Sailing Uncharted Waters with Amaranthe: A 70000 Tons of Metal Interview
The Swedish band Amaranthe is still going strong after almost 10 years and four albums; infecting the world with their unique brand of melodic, pop, death, rock, metal, fusion…. or whatever label you want to stick on it…. their unique brand of great music! As they have become one of my favorite bands in the last several years, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to chat with several of the members during the 2017, 70000 Tons of Metal cruise. The interview was a bit shorter than I would have liked as, due to the large number of interview requests, we were limited to 10 minutes. Although we didn’t get to discuss everything that I wanted, we did get a chance to talk about several subjects including their fantastic new album, their first 70000 Tons cruise, the upcoming North American tour, and Elize’s recent destructive stage behavior! Here is how it went:
Afternoiz: This is Joe Prostredny with Afternoiz and I’m here on the 70000 Tons of Metal cruise with Johan, Elize, and Morten of Amaranthe! How are you doing?
Johan: Pretty decent.
Elize: Very good.
Morten: Very red [sunburned].
(Morten and Johan are both appearing very sunburned)
Afternoiz: (laughs) Yeah, I hear you guys had fun on the beach in Haiti and Elize needs to teach you guys what sunblock is?
Johan: What is it?
Elize: I’m always very careful with the sun. I use 50 … whatever it’s called… 50 blah blah blah [SPF] and I used three layers and I did not get any color whatsoever.
Afternoiz: I know you don’t see the sun much in Sweden, especially not this time of year. But it’s brutal in the Caribbean…
Johan: I never used sunblock but I’ve never been in the Caribbean.
Afternoiz: Well I hope you guys feel better!
Johan and Morten: Yeah!
Afternoiz: So this is you first time on the 70000 Tons of Metal cruise! What made you want to join the party?
Elize: We’ve always wanted to go actually.
Johan: I think we’ve been asked a couple of times before but we never really got around to do it. We never really had the possibility; we’ve always really wanted to do it. But now it just came in line with our headlining US tour so it’s a good start of the tour!
Afternoiz: They usually ask bands back every two or three years. If you were asked again would you come again?
Johan: Oh, of course!
Elize: Yes! We really want to come on next year if at all possible. Whenever it’s at all possible I think all of us would love to go again!
Afternoiz: Obviously, your fans, including myself, are very happy that you’re here! Who did you want to see? Or who did you go see since the cruise almost over?
Johan: I watched some Accept and of course Kamelot…
Morten: (laughing) You watched Accept?… Really? (Accept wasn’t on the cruise…)
Johan: No, no, no…Anthrax! (laughing)
Afternoiz: … one of those “A” bands… they’re all the same right?
Johan: (laughing) Yeah… one of those! … and, of course Kamelot… watching Elize sing with them….
Johan: But I think I speak for both me and Morten and a couple of other guys when I say that we would really have loved to see Gojira, but they cancelled.
Morten: Yeah… they canceled! (rubs his eyes and pretends to cry)
Afternoiz: Yeah, that was disappointing. But I heard it was a family emergency…
Johan: It’s Morten’s only band t-shirt! (Morten is actually wearing a Gojira T-shirt during the interview)
Morten: yeah, yeah..
Johan: That was a bummer…
Morten: It’s 10 years old now! (referring to the T-shirt)
Johan: Yeah, vintage! That was a big disappointment, but that’s just how it is sometimes.
Afternoiz: The cruise has been busy for you though, right? Do you get to relax now?
Elize: I’ve been very busy! (laughing)
Afternoiz: Yeah!… I’ve shot close to fifty shows and you were in five of them, most recently the (All Star) Jam. How much time do they give you to prepare for that? Do they hand you a song when you get here or do they tell you in advance? (Elize performed Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”, Ozzy’s “Flying High”, and Motorhead’s “Killed by Death”)
Elize: They ask in advance but then things change so I got the “War Pigs” pic song last night actually.
Afternoiz: So you got to channel your Ozzy and your Lemmy?
