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13th November 2013
Scene stalwarts Amon Amarth released their ninth studio album, 'Deceiver of the Gods', to widespread rave reviews this summer; a work of anthemic and melodically epic death metal grandeur that, simultaneously, showcases a more aggressive, rawer side to their recorded output. And spiced with thrash and old school flavours of yore, it's seen the Swedes' appeal and popularity soar with their biggest sales to date and highest ever chart positions. On a European tour at the tail-end of 2013, shows of the UK leg are promoted under Metal Hammer's prestigious Defenders of the Faith brand. At the second of these, in Manchester, Metal Discovery met up with the band's sticksman, Fredrik Andersson, to have a natter about the success of 'Deceiver of the Gods'; the motivation behind its more aggressive vibe and retro flavours; working with Andy Sneap; and his one-time love of Meat Loaf (...albeit he was only five at the time so admits he knew no better).
METAL DISCOVERY: Youíre over here headlining Metal Hammerís fourth ĎDefenders of the Faithí tour, so do you regard yourselves as defending the faith?!
FREDRIK: [laughs] I think weíve regarded ourselves as doing that since day one, pretty much! So, for twenty years now, and I think we still hold true to our beliefs and what we think metal should sound like.
(Fredrik Andersson on changing producers for latest album, 'Deceiver of the Gods')
"I think we felt that, after three albums, we needed some fresh blood into the system and we felt that we had reached the level of what we could reach with Jens Bogren."
Fredrik Andersson in the Academy, Manchester, UK, 13th November 2013
Photograph copyright © 2013 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
MD: You have Carcass and Hell as main supports so were you a Carcass fan back in the day?
FREDRIK: Yeah, of course. I mean, it was them and Napalm Death that pretty much got me into death metal. Itís an honour to have them on the tour.
MD: And what about Hell?
FREDRIK: Yeah, I mean, I didnít really listen to them back in the day but, obviously when we recorded the album with Andy Sneap, we got to hear the material and got into them. Itís pretty cool; an interesting band and a really cool live performance.
MD: Yeah, the musicís great but I think it makes more sense live because itís very theatrical.
FREDRIK: Yeah, exactly. Itís like Iron Maiden; youíve got to see it live.
MD: Youíve experienced your biggest sales and highest ever chart positions with the new record, ĎDeceiver of the Godsí, so how good did that feel when the general industry trend is a decline in record sales?
FREDRIK: Well, weíve been fortunate enough to have had the success chart from our first album. The next album has always done a little bit better than the last one, so we donít really see any big differences from album to album. I mean, itís not really that important; the chart positions arenít really that important to us. The only benefit to us is, I guess, to put us on the map for promoters to get shows booked and stuff like that. People know that we will pull a crowd.
MD: Itís quite unusual and rare to see a death metal band in the UK album chartsÖ but good!
FREDRIK: Obviously, for us, sales have gone up steadily but, I think, for other bands that maybe have had big sales for a longer time, what they see in chart positions is, basically, the metal scene being supportive and other scenes being not so supportive.
MD: Definitely. Youíve done three albums in a row with Jens Bogren producing but you came over here to Derbyshire to record, as you said, with Andy Sneap for the latest one. Why did you decide to change producers at this stage?
FREDRIK: I think we felt that, after three albums, we needed some fresh blood into the system and we felt that we had reached the level of what we could reach with Jens Bogren. So we needed something new and some new input onto the music and the band. Obviously, Andy Sneap has been in our mind for many years, I think even before we started working with Jens, but it didnít work out schedule-wise for whatever reason. So, this time, it worked out and it was the right time.
MD: Were you apprehensive at all about leaving your comfort zone because, obviously, Jens knows how you work, you know how Jens worksÖ?
FREDRIK: Yeah, I think we feel thatís a positive thing. Thatís something that puts you out of the comfort zone and gets you back on the edge.
MD: So did working with someone new give you a bit of an extra buzz in the studio, and a bit more excitement with the recording?
FREDRIK: Yeah, it was, especially going into the studio. Once we got there, I think we were all surprised how relaxed the atmosphere was and how relaxed Andy was to record with. But we had a great time and it was a great experience.
