Reflecting a recent trend among veteran heavy metal bands, the present-day members of Finland's Amorphis decided to re-record their early work on 2010's Magic and Mayhem (Tales from the Early Years), but at least their motivation was celebrating a 20th anniversary instead of making a quick buck…or maybe both, who knows? In any case, this release finds the group revisiting and partially rearranging choice material from their first three studio albums, which had been responsible for establishing their original penchant for mixing death metal with Finnish folk songs, launching their career in the process. And, as with most revisionist releases of its kind, Magic and Mayhem is pretty much a love/hate proposition, locked in a highly contested tug of war between one batch of fans open to hearing old classics in a new light, and another that would rather not see such "sacrosanct" relics messed with, technology and maturity and even for-the-hell-of-it-ness be damned. In other words, it's a totally subjective matter, whether you consider the new versions boasting evident changes from the originals, or simply providing the mature interpretations of a middle-aged Amorphis. In the former category we find two significantly "cleaned up" submissions from the band's formatively raw first album The Karelian Isthmus ("Exile of the Sons of Uisliu" and "Sign from the North Side"); a more fleshed out "Black Winter Day" and an extended "My Kantele" (both of which, ironically replace synthesizer intros with stark piano and acoustic guitars); as well as the novelty of hearing the latest Amorphis singer, Tomi Joutsen, whip out his death roar (another treat is hearing Tomi Koivusaari handle a few vocals for the first time since 1997). Even so, none of the changes are all that radical, so the biggest surprises are reserved for the corrosive Abhorrence cover, "Vulgar Necrolatry" (once a first album outtake), and a positively comical, Cookie Monster-approved spin through the Doors' "Light My Fire"! Magic and Mayhem indeed; so whether fans approve of these revisions or not, at least there's no doubt that the members of Amorphis had themselves a drunken good time reworking these songs.
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AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia