The defining moment. The crowning achievement. The Magnum Opus...of the band we call AMORPHIS. Anyone worth his ass knows that this album friggin' RULES! However, do we know exactly "why" that is? I certainly don't, I just know I like it, A LOT! I'll be brutally honest: when I first heard it, I thought it was a pile of poop. Mainly because of the vocals. But hey, I hadn't heard much death-y vocals before this, least of all with melodic guitar/synth-backing, so cut me some slack! Of course, who WOULDN'T be moved to tears by Kasper Martenson's angelic piano on opener "Thousand Lakes"? I had a great musical revelation once when I listened to that part while imagining myself in a place like that illustrated on the cover of the album. It was one of those "personal moments" we all have (I assume) where you instantly fall in love with a piece of music in the span of a minute or two, or, in rare cases, a single microsecond. Since that experience, I've been in love with this album.
My theory behind the "appeal" that this album holds to so many people is the atmosphere it creates when you let it fully absorb you. The more you listen, the more each nuance is embedded in your subconscious. At first, you may ask yourself "what's the big deal?". But you must be patient with albums like this. It may have a bit of a "rusty" production in some ways, mainly in the snare drum-sound, and the vocals are very croak-y (in the "death-frog" sense), but the more you let it get inside your head, the more you'll see that it is a work of true musical art. Something about the WAY everything comes together here is just brilliant. Imagine, if you will, the scene from "American Beauty" where they're watching the video of the "dancing grocery bag", and you might be able to understand that albums like this were, perhaps, not meant to be enjoyed at first listen. If you have the capacity to be open, in mind and spirit, you will then see how uniquely rare an album like "Tales..." truly is, and you will be thankful for putting forth the necessary effort.
Of course, I don't think it is difficult to find enjoyment in songs like "Into Hiding", "Forgotten Sunrise", or (especially) "Black Winter Day", if only because of the memorable keyboard-melodies alone! This is pure majesty! Lyrically, musically, aesthetically, it is undeniable that AMORPHIS have graced us all with a gift on this album, TEN gifts actually. All in all, I am speechless! There might be more atmosphere here than our planet Earth can hold...