Elize: Yeah, I had to practice those lyrics. We didn’t even rehearse once, none of us. We just went there and they played and we sang.
Afternoiz: Well it comes off really well for the lack of preparation but I think that’s the magic of it.
Elize: Thanks! That’s what it is; it would be not the same, it wouldn’t be a jam if it would be that we had rehearsed before. Then it would be like a show with cover songs.
Afternoiz: I saw you getting a little metal-destructive on stage; kicking over mic stands and stuff.
Elize: Yeah! I got the chance to do that finally.
Afternoiz: Are you going to channel that for the upcoming Amaranthe tour?
Elize: It doesn’t really fit our style. (laughs)
Afternoiz: Oh, come on! I’m going to be in Houston for the first show of the North American tour, and I want to see you put a mic stand right through one of Morten’s kick drums….
Elize: (laughs) OK!
Morten: Yeah… right on the first song… (laughs)
Afternoiz: Yeah! Well… maybe wait until the last song… “Drop Dead Cynical” would be a good time to do it!
Elize: We don’t have mic stands so I’m not able to kick a mic stand!
Afternoiz: Well, if you’re going to abuse them like that, I can see why they won’t let you have one! (laughing)
Morten: Well, you could kick the cymbals!
Johan: We could put one [a mic stand] up for you…
Elize: Yeah! (laughing) We could put one up, then I could kick it down… hahaha!
Afternoiz: Amaranthe recently released their fourth fantastic studio album, “Maximalism” about three months ago. For your fans that haven’t heard it yet, what can you tell people about the album?
Elize: It stands out from the other three…
Morten: It’s a very diverse album.
Johan: But it’s still Amaranthe.
Elize: Yeah, that was the whole challenge was to write another album without copying any of the things that we had done before.
Afternoiz: Keeping it fresh…
Elize: Yeah… and that’s why we’ve come up with this sound which we believe is more organic. It’s a little bit more personal [lyrically] and it has different grooves and different tempos which makes it actually very fun for us… putting the new songs in a set because it’s a different feeling to it.
Johan: Stepping outside of the comfort zone.
Elize: I guess if they’ve heard old Amaranthe, they should listen to this because it’s like new but it’s still us.
Afternoiz: I would agree. I thought it was extremely diverse which I liked, and it’s definitely fresh. Every album has been different, which is good and it’s still your sound.
Afternoiz: Was there anything different in the creative process behind this album?
Elize: We changed… a little bit the sounds. Instead of just copying the same sounds we used in the studio we were very specific with volumes to make it that kind of organic sound and not just make it like it was one mix with the background music. I wanted to hear the drums very clear and I wanted to hear the bass…. [says something to Johan in Swedish]…
Johan: Fireball…. The bassline is really….
Elize: Because all of the musicians are great in this band and we wanted to point that out and not just have people focusing on the vocalists. Also the vocal sound I wanted to change that to make it more organic and not so computer-ish.
Johan: We’re pushing the boundaries because we’re really stepping outside of everything that so called “true metal heads” would accept easily. So that’s why we got a lot of trash talk about it but I think that’s just hilarious. We’re just trying to evolve and we’re just trying to do our thing and we really honestly just want to do our stuff.
Afternoiz: I think it’s natural if you evolve that it’s going to tick some people off. Some people do want to hear the exact same thing.
Elize: But that’s only one song actually and that’s “That Song”. I think that…
Johan: But it did create a massive uproar.
Elize: Ah, yes… It was fantastic!
Afternoiz: It comes across really hard live; I heard it live for the first time today and it really is a metal song.
Morten: It’s a live song!
Johan: A lot of people, a couple of months ago just when we released this album… a lot of people have come up after a show, after they hear “That Song”, and they come up and say now we understand it.
Morten: But if you hear it on your phone with those speakers, it sounds like shit.
Elize: It does (laughs).
Morten: There’s no power in it. It doesn’t sound like it’s supposed to be. You have to listen to it loud or live.
Afternoiz: Do you have a favorite song on the album?