MD: And surrounded by countryside too, that mustíve been nice.
FREDRIK: Yeah, exactly, itís very isolated. And, actually, we had the same when we recorded with Peter Tšgtgren back in the day in his Abyss studio Ė itís in a forest in Sweden. So it was a little bit like coming home but in a different venue.
MD: Everyoneís been talking about the thrash and old school flavours of the new material Ė did that transpire through just the songwriting or did Andyís production help push you more towards that kind of sound and feeling?
FREDRIK: He didnít really have much input on the songwriting so, I think, maybe subconsciously because the main songwriters obviously knew that they were going to record with Andy and they wanted to kind of make riffs that he would want to work with. So I think it came naturally.
MD: Press blurb mentions the albumís your most aggressive to date and thatís what you were aiming for, which you obviously achieved with Andy. So did you approach your drumming differently in any way for the recording to enhance that aggression?
FREDRIK: Yeah, I did actually. What I did for the last three or four albums, Iíve written every part, a hundred per cent, before Iíve recorded it; every fill and everything. And on this album, I only wrote maybe half of the parts and the rest I pretty much improvised in the studio to get a little bit more of an aggressive feel to it.
MD: It was also mentioned in press materials for the last album, ĎSutur Risingí, that you were aiming for a more ďaggressive and rougher soundĒ too. Looking back now, having worked with Andy, do you think Jens fell short of the aggression and raw energy you were trying to capture?
FREDRIK: Well, I think we had a little bit of a disagreement on the last album with which direction we wanted to go. And thatís also one of the reasons why we felt we needed to move on, because he took decisions that the rest of the band werenít really okay with. It was like having a sixth member but the sixth member was taking charge, basically. We didnít feel comfortable with that.
MD: So Jens put too much of his own stamp on the record?
FREDRIK: Well, yeah, it sounds great but itís just not what we wanted to achieve. It worked for two albums we recorded with him but, on the third one, we wanted a bit more of a chaotic feeling.
MD: A bit more of a live feeling?
MD: Do you think youíll continue to work with Andy in the future to push that aggression a bit more, or is it too early to say?
FREDRIK: Itís a little bit early to say but, I mean, I wouldnít mind going back and recording with him again. Personally, it was one of my best recording sessions Iíve done, so I was really happy about it.
MD: You had the legendary Messiah Marcolin guest on the track ĎHelí, so how did that come about?
FREDRIK: I think he and our singer met many years ago and just became friends, so he came up to one of our shows in Stockholm a couple of years ago and we ended up on the bus, drinking all night and talking about doing a duet with him and Johan. And nothing really happened about it but, when we wrote the music for this song, it has this doomy feeling and we felt that would be the perfect opportunity to call him in. And he was still up for it.
MD: Did he actually come over to Andyís place or record his vocals remotely?
FREDRIK: Yeah, yeah, he came over there and we had some nice curry, then recorded the vocals! [laughs]
MD: A few beers too?
MD: He looks like a man who can handle a few beers!
FREDRIK: He can handle it! [laughs]
MD: He didnít turn up in his monkís robe, did he?!
FREDRIK: No, he didnít! [laughs]
MD: Were you a Candlemass fan back in the day?
FREDRIK: Yeah, of course. We were all sitting in the control room, listening to when he put his vocals on, and everyone had goose bumps, and we were all smiling.
MD: Out of interest, whatís your favourite Candlemass album?
FREDRIK: ĎAncient Dreamsí.
MD: ĎTales of Creationí for me. Thereís a forthcoming video for ĎFather of the Wolfí and the trailer for the video was released back in June. I looked at some of the comments on YouTube and people are saying itís been months theyíve had to wait already and are asking where the actual video is!
FREDRIK: Yeah, itís been delayed. Theyíre working on it but itís a huge project and itís been taking, pretty much, three months longer than anticipated. But itís slowly coming along and thereís progress.
MD: So itíll be worth the waitÖ
FREDRIK: They have to wait a little bit further but itís gonna be released eventually.
MD: From the trailer, it looks like itís going to be a mini-movie again.
FREDRIK: Thatís the idea, yeah. Thereís some CGI and cool stuffÖ thatís the reason it takes so long. Itís a massive thing.