Interview with guitarist Tomi Ihanamäki, bassist Anne Lanttola and vocalist Pekka Montin
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: December 15, 2021
Amoth is a progressive-sounding metal band from Finland, formed in 2006, that has never been afraid of pushing the envelope in musical terms and doing what feels right without a care for any outsider expectations or pressure. So far, they have released two studio albums, the debut Crossing Over in 2011 and Revenge in 2016 and are about to release their third full-length, titled The Hour of the Wolf, via Rockshots Records on January 22, 2022.
The band has overcome many setbacks on their way to their third opus, but happily they were all conquered.
The Metal Crypt was keen on discussing the making of the album (and a lot of other things) and guitarist Tomi Ihanamäki, bassist Anne Lanttola and vocalist Pekka Montin (also in Ensiferum) answered all our questions.
First off, congrats on your record deal with Rockshots Records who will release your third album on January 22, 2022.
Tomi: Thank you so much! Thanks for helping us out when we were looking for a deal, much appreciated.
TAKING THE DIY ROUTE
I believe fans of Amoth would like to know why it took six long years to get this new album released? What things delayed the process?
Tomi: Well, the problem has always been the lack of talented musicians. Amoth songs are extremely challenging, so it’s hard to find people who can get through the songs.
The songs for the album were composed during the previous singer’s tenure but it was just not happening. We had trouble finding a new singer so, in 2018, Pekka jumped in to help us out.
We rehearsed and "digested" the songs for a long time to make sure we got the best out of them before going into the studio.
We paid for everything ourselves because there was no record company to help us out financially. That meant we couldn’t book a studio for two months straight, we had to do one day here and another one there. That takes more time than it would if we could have booked the studio and made the whole album at once.
Also, there were all kinds of issues when making the album, computers failing, studio equipment failing that then had to be sent overseas to the manufacturer to get fixed.
When we were finally done and were just starting to mix the album, the Covid-19 thing hit the fan! The whole world was panicking, and no one knew what was happening and everyone just stayed at their homes. That delayed the mixing process for several months.
Fortunately, the mastering process was a breeze. Once we had the master in our hands, we started looking for a new label to release the album. That obviously took months and when we finally found one, we decided to push the release to the start of 2022 and not release it at the end of 2021.
THE HOUR OF THE WOLF
What are some of the elements on The Hour of the Wolf that make you very proud of this record?
Tomi: The production is way better than what it was on previous albums! We learned a lot from the two previous albums and knew what to do and what not to do with this one.
We thought about every aspect of how to make this one better. The songwriting is stronger, and all the pieces fit together. What I’m most proud of is the lyrical content and how Pekka interpreted the lyrics.
When you started composing songs for this album, did you have a vision of how the album should sound so it would resonate with the listeners?
Tomi: Short answer, no. That came much later, when we were booking studio time. At that point we thought about those things a lot! We made it clear to the sound engineers that this album needed to ‘breathe and have air" and be completely different (production-wise) than the last two albums.
We found a lot of things as we went along, like we needed multiple guitars and many different amps to get the results we wanted. "Luckily" Anne’s bass guitar broke down on the first recording day! We used Erkka’s (sound engineer/producer) vintage Fender Jazz Bass and it was WAY better than the bass we had. We also used an overdrive pedal on bass for the first time on an Amoth album and Pekka played the keyboards which added a lot of depth.
Pekka’s phenomenal vocal delivery allows you to write all kinds of stuff for his range, so is it accurate to say you wrote as diverse sounding songs as possible because you were confident that he could pull of any vocal lines no matter what you wrote for him?
Tomi: I never had any doubts and knew he could pull off anything I "threw" at him. I always write diverse stuff but this time we checked the vocal melodies very precisely and Pekka modified and arranged some stuff if the song needed that.
For instance, on the song "Alice" I had originally written a very high vocal melody. We tried that and decided that it was too high. Not that Pekka couldn’t sing it, but it just didn’t fit the song. Then Pekka sang it much lower, and I thought it was too low. We agreed to go for the middle ground and that’s what ended up on the album.
