-head, "Tuonela" ranks as the most accessible rock album in the bands portfolio, although it isn't without criticism. Too many songs are overshadowed by the brilliance of the opener, closer, and mid-way pieces, but for what they bring to the table, we don't really need as many seats around it anyway.

Sell me this Album

It's deeply personal and emotional which is the main bond between an artist and its listeners. Olli's bass is so important on here, and all members fully utilise the recording options they were presented with to forge something with a tragic, Eastern, but also familiar feel to it. Amorphis' most melodic and poignant numbers are located within, and if you have any love for Progressive rock over the years, or even something softer but with a slight metal leaning, this has to be one of your points of entry to a rich genre that has no choice but to display its rich tapestries of influence into a collective love-letter to a deeply, deeply important style of song writing.

I feel very comfortable calling this the bands best non-metal album.

Recommended tracks :

The Way (1)
Greed (5)
Divinity (6)
Summer's End (10)

Rating: 8.2 out of 10

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Review by Tobias on March 11, 2001.

In Amorphis’ quest to find themselves, they’ve churned out some progressive-grunge-metal with a hint of psychedelia. As grand as that may seem to some, in the end, strangely enough, it seemed to allow little room for movement in the band’s style.

While the band seems to have developed a sound that is the groundwork for identity, it isn’t really that unique. It comes across as being some sort of melting pot for the Seattle grunge sound and composition with elements of lite-metal (like the Eric Johnson-esque guitar sound on the first track). The vocals, that were once renowned death growls, have moved to a cleaner, but slightly gritty grunge sound akin to Stabbing Westward (not that SW was ever really grunge, but…) or a lighter side of Mudhoney.

Tuonela seems to be at its strongest when expanding upon the psychedelic sounds, which I have always believed to be sorely needed in Metal. However, even this at times ended up sliding into keyboards that sounded more like the technologically limited electric organs of the ‘60’s and ’70’s than an adventurous prog-psychedelic-metal band.

One track, that I thoroughly enjoyed, but found to be a little confusing considering the body of work presented in Tuonela, was Greed. This track features spacey sitars, a dynamic slow to medium rhythm… and death growls. I think that this song may have been the most accomplished of the bunch. In fact, this is the one tune that seems to pull together the band’s history and their new direction to form an even better sound. If they can keep it up with stuff like this, I’ll be a happy man.

Bottom Line: This band has a little more work to do before they can carve out a proper niche for themselves. A good strong start, but not exactly on the money.

Rating: 6 of 10

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