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3.27 | 24 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 1992

Filed under Death Metal


1. Karelia (0:45)
2. The Gathering (4:15)
3. Grail's Mysteries (3:04)
4. Warriors Trial (5:06)
5. Black Embrace (3:42)
6. Exile of the Sons of Uisliu (3:45)
7. The Lost Name of God (5:34)
8. The Pilgrimage (4:42)
9. Misery Path (4:19)
10. Sign From the North Side (4:56)
11. Vulgar Necrolatry (4:22)

Total Time: 44:34


- Tomi Koivusaari / Vocals & Guitar
- Esa Holopainen / Guitar
- Olli-Pekka Laine / Bass
- Jan Rechberger / Drums & Keyboards

About this release

Full-length, Relapse Records, November 1st, 1992

Licensed to Nuclear Blast in Europe. Catalogue number: NB 072 CD (SPV 84-140232)

CD bonus track:
11. Vulgar Necrolatry (Abhorrence cover) (04:22)
(This is a re-recorded version of the song, different from the version on the "Amorphis" single and "Privilege of Evil" EP)

Reissued in 2003 with the Privilege of Evil EP.

Thanks to UMUR for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Once again, I have Banger TV on YouTube and its Lock Horns program to thank for pointing me to yet another band that I felt interesting enough to merit purchasing an album. On the episode about early death / doom metal, Amorphis' name came up, and as I had already heard about their "Land of a Thousand Lakes" album from checking out compilation and "best" videos on YouTube, I began sampling albums in an effort to decide which to buy first. My choice was "Land of a Thousand Lakes", but thriftiness prevailed and I bought the cheaper debut album, "The Keralian Isthmus".

This is also yet another case of me learning something through a heavy metal band as I was unfamiliar with the Keralian Isthmus and its history. The album, however, is not about that; I had to check Wikipedia.

The re-issue of the debut I have also includes five songs from the "Privilege of Evil" EP that the band recorded around the time the original project called Abhorrence was dissolving into Amorphis. Thus, even though three songs appear on both albums, they have a different sound from "The Keralian Isthmus" with one of the most noticeable being that the EP version of "Vulgar Necrolaty" has a different vocalist and a death metal-styled guitar solo.

The album's begins with a short acoustic guitar track and from there on its heavy electric guitars all the way. The music typically follows a mid-tempo speed but does have both faster and slower moments. Each song generally changes rhythm and tempo a few times, making any individual track interesting to listen to. You can expect chugging heavy guitars, barre chords, and riffs comprised of melodic, single-note-picked riffs. Sometimes I am reminded of Iron Maiden's melodic guitar riffs though the actual melodies played by Amorphis are different in style, and I'm sure there's a bit of Celtic Frost in "The Sign from the North Side". The vocals are the deep, guttural style, and the double bass drums are used more to enhance the feeling of speed in the faster moments. With song titles like "Black Embrace" and "The Lost Name of God" you might wonder about any black metal influence in the roots of the band. The production of the main album is good enough for an early nineties, metal debut, the EP tracks sounded a little rougher.

The album is a good listen overall, though I found that even after three or four times through I wasn't checking out any song titles. That's because the songs, which pack various riffs, styles, and tempo changes in each song, end up becoming not so obviously distinguishable from one another. They each play like a mini version of the album. When you hear the guitar melody at the end of "The Pilgrimage" followed by the guitar melody in "Misery Path", you could be easily misled into thinking it was the same song sped up a little.

For that reason, "The Karelian Isthmus" is a good enough album to listen to but doesn't have any truly outstanding tracks. I could recommend "Vulgar Necrolatry" as the song to listen to but really nearly any track is a good introduction to the album.

I have listened to some of the band's later material and they have really evolved their sound drastically. Comparing "Sky Forger" to this album, you'd think they were two entirely different bands!

A good album for slower, more complex death metal with elements of doom and also melodic riffs. Three solid stars!

"The Karelian Isthmus" is the debut full-length studio album by Finnish death metal act Amorphis. The album was released through Relapse Records in November 1992. Amorphis was formed by former members of speed metal act Violent Solution and death metal act Abhorrence. Shortly after their formation, Amorphis recorded a studio demo (which was later released as the "Privilege of Evil (1993)" EP), which was send to Relapse Records. or actually Relapse Records had written to lead vocalist/guitarist Tomi Koivusaari to offer Abhorrence a record contract, but as that band wasn´t active anymore Amorphis included a copy of their studio demo in the return letter to Relapse Records and it got them signed to the label. Several of the tracks from the studio demo was re-recorded for "The Karelian Isthmus".

The music on the album is old school Scandinavian death metal with a melodic doomy touch. It reminds me slightly of early Paradise Lost but early releases by Swedish acts like Cemetary and Tiamat also come to mind. Already on their next album, Amorphis would include strong folk/ethnic elements in their music and while they are not as strong on "The Karelian Isthmus", those elements are present here too. All tracks are of a decent quality and the musicianship is impeccable, but the tracks don´t stand out enough from each other. The result is that you don´t remember many of the tracks after the album is over. I thought it was maybe a matter of listening to the album a couple of more times, but nothing has changed in that department even after several spins. Still when the album is playing, it´s an enjoyable listen and if you enjoy old school Scandinavian death metal you should find a lot to like here. The sound production is also quite good, so a 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is still fully deserved even though "The Karelian Isthmus" isn´t the most remarkable death metal album out there.
An early ambitious debut work by Amorphis.

Finnish death/doom/folk/progressive metal band Amorphis debut is quite an ambitious work for the young teenage musicians. I would say the band was developing very fast in that period of time. And their first studio album is trying to escape from the reality of Disment of Soul (their first amateur demo release). The purpose is accomplished with the clarifying of the sound and complicating of musicianship and songwriting.

Despite of all these, The Karelian Isthmus cannot satisfy experienced metal music fan and just can serve as good start with Amorphis discography. Most of the songs contain frequent tempo changes without well-arranged logical links between the themes. There isn't clear vocals here, in comparison with their next album - the masterpiece TFTTL. The inclusion of keyboards is really poor, too. It is my duty to mention the third song - Grails Mysteries as wonderful song and sample of what is going to be later in their career!

As a conclusion: a must for Amorphis fan and an interesting debut for others. 3+ stars

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