Finnish death metal godfathers Amorphis have recently given us the opportunity of seeing them perform material recorded right back in 1994, looking back to their second album ‘Tales Of A Thousand Lakes’ on its 20th Anniversary. Lead guitarist and founding member Esa Holopainen has been there all along and one has to wonder if they have everything down to an easily workable formula now that they have finalised their 12th studio album ‘Under The Red Cloud’? How do the road dogs even find the time to record, perhaps they write the material on the back of the tour bus between shows? Esa makes it quite clear that this is simply not an option. “I think it’s an impossible idea. It’s such an uninspiring environment when you are on the tour bus. I don’t know how any musician can do that. Usually what happens is, when we have done enough touring, we start little by little to write new music. In the week we are at home and can concentrate on writing. That’s the way of the business though; you have to be on tour if you want to make a living out of it.”
Even getting into the studio and getting the songs down is not that clear cut as the band found out working with famed producer Jens Bogren. “Every time you work with a new producer it’s a new territory. We didn’t know Jens beforehand but knew he is very strict. When we did the pre-production we began to get the idea of how long he wanted us to record. He said to me that he needed me there for three weeks and I was like ‘you must be joking’ as when I normally record my guitars it takes four days maximum. We started about 8 o’clock every morning and worked until 6 o’clock in the evening. It takes a lot of nerves to tolerate that method but he’s very educated and at the end of the day we are 40-year-old guys who think we know how to record but you still learn something new about yourself when the producer has you playing for ten hours a day.”
The end results are certainly worth it though and one listen to ‘Under The Red Cloud’s stormy opening title track will clearly illustrate that Amorphis have once again delivered a timeless, golden musical experience. The band do not work normally when it comes to the lyrical themes either, utilising poet Pekka Kainulainen to write them instead. His knowledge of The Kalavela, an epic work of 19th Century folkloric Finnish poetry, is a common thread intertwined through the narrative of all the band’s work. We can envisage the group eagerly sitting around a campfire waiting the next ‘tales’ to be delivered to them, but isn’t it an odd way of working? “The fact is none of us could do this like Pekka,” admits Esa. “We have high standards when it comes to the music and the visual side of the band, for us the lyrics are just as important, so for us it is important that we have an outsider write them, with a meaning that makes sense to us rather than singing about a rock and roll life or impaling Christians or whatever.” Well that clears up that red cloud but what about the one looming dangerously over the new album, how would Esa interpret Pekka’s latest prose? Is it some sort of warning? “Yes that’s the basic idea, something bad, something ecological will happen if we keep living the way we are. The lyrics deal with the soul-searching hope from nature and the old spirits and how he sees the world situation at the moment in line with the old beliefs.
There’s a wealth of styles within these epic songs taking things from a melodic death metal backbone to Finnish folk-prog and even Oriental scales with Esa playing a sitar. Chrigel Glanzmann (Eluveitie) adding flute and Martin Lopez’s percussion really temper the songs. How exactly would Esa explain the band’s sound and influences? “At the very early stages of the band we got fed up with the idea of just playing death metal, we like adding some different surprises and trying different things. With ‘Tales…’ it was totally out of the blue, we started to add Finnish folk melody lines but we just loved the idea. There were lots of bands in Finland during the ’70s who combined traditional folk melodies into their music, a little bit like Jethro Tull and we thought why couldn’t we do that as well? In a way it worked and a slight folk touch has always been part of our band.”
The band recently announced a UK tour for 2016
Tickets are on-sale from today at the following links:
March 18th – Bristol, Fleece
March 19th – Manchester, Sound Control
March 20th – Dublin, Button Factory
March 22nd – Wolverhampton, Slade Rooms
March 23rd – London, Islington O2 Academy
March 24th – Glasgow, Cathouse
March 25th – Nottingham, Rescue Rooms
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