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The gloomy guys from Finland
Amorphis are proud of their roots. Traditional Finnish music and heavy-duty guitar slinging are interwoven in the band's songs to create a breathtaking sound.

"This autumn has started on a quiet note. We were to go to America in the beginning of October, but cancelled the tour already last summer. With hindsight, that decision now seems appropriate," says Amorphis keyboard player Santeri Kallio of the unsettled situation in the world.

The band has just finished their Tattoo the Planet tour, which gathered over 11,000 fans to the ice halls in Stockholm and Helsinki. American metal giants Slayer, who are also one of Amorphis' idols, headlined the show. "We were overcome with nostalgia when our childhood heroes shared the same stage with us. It has to be said that Slayer still rocks! Our slot was too short, however, and we had to manage with only a half-hour set," Kallio says.

Out into the world

Amorphis is an unusually international phenomenon in Finland's music scene. Unlike the record-company-sponsored chart toppers Him, Darude and Bomfunk MC, this six-man metal group built its network of contacts itself and signed a recording contract directly abroad. The success story began ten years ago.

"Local labels showed us the door and so we, just 17 at the time, decided to go overseas. Finnish interest was only aroused after it said in the papers that we had sold a huge stack of records," guitarist Tomi Koivusaari says with a wry smile.

And he has plenty of reason to be jolly. The group's five albums have sold over half a million copies to date. This economic success has translated into larger venues and longer tours. The band must now spend at least a few months roaming Europe and America in their tour bus, but they aren't complaining; "Playing on the road keeps the music alive in a way that could not be achieved by just lounging at home," says Kallio.

The boys from Helsinki have not shied away from more exotic venues, such as Japan and Mexico. "We are not dependent on MTV. We've played in underground circles for a decade and during that time word, and our recordings, has spread around the world. We have an audience everywhere," Koivusaari says.

The following is especially strong in Germany, where Amorphis' success has helped pave the way for other Finns with a heavy sound. Groups like Sentenced, Children Of Bodom and Nightwish have joined in the Finnish heavy metal boom.

Metalmorphosis

Images 19 Kb Amorphis has not stagnated. The band has distanced itself from metal and looked for new ways to express itself. Although the new album "Am Universum" could be categorised as rock, followers have given their change in style a good reception. Alone, the first single to be released from the album, spent three weeks as number one in the Finnish charts.

Their old image is still hindering the broadcasting of their music on the radio and TV; these media have traditionally resented heavy metal. "It really is a shame that we get so little coverage on the radio. Playlists today include music that is much rougher than ours," says Koivusaari.

One of the ensemble's strengths is the solid grasp it has of their Finnish heritage. The lyrics of the first three albums were take from traditional poetry: Finland's national epic the Kalevala and the Kanteletar. Vocalist Pasi Koskinen has taken charge of song writing in the more recent output and he likes to call his writings modern folk stories.

Sakari Kukko, who leads the legendary folk band Piirpauke, has joined Amorphis on their two latest albums to help create a new sound with the aid of his psychedelic saxophone sound. Heavy guitar riffs and Finnish folk music may seem like a strange match but Amorphis find the equation works well: "Sakari Kukko is an ideal addition to our sound and Piirpauke was already one of our most significant influences when we were forming the band."

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