FIGURING OUT THE VOCAL LINES
Do you feel that Tomi "vocally challenged" you with all the stuff he wrote for the album? Is there a specific song on this new album that makes you extraordinarily proud of your vocal delivery? The emotionally loaded "Traces in the Snow," perhaps or the dramatic and mammoth-sounding title track, "The Hour of the Wolf"?
Pekka: With Amoth, Tomi always does the vocal melodies, and the singer has to arrange them in order to find a suitable way to make it work. Sometimes it works immediately, sometimes you’ll have to struggle to make it work. It’s never easy and sometimes you have to think a lot to make it sound fresh and natural.
Amoth is, in many ways, what I call experimental heavy metal music. Every song is different, and you have to be open-minded all the time as a listener. This isn’t a traditional band or kindergarten metal at all. This isn’t a traditional progressive metal either or some simple, modern, processed stuff for dummies. Amoth does its own thing.
On this album I tried to create a voice that has its own personality and gives the album its own color and face. I did not want it to sound too processed or too acrobatic. This is not a singalong album or an album where singer can shine all the time, singing "la la la melodies" and stuff. Therefore, I tried to get a lot of feeling to the songs and not to think that is everything was going to be 100% spot on in technical terms of speaking all the time. The challenge with progressive stuff is always how it is going to make sense to the listener or if there are any real emotions involved at all. I focused on the lyrics and tried to get them sound "alive." I did not care about technicality that much on this album to be honest. I focused more on the lyrics and tried to make the songs come alive or have some kind of meaning.
I think the whole album is quite interesting, but personally I cannot listen to it anymore because it is already done.
Maybe in the future I can give it a spin and listen to it with fresh ears. Now it’s time to move on.
There seems to be a lot of room for your bass parts on the album. Do you feel this album challenged you more than the band’s previous albums?
Anne: The bass lines of Amoth’s songs are almost without exception, at least challenging. The upcoming album is by no means an exception to the two previous ones in this regard. But I feel it constantly develops me as a player.
Like I asked Pekka earlier, what’s the one song on The Hour... that gets you extra hyped every time you listen to it?
Anne: Without question, "We Own the Night." The intensity of the song, the lyrics and the contrast between the vocals and the background music is fascinating.
The album’s cover idea came from Tomi and Anne. Did you feel the lycanthrope idea would fit this album’s main theme or were there some alternative ideas that you tossed around?
Tomi: There were no other ideas. It was very clear from the start! The woman on the cover is the victim of the wolf but also depicts the "Alice" character. And if you look closely, you can see that the time on the clock tower is 3:00. The hour of the wolf is a time between 3:00-5:00 AM. It is the hour when most people die, when sleep is the deepest and when nightmares are more vivid.
The cover was made by an artist named Mario E. Lopez. How did your path cross with his?
Tomi: I don’t remember exactly but I think we were just surfing the net and looking for someone who makes cool album covers. We wanted painted cover art like Iron Maiden and some of Kind Diamond’s (Abigail, for example) albums. I don’t personally like "digital looking" album covers so I immediately was in awe when I saw the work Mario had done.
Did placing the songs in the right order on the album cause any grey hairs, headaches, angst, whatever?
Tomi: Nothing too serious but there were some debates about the order of the songs. The important ones are the first song and the last song. Also, we had to decide where to put the instrumentals.
MAKING VIDEOS CAN SOMETIMES GET HOT
In autumn 2020, you published a video for the "The Man Who Watches the World Burn" off this new album. What was the making of it like and what were some of its most challenging aspects? Were you happy with the feedback that started pouring in after the video was released?
Tomi: It was HOT! Like the hottest day of the year. Probably 30+ Celsius.
The most challenging thing was to find a day that we could use fire. Because it was such a hot summer it was forbidden to make even a small fire. We had made a deal with the fire department of the town of Jurva that they would help us out and come with the firetrucks and everything. But after some phone calls, even they couldn’t get the license the set a fire! So, no fire and we had to use a smoke machine.
