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Amorphis: From Death Metal Demos to Progressive Stardom

Nuclear Blast

It’s hard to believe, but Amorphis have been churning out their melancholic brand of metal for over 20 years. This week, the Finnish band released its 10th studio album, ‘The Beginning of Times.’

“I can’t believe that we’re still doing this all of these years later,” Amorphis guitarist Esa Holopainen told Noisecreep during a chat last week. “Amorphis came out of the tape trading scene back in the late ’80s and early ’90s. I still have boxes of cassettes at my parents’ house [laughs]. In a way, I was like the band’s marketing person, sending our demos and flyers to people all over the world. I spent a lot of money on postage [laughs].”

“Through the tape trading thing, I also ended up making some close friends,” he said. “Hervé Herbaut from Osmose Productions was one of those people, and he was actually interested in signing Amorphis. But that was around the same time when the Relapse Records guys were talking to us and we ended up signing with them.”

Noisecreep asked Holopainen if there was a specific moment when he felt Amorphis could become something bigger than they had originally planned.

“I think it was when the Relapse Records guys that they wanted us to make a full-length album and were also willing to send us to Sweden to record it at Sunlight Studios,” Holopainen said. “At that point, we were so happy that they believed in us that much. The fact that they wanted to invest in us made the band feel that much more confident in what we were doing with Amorphis.

“The big turning point for Amorphis was the second full-length, ‘Tales from the Thousand Lakes,’ in 1994. With that record we started getting a lot of great reviews and the label also set up a lot of press for us. From that point on we started getting offered proper tours and the profile of the group got bigger. That album changed our lives. It’s still the most important thing that happened in the career of Amorphis.”

‘The Beginning of Times’ finds Holopainen and his Amorphis cohorts weaving their trademark folk-influenced melodies into some of the most inspired arrangements of their career. ‘Song of the Sage’ recalls ’70s-era Jethro Tull while ‘Crack in a Stone’ showcases the act’s symphonic side. This isn’t the kind of record a closed-minded hesher would lap up, but if you enjoy the more forward-thinking side of the metal spectrum, ‘The Beginning of Times’ offers many rewards.

“If you’re speaking in the context of heavy metal, I think we’ve always been weirdos,” laughs Holopainen. “Throughout the years, if we’ve gotten hooked on a certain style of music, we’ve thrown it into our songwriting. Amorphis went from more of a traditional death metal band to something much more unique because of it.”

Since Amorphis’ songwriting style has evolved so much from their early days, Noisecreep asked Holopainen what he thinks a teenage version of himself would have thought of his band’s current sound. “That’s a good question! Let’s see, if I were a teenager now, I would be totally in love with Children of Bodom. If that kind of band would have been around when I was a kid, it would have meant everything to me. So what Amorphis sounds like today would have probably been over my head [laughs].

“I’ve never seen that many teenage fans at our shows, except in Finland because metal is very commercial in our country. Many of the elements that we use in Amorphis aren’t easily understood by younger listeners. We’ve even had 60-year-old fans at our concerts. I would say the average age of our fans is somewhere in their late 30s like we are. I think we play for more intelligent people [laughs].”

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