Having already spoken with guitarist and harsh vocalist Tomi Koivusaari, OVERDRIVE MUSIC MAGAZINE continues the conversation with Amorphis about their new album ‘Queen of Time’ by getting keyboardist Santeri Kallio’s view on things! As we progress ever closer to the May 18th release date, the band have released their first full music video from the album, entitled Wrong Direction; and anticipation for the album’s release is building across the board.
With regard to ‘Queen of Time,’ Kallio reflects, “I like to think of it as a development for us. I think maybe around ‘Circle’ we started a little bit to explore some new possibilities to make our song’s edgier, and not to repeat what we did with ‘Eclipse,’ ‘Silent Waters’, and ‘The Beginning of Times.’ So we started to use a ‘seventh member,’ a producer for the album Jens Bogren, a world-class Metal producer. At the same time, we’ve toured for ten years or something, and the band’s musicianship level also started to rise. All the small details started to come into our music, you know, a lot of drum fills and small, tiny details. I would say ‘Queen of Time’ is the latest product of that development that started then, and it was a little bit easier now because we knew that Jens Bogren was going to produce the album beforehand. We started to compose the songs with Esa , and I think we didn’t do it on purpose that we were going to make different music or any big changes composing-wise. Of course, we didn’t know all the details, that, yes, we will bring out some choirs and use some extra string orchestral elements in the songs, but we knew that something special was going to happen because we were really happy with ‘Under the Red Cloud’. It opened a lot of doors for us, even more than the previous albums before that.”
Thinking of the album holistically, Kallio continues, “The songs are a little bit different, but they’re all really good, and every song, there’s a lot of stuff to chew for the listener. And I definitely hope, or I would imagine as a musician and working so long with this, I would imagine it’s not that kind of album that gives you one or two listens and then you know what’s all in there. I hope the listeners find some new things and new elements, get a new approach for the songs. I think it’s a pretty massive album, and you have to listen to it many times to really figure out what’s going on here.”
While it’s exciting to bring in the orchestra and choir, Kallio also has some pragmatic thoughts. “I would say normally when you ask guest musicians, or try to make layers with some other instruments to the songs, it’s always very welcome for us that there’s something new to the table, and not just to do the thing that we ask, like you do this melody and that’s it, bye-bye. So I’m really happy with how the choirs do the melodies and how they come in. They also use lyrics, so it’s not just, ‘Aah aah aah, ooh ooh ooh,’” he quips with a wry laugh, “and they are really participating, they are actually singing, and not just making some atmosphere.”
Although these extra elements are more fully integrated than ever before on ‘Queen of Time,’ it’s not the first time Amorphis have considered this path. “To be honest, throughout the years, we’ve been thinking we should use a real string orchestra, and especially the classical arrangements which we are probably not capable of doing; it will sound like all this is just made by keyboard or something. I would still say we don’t sound nearly like Symphonic Death Metal or something like this. So it is there, but it’s used in a pretty tasty way, like how we like it. We don’t want to sound like Beethoven meets Amorphis.”
Surprisingly, along with the symphonic elements, Amorphis have also been able to draw on some techno influence. “To be honest, I would say always, as a keyboard player, when I compose the first demos there might be a lot of kind of New Age or techno-ish keyboard elements there. Normally, we just present them with the guitar. Let’s say Sky is Mine from ‘Skyforger,’ in the first demo, the main delay guitar riff was made by keyboard. It actually sounded horrible,” Kallio admits frankly. “But we normally transfer these ideas to the lead guitar, which makes a very unique sound, that delay, delay, delay sound which was probably presented the first time in Alone on ‘Am Universum.’ But this time, especially in The Bee, it just sounded so good, the delay line, that we decided to keep it with the keyboards, and it gives the song a nice, fresh element, and on the other hand it gives Esa a little bit of freedom to do something else than just play a totally full techno line. But he also plays it together, so it’s a mixture of techno keyboards and Amorphis classical delay guitars,” he chuckles.
As for the making of the Wrong Direction video, Kallio doesn’t sugar-coat it. “Well, I don’t know anybody who really likes to make videos because it’s kind of outside music. It’s like extra work. We are basically musicians, and I’m not a big fan of making videos. Of course, I’m a big fan of looking at videos, you know? I like how the final product is, I love to see that, but actually making a video is pretty hard work, to pretend to play. But the process was really nice, you know? The video group went North, almost to the Arctic Sea, you know? At the Northern part of Norway, they were there in the snow for four days, and they had the drone person who took really nice landscape pictures. Well, our playing part was very, very amazing. We went to the cave, 100 metres underneath the ground, close to Helsinki. I don’t have any great memories about that, we pretended to play and tried to present the song as well as possible, but it’s hard work.”
Another exciting happening in the Amorphis camp is the return of Olli-Pekka “Oppu” Laine to the band, but it wasn’t easy getting there. “There was a lot of stress for the rest of the band, you know? Like the long-time bass player’s going to leave, and what are we going to do, and we have all the time on the tour and it’s going to be between the tours, not when the tour ends. But he said he would leave after the US tour, which was two weeks before we had shows in Russia. Then we started to think about how we have to get a bass player, and a proper bass player, hopefully, a guy who stays in a band, because you can’t just use session musicians all the time. It doesn’t work like that. So the first idea for us was to contact Oppu, because we knew he’s been active in Metal and he has released some Metal albums and he’s still playing, and still interested in touring and still interested in composing Metal. So, of course, we were hoping when we asked him to back up the last 50 shows we had left, we were also at the same time hoping maybe he will see how fun this is and how everything’s changed. He said at first that he will do the 50 shows, but he has a job.” One can certainly hear the only somewhat tongue-in-cheek distaste for a day job in Kallio’s tone. “But then after 20 shows, we tried to push him. ‘Maybe you want to join the band. Come on, man, this is fun, right?’” One gets the sense of Kallio as the devil on Laine’s shoulder. “And at some point, he said, ‘Okay, I will join the band,’ so we got really lucky to get a long-time friend, original member, a good, relaxed guy and a great composer, and actually a great stage performer, and a really professional bass player. We got really lucky to catch him with us, because it’s going to be a lot of fun to tour, and he contributed also the album process. He made a couple of songs, of which one is actually a bonus track of ‘Queen of Time.’ So I hope Olli will be with us for the rest of our career, but nobody knows because he said he took two years off from the work, so time will tell, but I definitely hope. I think he’s going to skip the job and become a musician again, for crying out loud!”
AMORPHIS’ ‘QUEEN OF TIME’ WILL BE RELEASED MAY 18th. PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY HERE!