Amorphis

Mijn plaat van het jaar 2007 staat al zo goed als vast. Nog niet eerder is het muzikale verschil tussen twee opeenvolgende Amorphis platen zo klein geweest, maar tegelijkertijd heeft de band ook nog nooit een plaat afgeleverd die de perfectie zo dicht benadert. 'Silent Waters' heet het werkje en alles wat het Nederlandse spreekwoord daar over zegt is van toepassing op het nieuwe album van de Finnen. Reden te over om gitarist en componist van het eerste uur Esa Holopainen het hemd van het lijf te vragen over de totstandkoming van dit nieuwe meesterwerk.

Door: Richard G. | Archiveer onder different metal

band imageLet's start with a technical question: the album will be released at the end of August, yet the promotional copies are handed out more than 1,5 month in advance, which is a pretty long period; it is normally just a few weeks. Is there any particular reason why?
I think that this is one of those typical record company things, I don't really know. What I know that it is quite a long time, we finished the recordings in March and it was still a long time to August. So we thought that we had enough time to think about the album cover, but then all of a sudden we had to decide because the promos had to be sent out!

Aren't you afraid that this will provide extra chance for it to leak onto the internet and people will download it instead of buying it?
Yeah, it is already on the internet, which is quite annoying., but you can't really help it these days, it is just a matter of time.

Ok, let's move on to your new album 'Silent Waters'. The previous album was only released a bit over a year ago. How come the new record follows so fast? Did you guys suddenly have a lot of inspiration?
We had a very high motivation. At one point two tour plans were cancelled and at the same time we had some ideas already which we wanted to try out for fun, just because we had nothing else to do. And all of a sudden we came up with half of the songs of the album. Normally it always took us two years before we could come up with another album, so this was quite new to us as well. So then we just decided to book the studio and just finish the album!

I have listened to it a few times now and the first thing that struck me is that it starts out with probably the two hardest (containing the most grunt vocals), most metal songs of the album. What is the idea behind this?
We wanted the album to sort of follow the drama. We wanted to have an aggressive start, an emotional mid-part and sort of a dramatic end. We wanted sort of a musical storyline for this album. There is also a lyrical storyline to the album. The basic concept is an old story that people used to believe in Finland, about a certain character that had to travel to the land of the dead, the underworld.

A new Amorphis album pretty much always differs quite a bit from the previous album. For instance 'Tales From The Thousand Lakes' vs. 'Elegy' and 'Far From The Sun' vs. 'Eclipse'. Where have you tried to progress this time?
I think the biggest change is probably that we have a bit more emotional tracks and Tomi is singing in totally different frequencies compared to 'Eclipse', he really brought out new sides of himself. But I would say that it is not as dramatic a change as we have had in the past.

'Eclipse' was pretty successful, got good reviews and did very well in general, if I'm not mistaken. Does this kind of success put pressure on the writing process in some kind of way? How do you deal with that?
There was not really that much pressure, we did not try to make a better album than 'Eclipse'. We do not work like that. We were actually surprised how well 'Eclipse' did, because we had not so good experience with the 'Far From The Sun' album, so we did not have that much inspiration at all. But we did know that when Tomi came to the band we had a really strong singer. And in the end everything went just fine! By the way, we did want 'Silent Waters' to sound a bit like 'Eclipse', we wanted to have the same production team and stuff like that. But music-wise we just used what came up and that is how the album came into being.

Obviously 'Eclipse' was the first record with the new singer Tomi Joutsen. How much of an influence did Tomi have on the making of 'Eclipse'? And on 'Silent Waters'?
On 'Eclipse' it was more about the arranging of the vocals and bringing back the aggressive vocals. Because when he came to the band he said that he was a big fan of our earlier work and that he would like to try out those heavy vocals again. For 'Silent Waters' he actually did write a song, which will be featured on the special edition of the new album.

He has now experienced all the elements of being in Amorphis: he did the touring part, he did the recording part. So how would you, as an original band member, evaluate the Tomi Joutsen-era of Amorphis until now?
The change is like the difference between day and night. With all due respect to Pasi (former singer, RG), but at the end of the day he did suffer from a lot of lack of motivation and that put some stress on the band as well. I consider 'Silent Waters' more or less to be the second album of the band in its new era. Tomi gave so much motivation and energy to the rest of the band. I would never have believed that one guy could do so much motivation-wise. It is weird, because when I look back on our career, some of the old stuff, like the 'Elegy' album, feels so close. I don't know why but now with the release of 'Silent Waters' I am getting the same kind of feelings I had when 'Elegy' came out.
I think it is because music-wise the last two albums are a bit more heavier than 'Am Universum'' or 'Tuonela', so we taking a few steps back. Do not get me wrong, I still love these albums and they have been very important for the band and the songs are great to play live, but now with Tomi on vocals and the feelings we have I think that we will not be that experimental anymore.

