Finnish melodic metal sextet Amorphis are one of the genre’s most consistently excellent acts. With the impending release of their ninth studio album, the amazing Skyforger, I caught up with guitarist Tomi Koivusaari for a chat about the new material, the band’s songwriting process and whether they will tour Australia.
Spiritech: Okay, can you tell us about the meaning behind the title Skyforger?
Tomi Koivusaari: This album’s story is based on Kalevala, Finnish mythology. It’s about blacksmith Ilmarinen, forger of sky. It sort of ends a trilogy which started on the Eclipsealbum, there is story from one Kalevala character on each album. Personally I see the whole skyforging more as a metaphor for trying to make something surrealistically huge, and think that happiness comes from that.
Spiritech: In what ways do you feel the new album is an improvement upon your past few albums?
Tomi Koivusaari: I think we play better as a band, as we have for the first time same line-up on three records, and we have played hundreds of gigs together. The arrangements are more focused, we had much more time to think those as we recorded some demos before entering to real studio, sounds are much more dynamic. We didn’t want to compress everything up to the limit but (instead) leave more space, and songs comparing to each others on this album have even more wider scale than on previous. Tomi also sings better that ever in my opinion.
Spiritech: In my opinion, the new album features some of the strongest melodies of Amorphis’ career thus far and was also described as the “most musical” album you have ever recorded. Was this the aim when you began writing and recording these songs?
Tomi Koivusaari: Melodies have always been very important to us, so this time wasn’t different. We knew what album’s theme will be, so I think we got some inspiration from that. Comparing to Silent Waters, which was quite dark album, as it’s theme as well, ‘Skyforger’ has a lot more air and space in it. But overall, everything always happens very naturally, by feeling, so we didn’t purposively make anything we did. The first time when I’m thinking what (an) album is like is when I have a mastered copy of it in my hand.
Spiritech: The album also has zero filler and it sounds to me like you had worked very hard to make the songs you did have as good as they possibly could be. How many songs did you initially demo/record for the album?
Tomi Koivusaari: We always are trying to make a whole album, not just few good songs and the rest fillers. So I’m happy to hear that. We recorded 18 songs, which 12 made it to vocals. Rest of songs weren’t necessarily weaker, but the songs which we chose (worked better) when thinking about the whole.
Spiritech: Will those other songs surface at some point in the future, perhaps as B-Sides?
Tomi Koivusaari: I don’t know if we’re gonna finish those songs someday. We had two extra songs for (the) digipak and B-Sides, ‘Separated’ and ‘Godlike Machine’. So there are six songs without vocals left. Usually in this kind of situation they will just forgotten, as the new album always starts from blank table. Extra songs for a DVD or something would be good idea though. We’ll see.
Spiritech: What are your three favourite tracks from the new album and why?
Tomi Koivusaari: Hmmm… that still changes every week, but strongest in the moment in my opinion would be ‘Majestic Beast’, ‘Sky is Mine’ and ‘From the Heaven of My Heart’. Those tracks just maybe are offering something new and old together, and are definitely future live songs. ‘Majestic Beast’ is one of the heaviest songs we’ve done in years, ‘Sky is Mine’ one of the fastest and ‘From the Heaven of My Heart’ is quite a basic Amorphis tune, with some Folkish solutions and nice melodies.
Spiritech: You stuck with Sonicpump Studios for the new album. Are you guys just plain comfortable with recording there now?
Tomi Koivusaari: It is very easy choice for us, as it is in Helsinki, and quite close (to) where we live. Plus we know guys who are running it almost from our childhood. It is very nice and comfortable studio, with good equipment and all. And most important, there is a sauna with monitors, so you can listen to takes in (the) sauna! (laughs)
Spiritech: (laughs) Moving on, the band has long had a solid fan base in Australia. Can we expect a visit to Australia for some shows in support of Skyforger?
Tomi Koivusaari: I’m glad to hear that as I have no clue about our fan base there, or if there is any at all. Of course we have get mails and met people on our shows who have came from Australia to see us, but never had any idea if there is enough people to arrange shows. We have anyway pushed our agent for years to book there to see what is it like and to visit Australia, where none of us ever visited! We know from Australia – Crocodile Dundee, AC/DC, kangaroos, Mel Gibson, Foster’s, great nature, funny accent, and if we would drill a hole from Finland we would almost be there! (laughs) There are some serious plans to have two shows there around next New Year’s Eve, if I’m not wrong in Sydney and Melbourne. I don’t know if it’s confirmed yet, but I really hope that it’ll happen!
Spiritech: You and me both. How many songs from Skyforger will you be playing live on your current tour?
Tomi Koivusaari: It is not easy anymore to build a live set, as there is so many songs we’d like to play and fans like to hear. I’m pretty sure that there will be songs from all (of) our career, and probably four-five songs from the new one.
Spiritech: How long do Amorphis plan to tour this record for?
Tomi Koivusaari: We already will be very busy till end of the year at least. (I) don’t know yet if it still continues after that. First we will have summer festivals, then tours in South America, Europe, Finland, as well as some shows in Russia and Australia.
Spiritech: Great to hear. Some Amorphis fans have written the band off during the time that Tomi Joutsen (vocals) has joined and as the band’s overall sound has changed. Is there anything you would like to say to those fans who perhaps haven’t given the current incarnation of Amorphis a chance?
Tomi Koivusaari: Everyone is free to make decisions what music they want to listen (to), of course. We are making music to ourselves (in the) first place, that means that we are doing music which we found honest to ourselves, and which feels right, to keep flame to make music. So if someone doesn’t like what we do, what can I say. To some people, (it) seems to be most important to think if some music is inside of some genre or not, can I dig it or not. I think simply that music is music, and categorizing music just kills creativeness and originality.
Spiritech: On a more personal note, are there any new releases that you’re enjoying at the moment?
Tomi Koivusaari: Many of them! First to mind comes Mastodon’s Crack the Skye and Opeth’sWatershed. Great, great albums both!
Spiritech: Final question- do you have any last words for PyroMusic.net readers?
Tomi Koivusaari: Listen to the Skyforger album, greetings to our fans there and hopefully we’ll see you at New Year’s Eve!