I never was a lot into any post-Elegy work. That's going to change for sure! Playing Thousand Lakes last year must have triggered something.
Personally, I love the debut album The Karelian Isthmus about as much as Thousand Lakes. Sixes is a fan of it too, I believe. It's less produced, and more aggressive, way less keyboards and nihil clean vocals. But the atmosphere and great riffing and the deep grunts make for a fine cocktail. Really cool when playing loud in the car! :--)
Tales from the Thousand Lakes is definitely the best Amorphis album, and possibly my favourite death metal album. I like Elegy and Tuonela but rarely play them. Never cared for the later stuff, I feel like they got lost in repetition.
I prefer the re-recordings of songs from that era. None of the vocalists before Joutsen were good IMO. With him, everything kind of clicked for this band. I pretty much see the pre-Eclipse Amorphis as a wholly different band.
Joutsen has a more powerful voice. Live you can't get around him, while Koivusaari's grunt did not work well, live. It always lacked volume.
However, his voice has qualities that I like. The grunt is deeper, comes more from the stomach (while you hear more throat in Joutsen) and fits the music excellent. Works great on the studio albums. Koivusaari's grunt has a bit of an unhuman quality. Archaic. As if some creature from the past tells his tales. Gives the albums an extra outlandish touch. The sound works so well that I don't even mind that I can't hear well what he says.
Nonetheless, I am perfectly fine with Joutsen in the band. He's a strong frontman and fits well.
Some more thoughts on the bass playing. What Olli-Pekka Lainen did (co-founder of the band, he left in 2000) is really interesting I think. E.g. on Tales, at times he plays in a percussive manner (it almost sounds as a different instrument), yet it is very melodic and sometimes independent. Like what Markus Grosskopf does in Helloween, he did that with grandeur in a melodic death metal band.
So awesome really. I keep regretting that I didn't see this last year. When they open for Nightwish we'll have a few songs only from that album I guess. I can understand that of course, from their point of view.