Welcome to Dead But Dreaming! Spring has sprung, dear darkhearts, and with the winter’s thaw, your faithful narrator brings you treasure from the Golden Hall: an interview with Swedish death metal demigods Amon Amarth! They’re about to load up their longships and invade our shores once again, touring in support of their newest album, Surtur Rising. I was fortunate enough to catch up with bassist Ted Lundström (and leave with all limbs still attached) to hear all about the upcoming journey. For your consideration, I also have the web-exclusive reviews of My Inner Burning’s second release, Eleven Scars and As Likely As Not’s new release, Stand Up And Nerve.
Friday night, Sonic Slaughterhouse will be playing at Club Expose (230 W 2100 S) for FREE! If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, we’ve got an all ages event with Lord Dying, Old Timer and Muckraker playing at Salt Lake Recording Services for $5. Join the Dawg Pound Saturday as they celebrate Chris' and Vo Dogg's Birthday with A Balance of Power, Erimus, Unthinkable Thoughts, and Guttshot. Also on Saturday, Club Vegas will be hosting the Bandwagon Live show with Brute Force, Jakata, Wicked This Way Comes and Decibel Burn; show starts at 8pm and is $5 in advance, $7 at the door.
There are such awesome shows coming up at Club Vegas in the next few weeks and I have to drop a couple to get your metal glands salivating:
04.02: A Balance Of Power’s CD release show, featuring Massacre at the Wake, Dead Vessel , and Ravings of a Madman
04.09: Reaction Effect, Alias Code, I Eclipse, Embers of Yddrasil
04.16: Nevermore (yes, THAT Nevermore!) with Never Before, Means Nothing and ToxicDose
04.19: Death Angel, The Book, Truce, Muckraker
AMON AMARTH INTERVIEW:
SLUG: What kind of mythology inspired your new album, Surtur Rising?
AMON AMARTH: The last two albums have been about Thor and Odin. On this album, we were aiming to get a powerful and cool kind of creature that is maybe not as well-known as the other gods. We came up with the idea to do Surtur and it worked very well with our image and covers, our merchandise and our music. It was a perfect guy to write about. The whole album isn’t about him, but a few songs are.
SLUG: “The Last Stand Of Frej” is so brutally tragic and it’s definitely my favorite on the new album. It feels like it’s added a whole new layer of sound to Amon Amarth. Can you tell me more about it?
AMON AMARTH: That song goes along with the song “Destroyer of the Universe.” The lyrics are both about the same story but from the different sides. One is from Surtur’s view and the other is from Frej’s view. Of course it’s more sad from Frej’s view—he’s this nice guy and he dies in the end, but it’s one of the most sad, epic songs.
SLUG: You guys have definitely not lost an ounce of heaviness, but it seems this album is melodic and almost more atmospheric than your previous works. I can almost feel that cold winter sun on my skin as I listen. Is that something you purposely set out to achieve?
AMON AMARTH: When we write the epic songs, the slower songs, they come by themselves. When we started to write this album, we were aiming to do a more aggressive album. We had to work a lot more to make the more aggressive songs, but the more epic, slow songs sort of come by themselves.
SLUG: How does it feel to be a part of the infamous Swedish death metal scene?
AMON AMARTH: We are proud to be one of the bands that has been very popular in that scene. Swedish death metal has a very high reputation all over the world and we are happy we could have a little bit of that cake. When we started this whole thing 20 years ago, the big Stockholm scene was famous for bands like Dismemeber and Engraved. We sort of landed outside that scene. We didn’t really get in that part, we were in between Stockholm and Gothenburg, we missed the train a little bit on that. It took us a few more years before we could grow bigger, but I think it was good for us because then we could evolve a bit more, get more mature music-wise. It may be a slower progress but it’s been very steady and the last few albums have really helped us grow.
SLUG: Certainly the last few albums have been the biggest for you guys and have woken America to the Vikings on their shores. I remember seeing you a few years ago touring with Himsa, and every kid at the show had an Amon Amarth shirt on- your popularity exploded so suddenly, it was great to see.
AMON AMARTH: We started to get recongnition in Europe before that, with Vs The World and Fate of Norns. It took us a bit longer to hit the US market. I think it was first on the Children of Bodom tour in the US, as they were having quite a big hype at the moment and playing for big crowds, that helped us a lot to start. That was an awesome tour for us. We had to drive ourselves in the vans, nowadays we are fortunate enough to have a tour bus and things like that.
