Amorphis: The Warriors Arise
After wandering down the road of experimentation, Amorphis have returned to the heavier side of their history on their latest album. Appropriately named Circle, it captures a darker side of their storytelling without straying from the progressive atmosphere synonymous with the band. Now, finally, Amorphis are bringing their grand musical ambition for a run of dates down the East Coast before jumping across to Perth, something that guitarist Tomi Koivusaari couldn’t be more excited about.
Congratulations on the release of your new album Circle, it sounds excellent. I noticed that compared to your other albums, it feels much darker in terms of the music and themes. Would you agree?
When we started we wanted to change how we recorded it and who was producing it, so that’s why we wanted to work with Peter Tägtgren, we’ve known him for 20 years, we knew he was very good at producing and recording. We wanted to work with him, and making the songs a bit heavier was his goal as well, also more guitar-oriented stuff. We are very happy with the results and I think that these darker themes might continue, we will see. It was a good change, and it’s a bit like being back when we started. But we wanted to work with Peter because we wanted a heavier sound and when we met with Peter he told us that he wanted to do it a bit more heavier, so we had the same mindset from the beginning.
What else did Peter Tägtgren bring to the record?
Some new ways to record, for example the guitars. He didn’t have that many opinions about how we were playing things or how the songs were structured, but he had different methods, re-amping guitars and things like that. But also, to us it was very nice because we have done three albums before this one where there wasn’t any producer with the whole session, there was just Marco [Heitala] who produced the vocals so there wasn’t actually anyone who was involved in the whole session the whole time. This time, Peter was involved from the first note to the last note, he was kind of holding the strings together so we didn’t have to stress that much. That was maybe the biggest thing. But also, we have known him for 20 years, we have toured together, so he knows what we have been and what we want to do, things like that, so we can respect his ideas as well because he’s from the same scene. Also we went to the countryside where all the band was involved with the recording all of the time and not hurrying, they were the biggest differences.
Yeah I heard about your trip to the countryside to record Circle. Can you tell me about the experience and the effect that the environment had on the music?
The last albums were done here in Helsinki from nine in the morning to five in the afternoon that day. It started to feel like normal work and we didn’t actually see each other, because some days I went in and recorded my parts and didn’t see anyone except the guy who was recording it. All of those, [laughs] all of those crazy ideas that we used to have when we were recording our first albums, we went out to Sweden and the whole band was there and involved, it was very much like a focused recording with ideas and meetings. We wanted to do that again, all be there, then after a studio day all hit the sauna and drink a few beers and listen to the takes to share ideas. And it worked, so that was what we wanted to do, because in the studio you always have some new ideas, but if you’re doing it separately, you are never sharing those ideas, you just do your part and it’s there. But it was great to spend one week in the countryside, there was nothing there, just sheep and dogs, there wasn’t anything else to do other than concentrate on recording.
I feel like all of your music, this album in particular, has a really cinematic feel to it. When I was listening to the album, I had all of these images of battles and exploration running through my mind. When you’re writing and recording the music, do you consider the cinematic experience with images in your mind?
I think the cinematic thing is important. Sometimes you’re not thinking about it that much, but when I’m listening to music I have the same feelings. Music is best when you have some kind of cinematic feelings or some kind of different mood. It’s important to us, but mostly it’s not conscious, it’s subconscious. To us, it’s more important to hear what the band sounds like together than say a solo, or if someone’s coming up from the music and playing a lot faster, that’s not important to us. It’s more like the whole feeling.
I also noticed that your metal influences have expanded a bit. You’re really pushing your classic metal influences a lot more, but there’s also some black metal in there. Am I correct in hearing that?
Well yeah that is Tomi’s [Joutsen, vocals] style and that was what Peter brought to this project, he wanted Tomi to sing a little bit like this, black metal-ish things. I think we have always had the same kind of influences from the beginning but we’ve been listening to some black metal as well, also very different kind of music. Every music is good to us, but we’re not interested in religion, burning churches or anything like that [laughs] but good music is good music.
And the track that you wrote, “Nightbird’s Song” is one of the heavier tracks on Circle, and it has that very prominent black metal feel to it. Do you listen to the heaviest music out of all the guys in the band?
