Death metal isn't for everyone -- especially first-wave Scandinavian death metal as practiced by Amorphis during the band's early years. Some love it, others don't know how seriously to take it, but everyone agrees that the folks who make such an extremely singular noise deserve a little credit for valuing an artistic construct more than the potential commercial value of more "acceptable" music. That same respect isn't usually extended to artists who make the kind of moderate rock that's perpetually heard on the radio. When artists make a break from the heavier side of this spectrum, a special kind of hatefulness is extended, and cries of "sellout" are heard emitting from the jilted voices in the heavy metal peanut gallery. As an automatic response, these accusations are short-sighted and reactionary. Years spent trying to make a living by playing death metal must have its frustrations, and nobody should be criticized for trying something new. When the results are as stifling as Tuonela, however, certain artistic "freedoms" shouldn't exactly be encouraged, either. While the record's generic hard rock turned out to be a commercial boon, it's an artistic flop. Except for a grumbling vocal on "Greed," all remnants of the group's death metal roots had vanished by this, the band's fifth release. It's hard to think that many fans of Amorphis' early work could stomach the barely metallic alt-rock on tracks like "Shining" and "Morning Star." Even without Amorphis' history, Tuonela is still a frustrating record. The guitars are shapeless and barely present, the extra instrumentation is forced, and the vocals are wooden. It all adds up to a kind of simple, lightweight prog that's kind of unnerving. This second take on metal began for Amorphis on Elegy, and that record along with everything after (including Tuonela) should only be approached with extreme caution.
AllMusic Review by Jason Anderson