Afternoiz: Amaranthe is known for having three vocalists, although sometimes Henrik, your ‘growler’, sits out because it doesn’t fit the song. But you have a song on this album where it’s all you (Elize)… the song “Endlessly”. Why? What happened there?
Elize: It was because we really wanted to do that kind of song and specifically and maybe I was the one who was talking about it so much that I wanted to do this kind of song. And then, of course we could have always made it a duet but then we talked about it and we already have so many duets and so that’s why we thought that the newer thing would be if I sing it alone. And also it leaves space for Henrik to do “Fury” and it leaves more space for Jake to sing a little bit more on one of the [other] songs on the album. But the idea was that it was very personal.
Johan: I also think that if we were to have an additional singer on “Endlessly” that song would not have been as good a song.
Afternoiz: It’s stunning, and very powerful.
Johan: It’s powerful and yet it’s very emotional with just one single voice that creates the emotion. So I think that was actually the best call not to do it as a duet because it stays much more powerful and vulnerable in a way… and emotional.
Elize: Nice words! I like that. Good answer (laughs)!
Afternoiz: You used real strings on this song. Is that a first too?
Elize: Yeah, first time, yeah. His name is Mattias Bylund, and he plays on a lot of albums.
Afternoiz: Do you think you’ll do that more on any of your next albums?
Elize: Maybe! Let’s see when we get there!
Morten: All the possibilities are open after this album; we could go full on death metal or we could go full on Disney (laughs).
Afternoiz: (to Elize) I heard Alissa White-Gluz (of Arch Enemy) did teach you how to growl… which you did with Kamelot….
Elize: Yeah! Actually Thomas [of Kamelot] asked me “Elize, can you do the growl parts?” At first I said no, but I don’t like to say no, I’m not that kind of person. That’s my motto in life is to take your challenges and don’t limit yourself. So I actually learned how to do that and Alissa taught me!
Afternoiz: Any chance you would do that with Amaranthe or does Henrik have that covered?
Elize: I don’t have to do that… I would be stepping on his territory if I did that.
Afternoiz: You could growl at each other…
Johan: Actually, I think you did it once…
Elize: I do it a little sometimes live and if I’m little bit angry I’ll start to growl.
Elize: But then I piss Henrik off and it doesn’t turn out good. So…
Afternoiz: You’ve toured the album already in Europe, Japan, and Russia. How has the fan reception been?
Elize: Fantastic! It feels like we got closer to our fans with this album because now they got a glimpse into what kind of people we are and I think also that they understand that we don’t put up any specific image for them to follow. I think that makes people feel more open minded about us in general. That’s what I feel when I meet fans in live shows.
Johan: I think we are more comfortable now on this album.
Elize: I think that’s one of the reasons also, yeah.
Johan: We’ve been around for quite some time and now we’re starting to feel more comfortable with each other in a way and also our place within the metal community or the music community. I think we’re relaxed much more now than we were three/ four years ago.
Elize: We have accepted we’re different (laughs).
Afternoiz: Different is good because it’s not the same old thing.
Elize: And the same with the fans. Everybody cannot have one box they should fit in. We’ve also opened the doors for some of them to come into the metal scene… some of them who maybe haven’t been there before and also all the ones who want to experience something different but still in their genre.
Afternoiz: You’re about to start your North American “Maximalism” tour in just less than a week. You really spoiled us with the last album; you toured three times, once with Within Temptation and you did two headlining tours. Are we going to see you that often this time?
Elize: We hope so! We love you guys, but if you like us; that’s the question. We had a big hit with “Drop Dead Cynical” and I think that was one of the reasons we could tour so much. And we’re going to release a new single in a few days and it’s called “Boomerang” and I hope that if they start to play it on the radio that people will know that we have something new when we’re touring and that will open up for more tours in the future.
Afternoiz: Well, unfortunately, it looks like our time is up, and I’m going to have to skip over the last few questions. Is there anything else you’d like to say to your fans before we leave you?
Johan: Come to the shows to experience us live because that’s what it’s all about. Stay open minded!
Elize: Be one of us! And we love you!
Afternoiz: Well, we love you too!