“ Genre: Hard Rock & Metal - Heavy Metal / Artist: Amorphis / Import / Audio CD released 2002-05-28 at Spinefarm „
Ten years is as good enough excuse for a best-of as any, and with four acclaimed albums and other material under their Finnish belts, the (presumably) belt-wearing Finns of Amorphis provide this little present for the fans of Amorphis who may be wearing belts or not. The whole belt thing isn't really important and I don't want to get dragged into this debate too much, but there's a not a lot else to say about a pretty standard and unexciting compilation such as this.
The most commendable thing about this release is the fair overview it provides, stretching as far back as the first album with several choice morsels plucked therefrom, rather than merely concentrating on the very different material from the most recent 'Tuonela.' It's the diversity of Amorphis' albums that makes a collection such as this both fascinating and difficult, as eras are dipped in and out of in a more or less random fashion, one second with a heavy death metal riff and growling from Tomi Koivusaari, the next light atmospheric rock under Pasi Koskinen. Only the most dedicated Amorphis fans will find no flaws with the album, but for everyone else it's likely to be a case of favouring one extreme over the other. In the interests of fairness, whoever compiled the album has tried to ease the transition by taking the most songs from the 'Elegy' album, which wasn't exactly transitional itself but was at least a more honest middle-ground tilted in favour of the newer style, but possessing a few of the metal elements along with the folk aspects of the earlier releases.
Amorphis' discography boasts a number of E.P.s running alongside the main album lineage, and the lack of much material from these shorter releases is understandable, as they were mainly comprised of B-sides and covers, along with a song already present on the longer album that preceded it. Only 'The Brother-Slayer' is a cut from Elegy's 'My Kantele' companion, and it balances out the acoustic folk rock side of things quite nicely despite not being one of the better choices, but the biggest disappointment for me comes in the lack of any material from the excellent and highly individual 'Privilege of Evil' released between the first two albums in 1993. While the furious death metal might have upset the more casual listeners of this album, its significance and oddness in the Amorphis chronology demands inclusion on a collection such as this, at the very least as a sampling of further rarities for fans to go out and buy. 'Black Winter Day' is similarly overlooked, but I can't disagree with that decision.
The only offering present for long-time fans is a live version of 'Cares,' one of the best songs from 'Elegy' and the one that bridges the divide between old and new Amorphis most successfully, but the rest of the collection faces the usual problems of any collected work like this: favourite songs are missing, and some that were more significant representations of the band are ditched in favour of songs that only prove the same points already made. With sixteen songs from four albums (and one E.P.) it's a decent collection of Amorphis material and more than enough as a sampler for newcomers to decide which path to venture down next, but with many further albums and the twentieth anniversary only a couple of years away now, 'Stories' was only ever destined for a short shelf life before being consigned to the fate of a less significant collector's item.
1. Black Winter Day
2. Against Widows
4. Grail's Mysteries
5. The Castaway
6. My Kantele
7. The Way
8. The Brother-Slayer
9. The Orphan
10. Exile of the Sons of Uisliu
11. On Rich and Poor
13. The Gathering
14. Drowned Maid
15. Summer's End
16. Cares (Live)
Track Listings: 1. Black Winter Day / 2. Against Widows / 3. Tuonela / 4. Grail's Mysteries / 5. The Castaway / 6. My Kantele / 7. The Way / 8. The Brother-Slayer / 9. The Orphan / 10. Exile of the Sons of Uisliu / 11. On Rich and Poor / 12. Divinity / 13. The Gathering / 14. Drowned Maid / 15. Summer's End / 16. Cares (Live)