Thursday, December 31, 2009

Folk Metal Heroes

Last on my list of guitar heroes who play metal (but far from last in my estimation) are Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari from Amorphis. They are a mythic folk metal band from Finland and they have been around for 20 years and been a huge influence on the european metal scene but are still relatively unknown in the US which is a shame, but that's the US metal scene for ya.

Tomi K. (not to be mistaken for Tomi J., their singer) plays mostly rhythm and all the intricate treble, picked stuff from their early music. He also used to do their growling in the early, death metal days, but is mostly happy now to keep out of the spotlight. He also plays a mean mandolin and writes part of the music for the band. Esa plays mostly lead in that he plays most of the solos and a lot of single note parts, but a lot of the time he's playing melodies or counterpoint to the keys over the top of another melody. Amorphis is one of those ensemble bands where everyone is doing something different and making it all work together. Esa does the finnish folk melody parts on guitar and Tomi supplies the metal heaviness.

Go to the Nuclear Blast website and you can find their video for Silent Waters or Silver Bride to get an idea what I'm talking about. Their music is very epic and there's a lot going on there. Fortunately enough for a crappy guitar player like myself, a lot of what they do is not so difficult from a technical standpoint that I can't at least approximate it for playing along. The rhythms are pretty straightforward and the folk melodies are off-kilter little modal things that move around, but repeat a lot of patterns, so they are manageable as well.

Tomi's rhythm work is interesting because he spends a lot of time chunking out the barre chords, but he can also do the old school death metal single note treble rhythms and slide into more acoustic arpeggios as well. He's an understated player, not really showing off, but doing some pretty intricate and delicate stuff. Esa's lead work is soaring and emotional and makes really lovely use of his Vox wah to give it a vocal quality. I can't touch his feel or his phrasing. It's deceptively good.

They also do some lovely acoustic work.

They are supposed to be swinging over to this side of the pond again sometime soon. I'll be there.

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