SLUG: On Twilight Of The Gods, you guys brought in some great guest musicians like Apocalyptica and Roope Latvala of Children of Bodom. Do you plan on doing any more collaborations in the future, and anyone you already have in mind that you’d like to work with?
AMON AMARTH: It might happen. This album, we knew everyone was going to expect some famous guy to be a part of it, so we decided not to use any extra musicians unless we came up with some fantastic idea. This album was more straight-forward Amon Amarth. Maybe next album if we have a good idea we will probably do it again. It was great fun. There are a lot of cool people we would work with, but no one special in mind right now.
SLUG: In 2009, you guys played some countries for the first time in your careers, including China, Taiwan, and the Deccan Rock Festival in India. How was it playing in these new locations, and what were the metal scenes like in that part of the world?
AMON AMARTH: It was really cool to play India the first time. India’s crowd was awesome, better than I expected. Festival organization was maybe not too great—there were a lot of things you’re used to from the more professional festivals in Europe. But it was great fun and the audience was amazing, I would love to go back and play more dates in India. We were all surprised at it when we got there. It’s more metal than you think.
SLUG: And how was China?
AMON AMARTH: China was a bit smaller, the scene isn’t very big over there. Maybe a few bands rolling through, like little club shows, but it was really cool to see a country like China, very different. We had a lot of European people working in China who came to the show, but a lot of locals came too.
SLUG: Tell us about this upcoming tour you’re doing for Surtur Rising.
AMON AMARTH: It’s going to be very cool. We’re doing two full sets at the show. First is the Surtur Rising album in its entirety. Then we take a break, come back and do other songs, our classic songs. We haven’t decided our full set list yet for the second set, but it will pull from our old albums. It’s hard work, but it’s going to be a lot of fun.
SLUG: That sounds incredible. Is the band doing anything special to prepare for such an endurance trial?
AMON AMARTH: For us the only thing we can do is rehearse more. We have a lot more songs to remember, so we get in more practice. Otherwise, we try to drink less so we can get in shape, especially our singer for his voice- it gets a bit sore from a few hours every day. He’s the one who has to take special care and drink a lot of water.
SLUG: After 20 years in the scene, is it getting harder to go on these longer tours? Do you do anything to help make it easier?
AMON AMARTH: Definitely have to compensate by taking care of yourself. If we tried to drink and party as much as we did early in the career, it wouldn’t work. We try to drink less and not before shows, then afterwards try to party a little bit less than normal.
BLOG EXCLUSIVE REVIEWS:
As Likely As Not
Stand Up And Nerve
The Execution Kollective Records
As Likely As Not = Heaven Shall Burn + Unearth
I can see why As Likely As Not would be a popular festival band: they’re brutal, they know their way around a metal song, and for the most part, they make some great tunes for moshing. Unfortunately, their debut album got old before I could make it to the pit. The good news is this album features some fantastic beats, impressive picking and some of the best bass-work I’ve heard in a long time. The real downside lies in the repetitiveness—melodic death metal fans need more complexities, and this reads too much like straight metalcore. “Red Fleer” is the strongest and most creative song, and has a gorgeous acoustic break that makes me wish the rest of the album had been given as much thought. The sludgy riffs of “Nerving Empathy” serve them well, until it fades away into another boring race between the guitarist’s picking and the drummer’s blast-beats. And guess who wins? It’s not the listener. –Megan Kennedy
My Inner Burning
My Inner Burning = Within Temptation + Lacuna Coil
I hear a lot of potential in the second release from this band, but sadly, Eleven Scars feels like a roller coaster that never quite made it over the first steep drop. Becky’s voice is powerful and evocative, and she shows her incredible precision on “Masquerade,” which is a strong introduction. Unfortunately the album seems to collapse into mediocrity after that—repeating its verse-chorus-verse setup, stuttering down-tuned guitars and boring double bass from the drummer. Melancholy ballad “When I’m Gone” is easily the strongest song on the album—Becky’s voice will break your heart, and the harmonizing, quiet guitars remind me of Opeth’s melodies. “Electrified” sounds exactly like its title—drowning in keyboards, making the result more goth than metal. The band’s energy is great, but it’s just going nowhere for me as a metalhead. They are trying to touch on too many genres, and end up not hitting the mark on any of them. – Megan Kennedy