Also, the husband of our bass player Anne was injured during the making of the video. He is the actor in the video, and he hurt his hand when he smashed the car windows. He had to go to hospital, and they put stitches in his hand. He came back and we continued shooting the video. Talk about dedication!
We were very pleased with the results after the video was out! We knew then that we had succeeded at the things we planned (better production, more "open" sound, etc.)
You have been putting some effort into making your next video. Would you like to enlighten us about your progress?
Tomi: We have made many lyric videos that will be released very soon! We have also filmed a music video for the song "Alice." It’s a "tongue-in-cheek" kind of video and should not be taken too seriously. But it’s going to be awesome and will turn heads! We have an actual stripper there as an actress. I think many people will enjoy this one. ;)
GIGS ARE COMING...
After the album is out on January 22, 2022, will you have a record release party or even a small tour in Finland to celebrate the album’s release?
Tomi: We have made some "arrangements" and will give more info about them when the album is out!
As Pekka has commitments with Ensiferum, does that put restrictions on the table regarding planning for Amoth shows?
Tomi: We have discussed this a lot and it’s all clear. We have a guy who’s stepping in when the gigs and tours start and when Pekka is busy with Ensiferum. More info about this in the coming months!
It seems at this point we cannot get rid of Covid-19, so how much faith do you have that the band will play single gigs and festivals in 2022? Talk about frustrating times, eh...
Tomi: I think it’s looking much better now than a year ago! Actual gigs are happening, and I think the festivals will also happen in 2022 with the "Corona-pass" thing. At least I hope so...!
However, on a more positive note, it’s apparent things can be done to ease up on artists and bands and get them back to what they normally did before the pandemic hit, though things will likely be different. How do you like this "new normal"?
Tomi: Of course, we would like to play real gigs as would probably anyone, but we will go with what is possible. We will play real gigs if it starts happening, if not then it has to be streaming gigs. We have some major news about the coming festival season so let’s hope that they happen!
I have one last question for you guys, which all of you can answer; What’s been on your Spotify, turntable, cassette player, etc. lately, and in what mood did you end up grabbing that particular piece of music for your listening pleasure?
Tomi: I’ve been listening to and playing Joe Satriani songs lately. He’s just awesome. Great melodies and solos and use of different scales and modes. Also, some Loudness (the band) has been coming out of my speakers. Then again, I listen to a lot of different stuff because I have many students and they all play different genres.
Anne: The most recent album on the turntable was King Diamond’s Halloween. It’s a shaped picture vinyl single, released in 2017. Why, well, because I celebrated Halloween and this song is more than appropriate for that situation. By the way this single is quite rare, only 2000 copies were printed. The batch that arrived in Finland was packed incorrectly and the whole batch was crooked. This makes this record an even bigger treasure to own.
Pekka: Gordon Giltrap - Perilous Journey (on vinyl). Great instrumental progressive rock from the ‘70s. A song from Abba’s new album really touched me a lot. The song is called "Keep an Eye on Dan."
I want to sincerely thank ALL OF YOU for your time "chatting" with me, and in the very same breath, I want to wish you all the best with all your future endeavors with the band. Any final thoughts, comments, curses, etc. perhaps to wrap up this conversation in a proper way?
Tomi: Thank you for this opportunity! What I always say is ignore the naysayers and follow your own path! You can’t imagine how many times I’ve been told "You can’t write songs like that," "what are you trying to do," etc. But because I’ve kept my head and followed my own path we now have something unique on our hands. A band and an album that doesn’t imitate any band but makes music completely on their own terms.
One reviewer just wrote: "As a music writer and a devout pessimist I’m rarely surprised by a band I’ve never heard. It just happened with Amoth. - Derrick Miller
|Other information about Amoth on this site|
|Review: The Hour of the Wolf|
|Review: The Hour of the Wolf|
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