Australia's Heavy magazine recently conducted an interview with guitarist Olavi Mikkonen of Swedish death metallers AMON AMARTH. You can listen to the entire chat via the Spreaker widget below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On the writing process for AMON AMARTH's upcoming studio album, "Berserker":
Olavi: "Since [2016's] 'Jomsviking' was a concept album where we actually had to follow the lyrics — we had to write music for the lyrics because Johan [Hegg, vocals] had a whole story, more or less, completed — we kind of went back to what we did previously, or previously on the old albums or what we had done until 'Jomsviking', which was we wrote music first and listened to the songs and ideas and see what will fit the songs. We kind of like went back to what we did before 'Jomsviking'."
On what inspires him to write music:
Olavi: "I think I definitely need to be in a certain mood. The thing is, I think it's all different. What I felt about this cycle or writing process was that what really triggers me is when things are going good for our band, like, when we ended the 'Jomsviking' touring cycle — it was a successful cycle. I mean, the best tour we ever did, or tours we ever did and also the vibe in the band has been amazing during the last cycle. The very next day when we came back from the last show, I went into my studio and started writing songs. When things are going good and have this positive energy, that really triggers me to write. The thing is, I kind of learn, when I'm having a good feeling about stuff, I just write and write. I know at some point, you're going to have a dip and you're not going to be able to come up with anything for weeks or for months. When you get there, I just do something else until I have that good feeling again. I think we're fortunate to have a situation where we don't have to force anything. We write whenever we feel like we want to write. We don't really have a rehearsal room where we work together like that. We all work individually from home. When I'm in a good mood writing stuff, the other guys, they don't have to be that. They can work on my stuff or the stuff I've been working on whenever they want. At one point, we get together and that's when we put the songs together."
On whether AMON AMARTH tried anything different in the guitar department on "Berserker":
Olavi: "We always try to do more cool harmonies and melodies and also we try to — since we have two guitar players, we try to use that much as possible, so we always try to do harmonies. Also, we talk about how to create more dynamics before we went into the songwriting process. I think we had all that in the back of our heads. I mean, I'm not going to lie, both me and Johan Söderberg, the other guitar player, we are huge fans of [JUDAS] PRIEST and [IRON] MAIDEN. We always wanted to do more harmonies and more guitar work. If we can, why not?"
On the "experimental" elements of "Berserker":
Olavi: "I think that is what I just mentioned earlier: We said we wanted to create more dynamics into the songs. One way to do that is kind of like 'Ironside'. It starts with this mellow, acoustic thing and in the middle of the song, it almost goes like gore vocals, then the acoustic comes back and then clean vocals and then back to the old-school heaviness. That's just creating dynamics. Same thing with 'Valkyria'. We did a piano outro. I think 'Shield Wall', in the middle of the song, there's this acoustic, really mellow breakdown part. 'Fafner's Gold', the opening track, we have the chorus as an acoustic version. We're just trying to [find out] how we can make our songs more interesting."
On taking part in SLAYER's current "farewell tour":
Olavi: "Obviously, I'm going to think it's awesome. I'm not saying this because we're doing this tour, but SLAYER has been my favorite band since I was 15 years old. And that's a long time. That's 30 years they've been my favorite band. Until I started to play in a band myself and started touring, I saw SLAYER every time they were in Sweden. I have pretty much every album and everything from them. Obviously, for me, personally, this is a big thing. This might be the biggest thing we've ever done. We've toured with SLAYER 10 years ago in Europe. They're awesome. Since then, we always run into them at some festivals, but we never toured together since the first time we toured with them. So, that's going to be awesome. For us, it's going to be awesome to be able to play for a huge, big, new crowd, but also to be part of SLAYER's history. I saw them at the show they played in Sweden in December last year and that was the best SLAYER show I had ever seen. Trust me, I've seen quite a lot of them. They are still at the top of their game. I think it's awesome they are calling it quits in a nice way so people actually have a chance to go see them for a final show. Then, instead of other bands breaking up and nobody had the chance to see them for the last time. I think it's cool. It's really cool."
"Berserker" will be released on May 3 via Metal Blade Records. The disc was recorded at Sphere Studios in North Hollywood, California with producer Jay Ruston, who has previously worked with ANTHRAX, STEEL PANTHER, URIAH HEEP and STONE SOUR.