Amorphis – The dark bards of Finnish melancholy

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The difference between a good band and one destined to change the history of music is that, while the former only delights your ears, the latter uproots you from the narrow confines of your world and transports you to a completely different universe.

AMORPHIS is one of those bands that have the power to create a special sonic haven where music aficionados can live and breathe pure metal, while enjoying the poetic vibe of well-told (or sung) stories.

This May, the Finnish act released its latest album, „The Beginning of Times”, the long-awaited follow-up to „Skyforger”. To our great delight, theyâ’ve graced Romania with two shows, one in Sibiu (8 Nov, Oldies Pub) and one in Bucharest (9 Nov, The Silver Church Club), as part of the promotional tour.

We did our best to get ahold of the guys and make them tell us the secret behind their amazing art. You can read the confession below. Enjoy!

MaximumRock: In your previous albums youâ’ve sung about the troubled characters in the Kalevala. „The Beginning of Times” speaks about Väinämöinen, the old sage. Can your choice to sing about him be interpreted as a metaphor for the equilibrium youâ’ve found, musically and lyrically?

Esa: He is the main man of the Kalevala and it was a real challenge to try and tell his story in just one album. Itâ’s an idea weâ’ve had before, but we never dared to touch the character. But with Pekkaâ’s lyrics, it just made sense. I think itâ’s just for this one album, though.

Tomi: Itâ’s so easy to write a cliche album about Väinämöinen, a powerful man with some magical powers. We didnâ’t want to do that. Pekka did an amazing job with the lyrics, so the creative process felt very comfortable.

MR: „Eclipse” was dark and intense, like Kullervo, „Silent Waters” had the delicate beauty of Lemminkäinen and „Skyforger” was folky and fast like Ilmarinen. What does The Beginning of Times” have in common with Väinämöinen?

Tomi: It may surprise you, but we always write the music first, and then come the lyrics. We knew that we were going to sing about Väinämoinen and this knowledge provided us with some inspiration, in the sense that it influenced us. But we have always written the music before the lyrics. Itâ’s funny how well the two match.

Esa: Yes, the music always comes first. As Tomi said, it amazes us how perfectly the music and the lyrics fit together. It must be magic!

MR: Your last album is a bit faster and more optimistic. Did you sense the need to take a brake from the sonic gloominess?

Esa: „The Beginning of Times” includes more songs than we usually put on an album. Moreover, the songs vary in style and tempo; thatâ’s why you might feel that the album is faster. Still, „Skyforger” remains our most up-tempo creation. „The Beginning of Times” contains a lot of feelings from our previous albums and it does a great job at presenting the band in all its eras.

Tomi: We have also included some new elements in the music. For instance, Tomi Koivusaari plays pedal-steel guitar and weâ’ve also put in some female vocals. If you liked „Skyforger”, youâ’ll certainly love „The Beginning of Times”.

MR: Related to that, some of your critics have said that „The Beginning of Times” is just a copy of your last albums. We donâ’t agree. Whatâ’s the difference between carbon-copying your work and staying faithful to your style?

Esa: In the past, they criticized us for changing too much. The thing is, we never think about what weâ’ve left behind when we start writing new songs. We work with the same people so they assume we write the same music, but itâ’s not the case! All the four albums weâ’ve done with Tomi are completely different.

Tomi: Our line-up has been the same for quite some time so I believe thatâ’s the reason why theyâ’re saying what theyâ’re saying. In the past, because the line-up changed so much, the music changed with it. Every new person brought new musical elements and influences. Everyone writes music in this band and they bring their own touch.

MR: Your artwork has always been very creative. TBOTâ’s cover depicts what looks like an upside-down egg, floating in a stormy atmosphere. What does it actually represent?

Esa: It represents the title, „The Beginning of Times”. It was a hard decision because putting Väinämoinen on the cover was out of the question. We thought about a way in which we could represent him without being cheesy but it was nearly impossible to figure it out. We gave Travis Smith some ideas and we sent him the lyrics. As you can see, he totally nailed it. Itâ’s actually quite amazing because he lives on the West Coast, where itâ’s sunny all the time, but he still manages to capture our dark visual identity.

Tomi: Pekka Kainulainen, our lyricist, was really happy when he saw the island in the background. He said that it could be associated with Finland because of the nature and the trees. It looked like home to him.

MR: As opposed to many metal bands, you guys have always been shrouded in a poetic aura, created by the expressive lyrics and by the sophisticated music. How important is it for metal to have a poetic dimension?

Esa: Itâ’s important to create an entire context, to work it carefully. You have to think about the art, the music and what youâ’re singing about. This unitary perspective matches what the band is about. You can release a great album but if you sing about nonsense, itâ’s just not good enough. Weâ’ve been pushing ourselves in every era, to create a visually interesting product and to write music that touches people and creates feelings.

MR: (For Tomi) Your side-project is different from Amorphis. It has industrial, progressive and some gothic influences. Your vocals, as well, are a bit softer. Is „Sinisthra” your place of refuge from Amorphisâ’s rawness?

Tomi: I started working with the band about 10 years ago. We are very good friends. At first, we wanted to do something post-grunge. We didnâ’t want Sinisthra to be a metal band, but everyone in it played metal so the genre surfaced, eventually. Nowadays, the music is getting harder and harder and it sounds like metal. We havenâ’t been so active lately but maybe we will release an album next year. We will even play a show then. Amorphis is my no 1 priority at the moment, and it takes most of my time and energy. But we will continue with Sinisthra.

MR: Can we expect to see you in Romania?

Tomi: I donâ’t know…I canâ’t really see us playing outside of Finland because we are so lazy. We are writing music, but itâ’s hard to say what will happen.

MR: Iâ’ve seen you at Tuska this year and your show was literally incendiary, with all the pyrotechnics and the special effects. That big stage seemed too small for you. How do you manage to "tame" your performances when you play on smaller, club stages?

Esa: They are different. When the festival season starts, you know what to expect and you make your sets accordingly: you think about what songs youâ’ll play and you try to give the best performance. When itâ’s possible, itâ’s nice to bring pyrotechnics. The club shows are more intense because we have more time to play, but both have advantages and disadvantages. For instance, clubs are great, but when you go on tour, you play months in a row, and it gets tiresome. Festivals are different because you play 2 or 3 gigs in the weekends and itâ’s like a reunion. All the bands gather and we have fun. On tour, we only see our faces, 24/7.

Tomi: I love festivals because they are held in summer, when the sun is shining and the people are happy. Itâ’s really nice. When weâ’re touring, itâ’s always dark, cold and wet, so it can get a bit boring. However, when you go to new venues and you see the audience, it gives you power and it motivates you. This kind of electrifying atmosphere is the best!

MR: In 20 years of career youâ’ve created your own mythology, your very own Kalevala. Whatâ’s next? Will you write an album about a character of your own making?

Esa: An album about Satan! No, Iâ’m joking. The Kalevala is so strongly involved with this band, that itâ’s hard to imagine making an album that is not related to it, in some way. Itâ’s hard to say what we will do next.

Tomi: Pekka has lots of ideas so maybe our next album will be a bit different. I think that old beliefs, nature and so on are great themes for our future work. We are not into politics, so we have to sing about forests and rocks instead. Therefore, our next album will be about nature, stones and Satanâ’s path in the swamp (laughs).

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