Originally released in 1992, the Karelian Isthmus was the debut album from Amorphis, a band whose innovative blend of death, gothic, and progressive metal would make them one of the most renowned names in extreme metal. In 1992 however, Amorphis was a straightforward death metal band. You won’t find any unique instrumental experimentation or clean vocals here, just fast, heavy, and brutal death metal. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that the band drew inspiration for this album from Finnish folk tales, you’d be hard pressed to tell it was Amorphis in the first place.
I’m not knocking this album. As death metal albums go, it’s pretty good, but it’s also very much a product of its time, before bands like At the Gates, Opeth, and yes Amorphis would go on to push the boundaries of the genre and create such impressive new sounds. Taken in context with the rest of the band’s impressive output, the Karelian Isthmus seems pretty basic, and doesn’t serve much purpose other than to say “this is where it all started.”
The bottom line is this: If you’re a serious old school death metal fan, you’re going to love the Karelian Isthmus. If you’re a serious Amorphis fan, you’re probably going to pick this up just to complete your collection, and will rarely take it off the shelf.
NOTE: The 2003 reissue of the Karelian Isthmus features the complete 6-song Privilege of Evil EP as bonus tracks. These tracks are, if anything, even more raw and brutal than those on the Karelian Isthmus, and have a much darker, more patently sinister approach.