I wondered about something, because I read on your website that you held auditions for a new singer after 'Far From The Sun', but no one was good enough, and then someone advised you to invite Tomi. But why didn't Tomi take part in the auditions back then?
Tomi is actually quite a shy guy. When we asked around it appeared that he just thought that nobody would go and take him into the band. He is very down to earth, but naturally we are very happy that we have found him.

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Throughout the career of Amorphis the Kalevela has been quite influential. If readers want to know what it is they can use Wikipedia, but what I would like to know is what does the Kalevela mean for Amorphis and for you personally?
It is a very important source of inspiration to us, it mainly tells about the old stories that people used to believe and about the way of life that people used to live. It also contains a lot of interesting epical stories which are very nice to tell. It started when we began using some folk melody lines in our music and then we just had this idea to use the Kalevala which includes some dark stories. So we started to arrange some of the Kalevala lyrics to our songs. Nowadays Kalevala is more a source of inspiration than a direct source that we literally take lyrics from.

Especially on the lyrical part it has been very important of course. 'Eclipse' was based on one specific tale, namely that of Kullervo. I did some research and I think that 'Silent Waters' is based on the tale of Lemminkäinen, right? Could you give a short description of the tale, maybe without giving away too much?
Well the song 'Silent Waters' tells about the mother of Lemminkäinen, who finds her son's dead body floating in the river and she brings him to live again. And then we have the song 'Her Alone', which tells about the feelings that Lemminkäinen has towards his mother, which is quite an emotional track. The songs do not chronologically tell the story line. We wanted to do that first, but in that order the music did not serve the album that well. We might put a part of the story up on our website later on.

Why did you choose this particular tale? Because the last name of your singer actually means 'swan' in Finnish, and there is a big swan on the cover of the album
Hehehe, no that is just a funny coincidence. But for the lyrics we received some help from a friend of Tomi's, who is a performance artist who is very much inspired by the Kalevala. And when Tomi told him what we were thinking about for the album, he said that he had a few poems which we could translate and put to the music. So it was a big co-operation with Tomi and his friend.

The swan is also featured in the provisional artwork, are you guys still deciding on the cover? Since one of the songs is called 'The White Swan', I wondered why is it red?
There are actually going to be some slight changes, when the promo went to the pressing we were still looking for the right colours. So the swan will not be that bright red as on the promo CD, there will be a bit less leaves than on the promo and we are going to add a silver plate into the real album. The swan is actually red because we wanted it to look like bloodred so that it represents a death.

What can we expect from future Amorphis releases? Is it now your ambition to re-tell all of the Kalevela stories in Amorphis fashion?
I have a strong feeling that the new album will follow the same kind of theme as the previous two, although I do not know which story yet, but there are a lot of stories to be told. But I do not know how long we will go with this. I would definitely like to, but it is such a big world of inspiration that you could easily produce two hundred albums in this way!

The single 'House Of Sleep' from 'Eclipse' did very well in the Finnish charts and now 'Silent Waters' entered at number 2, congratulations with that. How important is it for Amorphis to score 'hits' in the home country?
Of course it is nice, because once you have achieved a good position in the chart, you kind of expect it a bit for the next albums as well. But I think singles in general are a bit weird, for 'Silent Waters' for example, because when you listen to just that song you don't have the faintest idea on what the entire album is about. The thing with singles is that they are seen as a representative of an entire album, but that rarely is the case. But the good thing, of course, is the fact that you get some airplay and that you are able to promote the band well before the album is out.

How difficult is it for a Finnish metal or rock band to score hits? How does the competition with 'mainstream pop' and things like R&B and rap music work?
Metal and rock music has just become unbelievably big in Finland, possibly because Lordi won the Eurovision Song context. But also since Nightwish started doing well, it is almost like the entire country has become metal, hehe. But sometimes I feel like it is getting a bit too much. At the moment it is metal everywhere, you know, we have metal idol shows, metal families, but it is probably just a phase.

In a few years you will have been busy with Amorphis for twenty years which is obviously quite some time, do you still enjoy every aspect of being in Amorphis?
Yes, definitely! It is still great fun. Our career has been quite a roller coaster, typically with a lot of ups and downs, but this band has just become a part of me. I was in it from the beginning and it is still very important for me. I do not fear that I will get the urge to call it a day sometime.

This summer you guys are mainly focusing on the festivals, are you already playing the new stuff?
We will just be playing the new single 'Silent Waters', nothing else yet. We will wait until after the release before playing any other new songs.

Are there any particular shows or countries you are looking forward to playing?
I am especially looking forward to the show in Junssu this weekend. We are headlining it and playing together with Finntroll, Impaled Nazarene and Decended, an unknown Finnish band. And of course the Wacken show, that is going to be big and it should be great!

These were all my questions, if you have anything to add go ahead. Thanks a lot for your time, good luck with the festivals and I hope to see you live in Holland on November!
Thanks a lot for the interview, nothing really springs to mind, I think we covered just about everything. I hope to see you in November!

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