Amorphis: „We’ve pretty much exhausted the Kalevala”

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In 2011 came the release of AMORPHIS’S “Beginning of Times”, one of the fastest, most single-studded records ever done by the Finnish melodic metal band. However, some critics were not satisfied.

They said that the album was just repeating what the group had done over and over in the past, that it didn’t bring anything original, and that Amorphis was following a recipe – one certain to bring success and acclaim.

Since this seemed to be a bad thing, in 2013 the Finnish dark lords decided to create something so different that it would blow away fans and critics alike. Any, by George, they did it!

“Circle” is probably one of the most sophisticated, original and versatile records delivered by Amorphis and it is sure to either convert you to the eerie act, or make you become even more devoted to it.

April the 19th is the official European release date, and, until then, we got a hold of Jan Rechberger (drums) and spoke with him about “Circle” and much more.

Check out the interview below.

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Judging by the little fragments I could hear in the trailers, and by the new single, „Hopeless Days”, „Circle” is one of your most versatile albums so far, differing a great deal from „Beginning of Times”, songwriting-wise. The melodic parts are graceful, inspiring and complex, and the hard parts are even harder. On your last album, the critics claimed that you were repeating yourselves. Is „Circle” a sort of „fu*k you” to all those pesky „critics” who kept saying your latest albums all sound the same?
Well, it´s only critics you know; we don´t usually get nervous about a few negative comments here and there. It´s a part of what we do, and we are used to it. So, in that sense it was not like a “Fuck you all” sort of a thing. I don´t feel that “BoT” is a shitty album, and I don´t even think that we were repeating what we did on “Skyforger”. It´s perhaps worth noting here that regardless of some negative feedback, the album was highly acclaimed and successful, and it gathered lots of great reviews from the press and fans worldwide. Regarding working methods, we have been doing stuff pretty much in the same way on the past 5 records – same studio, same recording engineer, same producer on vocals, same cover artist, same mixing engineer…everything was pretty much the same, and perhaps there´s nothing wrong to work that way either, cause it seemed to turn out well every time. This time, however, with “Circle”, we wanted to take a risk and do things a little bit differently, and it was definitely worth it.

In our last interview, after the release of „Beginning of Times”, you said your next album is going to be about nature, rocks, Satan, and Satan’s walks through swamps and forests :). What happened to that idea? Did Pekka’s version sound more interesting?
Really, we must have been on….hmm, you figure it out. But yes, perhaps Pekka´s story concept was more appealing after all.

This time around, you made short studio reports in order to promote your material and open the fans’ appetite for your music. The videos show a very different side of you – you guys are funny as hell! Do you think this will affect in any way your dark, melancholy, heavy, profound reputation?
I don´t know…It depends on how people think we really are. If someone is disappointed, because he/she has been thinking that we are really dark and melancholic and sad and evil and stuff like that, then maybe the videos will affect our reputation. However, I don’t think we are regarded like that. We are musicians, and musicians are usually pretty laid back people with a pretty good sense of humor. We are really ambitious and serious about our music, but this does not mean that we have to act like it´s the end of the world all the time.

Your fans in Romania are some of the most devoted „Amorphisers” out there. Give us a spoiler of the new album. Tell us a secret related to this album that no one is supposed to know.
It sounds different from the previous ones; it is more guitar driven, it´s heavier than ever in its heaviest moments, and more beautiful and gloomy on the softer side. It has pretty much all the trade-mark elements from all periods of our career. Maybe you´ll find out some secret from those studio report videos (laughs). 

Previously, most of the characters you chose for your albums were heroic, triumphant figures. The protagonist of this new album is a tragic, tormented individual, who achieves enlightenment through suffering. Why did you opt for such a controversial figure?
Good point, he´s not heroic at all. He’s, as you said, the exact opposite of heroic. If you dig deep into the narrative, you may find out that this is a story that could have been inspired by pretty much anybody’s life. It might be more interesting for the listener to discover that the character mirrors his own life. On the other hand, another reason why we chose something different this time around is that we’ve pretty much exhausted the heroic tales from the Kalevala. 

There were a few changes in the recording of this new album. You worked more with a producer than you used to. When you listen to the album, is this obvious? Has it impacted the album a great deal?
We worked with Peter Tägtren this time, and yes, it really shows in a major way. As I mentioned before, we are still proud of what we´ve done previously, but this time around, some sort of change was needed, and the collaboration with Peter was really fruitful. He had many great ideas related to the direction in which things should go during the sessions. We were also experimenting a lot with all kinds of modern and vintage equipment that we haven´t used before. Peter mixed the album in his studio in Sweden, so obviously it sounds a lot different than the previous ones. Overall, I think his production methods had a huge impact on the final outcome.

The artwork of the album depicts a figure much in the style of the „art-nouveau” movement, with echoes from artists like Alphonse Mucha. Needless to say the style is very, very different from previous releases. What is the idea behind the cover and what does the symbol on the character’s palm mean?
Yes, it is very different from the previous cover art. We used an artist called Tom Bates this time, and I’m really impressed with what he´s done for us. I think the cover illustrates the protagonist´s journey through the experience of life. It could also be the depiction of his spiritual guide. The symbol on the palm is “Hannunvaakuna”. In English it would be “Saint John’s Arms” – it is a symbol which has traditionally been used for decoration in many parts of the world, particularly in Northern Europe, and Estonia. In Finland, we paint if on the walls of the house, or the barn, because we believe it protects us against bad luck and evil spirits.

Recently, you did an acoustic show at YleX Studio B, which is kind of interesting because Tomi said in an older interview that he really hates acoustic renditions of metal songs, because he feels there’s always something missing. What made him change his mind and accept to do an acoustic show, despite his prejudice?
We held a gun to his head and MADE him do it (laughs).

Any chance we will get to see you in Romania this year?
Hopefully, yes. I can´t give you any sure dates just yet, but it´ll happen sooner or later, for certain. We have really good memories of Romania, and I hope we´ll play there again soon.

Thank you Jan!

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