Amorphis – Forging the Land of Thousand Lakes

By Adrien Begrand

For a band that’s been around for more than 20 years but has never put out a proper DVD release, the decision to finally cave in and give the fans a definitive video document of the band must be a tough one. Take Amorphis, for instance. The Finnish metal innovators have a very rich, detailed history with loads of different band members, so any documentary on the band would require a director to sift through myriads of interviews, home videos, and live footage and put something together that’s thorough but concise. Plus there are all the promo videos the band has shot over the years; the fans would want that as well. And a professionally-shot live show is a must these days, too, and along with all the logistics involved with such a production, the setlist would have to be as good a career overview as possible. With a nice scheduled break after the touring cycle of 2009’s album Skyforger the band decided that now is as good a time to suck it up and put out that first DVD as any, and to their credit, they’ve pulled out all the stops. Or at least as many as they could afford.

With two jam-packed DVDs and two CDs, Forging the Land of Lakes is nothing if not thorough. The centerpiece of the nicely packaged collection is a filmed performance in Oulou, Finland in November of 2009; comprised of sixteen career-spanning tracks over the course of an hour and a half, it’s the kind of presentation the fans want. The band has never sounded better live, as they’ve been completely rejuvenated ever since dreadlocked singer/growler Tomi Joutsen joined five years ago, and the sextet tears confidently through a set evenly balanced between their influential older fare and their excellent last three albums. Joutsen brings a versatility and power in a lead vocalist that Amorphis never had before, and not only does he do a tremendous job on recent hits like “Silver Bride”, “The Smoke”, and “House of Sleep”, bellowing into his rather unconventional custom-made microphone, but he makes all the older tracks his own, whether giving 2000’s “Alone” the strong singing the song always deserved, or snarling with authority on classics as “The Castaway” and “My Kantele”. Visually the concert is a touch antiseptic; the viewer is afforded tremendous views of the band, but it comes at the expense of the audience, which is rarely seen. Although that interaction is downplayed a little too much, and the setlist could be a little longer (for which guitarist Esa Holopainen apologizes for in his notes) it’s still a tremendous live document on both the DVD and the accompanying CDs.

The second DVD contains the expected video clips, a baker’s dozen worth, as well as a very good second complete live set shot at the Summer Breeze Festival in the summer of 2009, but the real draw on this disc is the documentary Tales From the 20 Years. Neatly covering the band’s history in around 90 minutes, it’s expertly done, with none of the slapdash direction that tends to derail many metal DVD documentaries. Every current band member is interviewed as well as several former members, and all contribute good, honest insights and stories. However, it’s a shame that former singer Pasi Koskinen did not participate. Amorphis’s frontman for nearly a decade, he was a crucial member, not to mention the most colourful character in the band, and his own perspective is definitely lacking. As it stands, though, the documentary delivers, serving as a good introduction to the band for curious listeners as well as a detailed enough profile of the band to please longtime fans. It might have taken them a bit longer than most bands to put out a proper DVD package, but their fans’ patience has paid off in a big way with this detailed but tastefully presented collection.

Rating: 8

(Nuclear Blast)

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Sean Palmerston

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.