No I think Tomi our singer is the most extreme with his heavy music. “Nightbird’s Song” just came out like that, sometimes songs are not that heavy when you’re doing a demo at home, but when the band are adding their own things to it, it stars to change the shape a little bit. It was meant to be a heavy song of course, but we had no idea about what the vocals would be until he started the vocals, but we had all the music ready anyway. I think Tomi, the other Tomi, is listening to a lot of old school death metal nowadays, and we are listening as well sometimes, but I think my musical tastes, it’s good to have something totally different from metal. Like I said earlier, good music is good music.
To your credit though it sounds like the guitars on “Nightbird’s Song” are some of the heaviest parts of the album.
Yeah I think the guitar sounds turned out very good, we’re using some of the same stuff we used to have in the early ’90s. When we made the Far From The Sun album we were trying to be more rock-oriented, but we had to see that path as well so now we can take influences from our whole career. It’s much more fun to play heavier stuff live I think [laughs].
Right in the middle of that song is a flute solo, which is a stark contrast to the metal. Why did you choose to add such contrasting elements to your song?
I think contrasts work very well sometimes, and it fits to the story and the lyrics. The guy who’s playing that played on our Tuonela and Am Universum albums in the past as well, so we asked if he would join us on this album as well. We very much like what he’s doing and his band from the ’70s has been a very big influence to our music as well, like they played progressive rock back then. These were just ideas we wanted to try, and sometimes we are musing some ideas, but this one works very well I think.
Your lyricist Pekka Kainulainen created an original concept for this album based around an individual who creates his own circle as a means of survival. How did you craft the music to fit the themes that Pekka created?
This time we gave him free hands with this story, we didn’t have any story ideas for him, but we gave him a few rehearsal tapes. He had some lyrics but we didn’t want to use those because they were talking about things like cafeterias and cars [laughs], so we asked him to stay in the same world as the Kalevala [19th century Finnish poem, the inspiration for previous Amorphis albums], with very timeless things. We just made this story and we were satisfied with it, he had some ideas and we said, “Okay, how about like this” and we went through 100 emails, then it was done. None of us are interesting enough to write our own lyrics, which is why we have an outsider, and Pekka is very deep in the Kalevala thing anyway, so he knows pretty much what we are looking for.
Obviously the lyrics play a big part in the story, but how does the music help tell it as well?
I think that’s the fun part of making music and records, when the music and lyrics are perfect together. But for us we might not be thinking about lyrics in the first place because for us, the music always comes first. Sometimes we hear the first melodies of the lyrics only when all the music is already done. Of course Tomi is thinking of some songs through these lyrics, but it’s just like coincidence sometimes too. I agree that lyrics are important of course, but I think this kind of story telling fits very well to our music. To us, music itself comes first and it’s most important to us in the first place, but then lyrics are leading that music to somewhere [laughs].
You touched on this before but after more than 20 years of doing this, where do you find new inspiration to keep evolving your sound?
That has been very important to us all these years, to do what we feel like, to keep the fun of doing music and not trying to do the same album again and again. When we’re starting to take new stuff, we don’t have any guidelines, we’re not planning which way to go, we’re just starting to rehearse the songs and normally, when an album is finished, we start to think about what kind of album it is, like is it heavier… We’re just making music and not thinking too much.
And finally, your first tour to Australia is happening this month. Now aside from playing the shows, what do you want to do while you’re in our fine country?
Well see some places, not only airports! [Laughs] Because we’ve never been there, so it’s very nice to come over, but I hope that we will have some time to see any place, it’s a huge country of course, so from where to start I don’t know, but I’d like to see something else than the airports. Some kangaroos would be nice to see [laughs] but you know the people and the nature, anything.
When you’re up on the stage, looking at the Australian audience, what do you like to see in the crowd? What gives you the energy to put on a great performance?
Well, there isn’t that much mosh pits or stage diving lately, but it’s just good to see people enjoying it, not snoring [laughs]. It’s hard to explain but if people are singing along or listening or whatever, sometimes you just have this great feeling and you don’t even know why. It’s just some strange mood.
Catch Amorphis on tour this month at the dates below!
Amorphis Tour Dates