The Merits Of Isolation – An Interview With Amon Amarth

amonamarth2013bandSwedish melodic death metal outfit Amon Amarth is the very definition of consistency in metal today. Deceiver Of The Gods, the band’s latest album, is as solid as they come. Ghost Cult caught up with drummer Fredrik Andersson to discuss working with famed producer Andy Sneap, the merits of being isolated and how to counter stagnation as a band among other topics.

The central figure on Deceiver Of The Gods is Loki, the trickster god from Viking Mythology. What do you find so interesting about him?

This is more of a question for Johan (Hegg-singer), but Loki is very fascinating character. That’s because there’s not much known about him, but he’s an essential figure within Norse mythology. He’s present in almost every tale in some shape or form. That’s very interesting to me. The main reason why we’ve used him as the main character is because we wanted to make a more aggressive and dangerous album and Loki seemed to us to be the perfect protogenist for that.

The album also heralds a new approach how you recorded the drums. How did this benefit the music?

I prefer to record songs from beginning to end. If needed, I’ll do several takes. I prefer recording drums live than to paste and copy parts, which many bands do nowadays. It’s almost the general trend sadly. I guess it helps when you’re aiming for a perfect sound. I like having more of a live feel to the drums. It’s okey for me that I don’t hit every drum and cymbal full on. Little mistakes give it a more human touch. I’m satisfied when it sounds more natural.

So why did you guys decide to work with Andy Sneap instead of Jens Bogren, the guy who produced the last couple of Amon Amarth records?

Andy Sneap is one of the top producers within metal and we really wanted to work with him for many years. He wasn’t available for our previous records, so we went with Jens Bogren, because of the location of his studio in Sweden. We had a meeting with him and it felt natural to work with him. However, after three records with Jens it was time for change. We wanted to challenge ourselves and seek someone with fresh ideas for Amon Amarth. Andy’s name came up again, so we scheduled a meeting with him and it soon turned out we were on the same page on where the band should go next and how the new album should sound. It felt natural to work with him.

Andy’s studio is located in the middle of nowhere in the UK. How did that affect the recording?

It fit us very well. It felt kind of coming home, because the studio environment reminded me of the Abyss Studio owned by Peter Tagtgren. His studio is located in the countryside as well. Isolation works well for us, because it allows us to concentrate fully on the music. Andy is also a very relaxed person. With Jens Bogren we had a nine to five schedule everyday. It created some pressure when you had the get up early in the morning and perform for eight hours straightaway. It almost felt like a regular office job, which isn’t rock and roll at all. With Andy we could start recording somewhere in the afternoon when we felt ready and it was just more relaxed. Sometimes we went on until three in the morning and on other times we stopped early and we went to local pub. There was no stress during the whole recording session and that really works well for us.

Messiah Marcolin, formerly of Candlemass, recorded some guest vocals on a track called ‘Hel’. How did he come aboard?

Our singer met him at Sweden Rock many years ago and they were talking about doing something together. Nothing came of it, but some years ago he came to one of our shows in Stockholm and we ended up drinking in our tour bus until three in the morning. We loosely discussed the idea on how well his voice would work next to Johan’s growls and to have him on one of our records. Surprisingly, he was really into the idea as well. He thought it was just drinking talk and he hadn’t expected much of it. He was really surprised when we called him. He was really surprised when we called him and he was still into the idea, so we sent him the song, he recorded his vocals and sent it back. The result was really cool.

Deceiver Of The Gods also features influences from other metal (sub)genres which weren’t incorporated on previous Amon Amarth albums. What brought that around?

It’s a natural development for us. It has to do that we’ve grown as musicians and that we have more self-confidence as far as our music goes. In the past we were always very wary of adding more outside musical influences in our music and how people would react if we try something new. We always wanted to stay true to our sound, so if a guitar riff wasn’t Amon Amarth enough, we would discard it just like that. This time around we would use such a riff and see how it would work within the Amon Amarth musical frame. This approach ties into our grown confidence in our musical abilities to accomplishment such things.

 Finally, how do you prevent from stagnating as a band without completely overhauling your sound and run the risk of alienating your core fanbase?

Of course it’s getting more and more difficult for everyone to come up with new ideas. We’ve also come to terms that if a new guitar riff reminds us of one of the older riffs, that’s not strange or unnatural. That’s the way we write songs and how Amon Amarth sounds. No one would complain of Iron Maiden writes ‘The Trooper’ part II or ‘Number Of The Beast II’ for instance. We try to use new ideas and see things from different angles and we’ve been doing that since the last three or four albums. I guess we notice this more than the average listener. It’s matter of pushing the limits a little further each time and see how people react.

Raymond Westland

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