It was twenty-five years ago Finnish masters of melancholic metal, Amorphis, took their first steps into the metal scene and soon after manage to leave an important fingerprint on the melodic death metal genre. They not only celebrated the twentieth anniversary of their classic album `Tales From The Thousand Lakes’ this summer by performing the entire album at ten important European festivals, fans can also get ready for the release of the brand new album `Under The Red Cloud’ (out 4 September). HBLS has a retrospect and a look into the future with guitarist Esa Holopainen.
Twenty-five years Amorphis! Time flies when you are having fun?
,,Absolutely and it feels like yesterday that we started the band. Especially during the anniversary show we did a while ago with all the former band members of Amorphis. It felt like time hadn’t passed by and it brought back all good memories.’’
Did everything work out according to plan since you started Amorphis back in 1990?
,,We were all teenagers and just friends who shared the same ambition for the same kind of music and just start playing together. We did it as best as we could do and hoped people liked our music. There was no plan. When we recorded our second album `Tales From The Thousand Lakes’, we didn’t have a clue of what we were doing. We just did and it became our breakthrough album. We started to get good reviews and critics, suddenly we had our first European tour and the ball started to roll. But we also spoiled a lot of shows by being too drunk. It’s been a rollercoaster but we learned from our mistakes. Once we started to get some income we realised this is our job and we have to take it serious.’’
There was no backup plan?
,,No, it was only music that counted for us. It was so fascinating to do music and we didn’t want to concentrate on anything else then just being together as friends rehearsing and go out and play. Looking back now it is kind of stupid not having a backup plan. And of course my parents were not happy I quit school then. I am over forty years old now and I can’t do anything else anymore. I just have to focus and do what I do.’’
Photo Nucelar Blast Records
Do you need a certain attitude or character to survive as a musician?
,,For sure because it’s a choice, a way of life. You really have to make a lot of sacrifices especially when you start a band. Therefor it’s good when you are still young and naïve. You think: `Wow, I am going to release my first album and it’s going to be killer from now on!’ The fact is that you probably sell three hundred copies and that’s it. Actually nowadays I would never ever form a band anymore, because it’s really difficult to reach a certain point you achieve something and it all happens in little steps. Now knowing how much pressure, sacrifices and hard work it needs to get were we are now with Amorphis, I would at least consider twice if I would make the same sacrifices again. Don’t get me wrong I am happy for each day I have done with the band and I don’t regret anything we have done at all. I think we are blessed, because we are in a position we can do what we want and that is the best you can have in life.’’
Amorphis is about to release the new album `Under The Red Cloud’, what can we expect?
,,A fresh Amorphis. The album sounds very melodic and it’s really heavy. There are no ballads, but all the Amorphis elements are there. Sometimes the music is really flowing and emotional and at certain moments it’s really aggressive, but overall it’s an extremely melodic album. Actually there is a lot of Scandinavian evilness in there, hahaha. For the first time we have worked with producer Jens Bogren. He is known from bands like Opeth, Amon Amarth and Katatonia. We thought he would be the guy who might give us some fresh ideas. And he did. Actually I found out he is the pickiest guy I ever met. Normally I record my guitar parts in about four days but Jens is not easily satisfied and it took me much longer to get it done. His methods are not good for every band and he really works on the clock, from seven a.m. till six p.m. But for us it worked since we decided to give him full charge in the whole production. We played completely by his rules. There is nothing on the album I would have done differently. We are very pleased with `Under The Red Cloud’, the promotion seems to be good and so we will see what happens. In September we start with ten shows in Finland and then we hit the road to support Nightwish, together with Arch Enemy.’’
Do you feel a big responsibly as the main songwriter of a successful band?
,,I have written a lot of songs and I am always writing music but I am not a dictator. Also the other guys come up with musical ideas. We work as a team and we always decide together what’s best for a song and an album. But I guess I put so much typical Amorphis elements in my song ideas, they usually appear on our albums. Certain keyboard and guitar melody lines and the fact we show both our fragile and aggressive side are key elements in our music. It became the trademark of Amorphis.’’
Photo Nuclear Blast Records
When is it time to pull the plug out of Amorphis?
,,So far, I have never thought about it. I think the older you get the stronger you get involved in your band. I can’t imagine doing anything else but this. We still have fun playing together and it’s great to see the audience enjoy our songs. One hour on stage cost a lot of travelling and stress but it’s a way of life and it’s worth it. Fifteen years ago we had some hard times and it was a real struggle. We made a few albums, which were really different from `Tales From The Thousand Lakes’ and `Elegy’. They had more flowing and emotional elements, which was something we wanted to do but obviously it didn’t please the fans. During following tours less people showed up. A couple of years later Tomi Joutsen joined us as a singer and suddenly it all got better. I think Amorphis has left a certain fingerprint on the melodic death metal genre and there is a fan base for us for sure. That’s what keeps us going on. When our music means so much to people that it actually helps them through life, that is the biggest compliment you can get. And that’s what music should be all about.’’
Official video of the song ,,Sacrifice’’, taken from the new album `Under The Red Cloud’