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More metal than you can shake a stick at
"Born Too Late"
Guitarist talks gear, live performance, new album and more
Some of the guitar sounds on this record are cleaner than anything you’ve ever played before, like on “For Victory Or Death.”
Yes, on this album we wanted to try something we’d never done before. We wanted to try to have acoustic guitar parts on some songs.
There’s more soloing on this record than on previous albums, too. “Destroyers of the Universe” has two separate lead breaks.
We never really plan so much for if there’s going to be a solo here or there, and on this album apparently there were many parts that were suited to have solos. So we did it. I think it makes the album more tough, a little bit.
You really do a good job of balancing change, making each album a little bit different, with keeping Amon Amarth’s core style.
That’s something we try to do, is make small changes on each album, but nothing too big. You’re still going to know it’s an Amon Amarth album the second you put on the first song.
When you’re writing for an album, do you ever listen back to previous records to make sure you haven’t accidentally re-used a riff?
[laughs] No, not really. I’ve never had that problem.
Were the sound effects on “War of the Gods” and “Töck’s Taunt” your idea, or the producer’s?
That was our idea, and that was also something we had on the first couple of albums, so it was something we felt like, “Yeah, let’s bring that back.”
The strings on “For Victory or Death” were the producer’s idea, though, right? And are they real strings, or a keyboard?
I think it’s real strings. But we didn’t do that ourselves. The producer added that to the songs.
Did he tell you first?
[laughs] Yeah, yeah, yeah. We had many meetings in the rehearsal place, where we’d show our stuff to the producer, and he said, “Maybe we should try to have some strings here,” and we said yeah, do something and we’ll see how it comes out. But we weren’t actually there when they were recorded.
Will you have a keyboardist with you on tour to do that stuff?
We’re not gonna bring a keyboardist or anything like that, no; we’re gonna have the strings and stuff like that on a backing track.
The song “Slaves of Fear” isn’t explicitly related to the whole Norse mythos—it’s more of an anti-war, anti-political song in the vein of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” or something like that. What was the inspiration behind that song?
Yeah, I think that’s right. We leave Johan [Hegg, vocals] to do the lyrics. But that song is mostly about religious oppression, I think. That was something else we felt like we hadn’t done in a long time. I think we had a similar kind of concept for a song on the Avenger album, so that was something we wanted to bring back.
How much input do other members have into the lyrics?
He writes the lyrics, and if someone wants to change something of course we can change it, but usually everybody’s pretty happy with his lyrics the way they are.
What is your setup—your guitar, your amp, pedals, stuff like that?
I use a Gibson Explorer, and I have very thick strings—I play on D’Addario 14 to 68. And then I have a Peavey 6505 plus, and a delay pedal on a loop. And on this upcoming tour, I’m gonna add a phaser pedal, too, because I had that on some solos on the album.
Can you remember what the turning point was, when the whole band realized you were starting to win over an American audience?
Yeah, that was the first time we were the support act for Children of Bodom in America [in 2006]. After that tour, we felt that now we could start to do our own tours. We did some before that, but we weren’t big enough to headline by ourselves.
Yeah, I first saw you guys on a 2003 tour with Halford, Immortal and a bunch of other bands, but that tour only lasted about seven dates.
Yeah, yeah. That was supposed to be much longer, but it got cancelled.
In the last few years you’ve played whole albums—your first four in Bochum, and now you’re going to play Surtur Rising on tour. What does that do to your impression of an album? Do you start to hear it differently when you have to play the whole thing in sequence?
Not really, actually. It’s the same as when you rehearse the album before you record it. Most of the songs are complete and done before we enter the studio. Small things get added, but that’s all.
Do you know the running order before you record, too?
No, not the order. That’s something we decide when we’ve finished recording. Everybody sits down and listens and says “Let’s have this song here, let’s have a slower song in the middle there.”
Are there any songs from the early records, say, that you were never planning to play live but that turned out to go over really well with the audience, and are now part of the regular set?
No, not that I can think of. All the old songs that we play live are the songs we know that the audience really likes.
Are there any songs you personally don’t like, but the audience loves?
No, not really, actually. I really enjoy playing “Pursuit of Vikings” live every night, because of the great response from the audience. Even though I don’t listen to that song when I’m home. [laughs]
What about songs you wish the audience liked as much as you do? Do you have a secret favorite Amon Amarth song?
No, I think all the songs we like ourselves, we usually play live.
Okay, last question: Can you pretty much play “Death in Fire” in your sleep at this point?
[laughs] Yes, I think so, yes.
Audio from SXSW Panel "Are Metalheads Smart Enough To Be Online?"
Brooklyn-based post-black metal band rocks out
"Definitive" editions of "Blizzard of Ozz", "Diary of a Madman"
1. I Don’t Know (5:13)
2. Crazy Train (4:51)
3. Goodbye To Romance (5:33)
4. Dee (0:49)
5. Suicide Solution (4:17)
6. Mr. Crowley (5:02)
7. No Bone Movies (3:52)
8. Revelation (Mother Earth) (6:08)
9. Steal Away (The Night) (3:28)
10. You Looking At Me, Looking At You (Non-LP B-Side) (4:15)
11. Goodbye To Romance (2010 Guitar & Vocal Mix) (5:42)
12. RR (previously unreleased Randy Rhoads guitar solo) (1:13)
Diary of a Madman (Legacy Edition)
1. Over The Mountain (4:31)
2. Flying High Again (4:44)
3. You Can’t Kill Rock and Roll (6:59)
4. Believer (5:15)
5. Little Dolls (5:39)
6. Tonight (5:50)
7. S.A.T.O. (4:07)
8. Diary of a Madman (6:14)
Ozzy Live (recorded on the Blizzard of Ozz tour)
1. I Don’t Know
2. Crazy Train
4. Mr. Crowley
5. Flying High Again
6. Revelation (Mother Earth)
7. Steal Away (The Night)
8. Suicide Solution
9. Iron Man
10. Children of the Grave
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