Raymond Westland caught up with Amon Amarth drummer Fredrik Andersson for a quick chat. They talked about the new album “Surtur Rising”, the stories behind the album and life on the road.
Surtur Rising is another solid addition to the ongoing Amon Amarth discography. Are you relieved the album has just been unleashed to the metal masses?
Not at the present moment, this is the most exciting time for a release as we’ll see how the fans are liking it! The relief was once we had recorded it and sent it off to Metal Blade. Now we’re biting our nails in hope people will like the album as much as we do.
Can you give a quick run-down on the stories and themes that are handled on your new album?
Well the main theme is about Surtur, the fire giant from Muspelheim in Norse mythology. We actually had the idea for cover and theme before we started writing any of the songs. But other than that there’s no real concept behind the album and all the songs have different stories depending on the mood of the song.
War of the gods is about the first battle with all gods. “Destroyer of the Universe” is the song about Surtur, and then there’s “The last stand of Frej” which is actually the same story pretty much but from the perspective of Frej when he’s fighting Surtur.
How did the writing and recording sessions go for Surtur Rising compared to previous experiences?
Very smooth and quick. I think we wrote the album in about 4-5 months which must be some sort of record for us, we’ve never finished an album that quickly before. We were a little bit worried for a while that we wouldn’t make it on time and would be forced to postpone the album but then all the pieces just came into place and we finished on time. On time for us usually means the last song is written before we start recording so I think we finished everything in the last week.
The main difference this time when we were writing the album was that we invited Jens to the rehearsal room a couple of times so he could take part of the songs already when they were in the making, I think that helped to speed up the process as he could come in with a fresh ear and guide us a bit.
Then the actual recording took roughly two months and it was pretty quick and effective to, just get in there and give 100% and work long days. It’s always tough being in the studio as you have to be 100% focused all day when you’re recording but the end result is so worth it you just hang in there and give your best.
Surtur Rising has a good combination of faster songs (War Of The Gods, A Beast Am I) and most mid-tempo orientated material (Slaves Of Fear, Doom Over Dead). How important is it to you to have a certain degree of variation on an album?
It’s never something we really plan. I’d like to think of the songs as kids, they have their own life and identity! You never know beforehand which turns the song is going to take or where it’s going, it has its own personality and seems to know what it wants.
The signature sound of Amon Amarth is pretty much set in stone. How do you manage to find new musical angles within that style?
I think we’re still all evolving in our musicianship and we’re getting better as song writers. Of course it’s hard to change the style you have, especially if that style is what you like but we try to experiment a little bit for each album and push the boundaries within the limits we allow.
Amon Amarth is often compared to Motorhead and AC/DC because of your consistency and being utterly devoted to the band’s signature sound. What do you think of this?
I personally don’t see this as nothing else than a compliment. We’re proud that we’ve found a sound that is unique to us and that we like and stick to. Some people might use it to bash us, but we take little notice of that. I mean it doesn’t matter what you do, some people will still complain. If a band change too much they suck, if they change too little that’s not good either…
We take pride in the fact that we’ve done what we want all our career and it’s taken us this far. And really, would you want a Motorhead album that sounded like Bullet for my Valentine or AC/DC album that sounds like The Cure?
Even if I also think those bands have evolved enormously, comparing the latest Motorhead to say their Iron Fist album, it’s night and day. Same with AC/DC.
Some years ago you collectively decided to quit your day jobs and make Amon Amarth your main priority. What are the pros and cons of making such a decision?
The cons I would say the knowledge that we’re pretty much screwed once we can’t do this any more. The uncertainty whether you’ll be able to pay your bills the next year. And also that there are no pension funds in death metal so what you see is what you get. Also the fact that to be able to do this we have to tour as much as we do, at least 6-8 months each year has to be spent touring which is obviously tough on those of us who’s got family and kids.
It all weighs up though with the pros, the fact that we’re living our dream and doing what we love to do. When we’re on stage each night, having a good show with an enthusiastic crowd all worries are somewhere else and it’s the best place to be in the world.
The musical landscape has changed dramatically the last couple of years and major labels are almost becoming a thing of the past. More and more bands are starting to release their music independently. Amon Amart has a big name and a large fanbase. Is this something that you guys would considering doing as well? What are your thoughts on this phenomenon?
I don’t think it’s something we’d be willing or even able to do. Sure you get a lot of insight in the business side but we neither have the time, energy or money to take care of that whole side by ourselves.
There’s a million things going on off stage that people don’t realize has to be done. Everything from booking appointments for interviews to put together a release schedule and getting the albums pressed and distributed on time to all corners in the world. Not to mention having the money to pay for everything up front, the recording of an album alone costs an arm and a leg if you want a high quality album and not some home production.
I think it’s possible to pull it off if you’re either doing it as a hobby on a smaller level, or if you have the money to hire people to take care of the things you as a band can’t or don’t want to do.
Amon Amarth does a lot of touring. How do you remedy the rigours and boredom of this touring lifestyle?
It all comes down to the 90 minutes we do on stage. When we’re up there everything that is boring or hard on tour is forgotten. We wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t for the stage time.
Time for the final question. What’s the biggest spinal tap moment in your career?
Ha ha, well we’ve had quite a few… I think pretty much everything that could happen to a band has happened to us by now, everything from playing in front of 12 paying fans to having wheels fall off the tour bus while driving on the highway.