From opener “Shades Of Gray” to closer “A New Day”, Amorphis’ latest recording, Circle, is simply outstanding. In conjunction with legendary producer and Hypocrisy mainman Peter Tagtgren, the Finnish kings of Progressive Metal have been able to conjure an album that stands side by side with any of their previous studio opuses. Heavier and darker than its recent predecessors, but retaining the band’s melodic and eclectic trademarks, Circle seems to announce a new chapter in the Helsinki–based collective. Guitarist Tomi Kuvousari told us everything about the new album, the experience of working with Tagtgren, and the band’s future plans including a possible North American Tour.
Musically and sound-wise, how much does this album differ from your other recent releases, especially “The Beginning Of Times” and “Skyforger”?
Tomi: It is darker and heavier for sure! We started to think before recording this album that maybe we should change the process of making the album this time, as last 4 albums we did at same studio with almost same crew all the time. We needed change, not only to have something new to our sound, but keeping ourselves inspired. So we went to the countryside all of us to record, mainly because we wanted a peaceful place, that nobody is hurrying home or anything but staying at same place 24h for week or so.
That’s how we did our 4 very first albums back in the days. Recording all separated felt too clinic way to do it this time. Recording in middle of nowhere at nature was same time very inspiring and let us concentrate on the music itself. I think it created sort of an atmosphere to the album. We also wanted to make an album which is more compact than previous ones. There is less poppy songs on Circle and all the songs are following more same line, even that there is different kind of songs comparing each others. Specially we were thinking a lot track-listing and that songs which will be on actual album are at same line, we recorded 14 songs and we didn’t want to make over-long album which sounds more like compilation than concept-album.
Check out song “Hopeless Days”
Circle marks the first time you collaborate with legendary producer and Hypocrisy mainman, Peter Tagtgren. What can you tell me about the whole experience?
Tomi: We have known Peter for decades, first time we’ve got to know him when we toured together and shared tour bus with Hypocrisy back in 94-95. We have seen him once in a while on tours festivals and so on. Many times he also suggested that he could produce/mix our record. This time we needed a change as well, and when we started to think about producer, Peter was one of our first ideas. It was definitely the right choice, it was relaxed to work with him, and result sounds awesome. We are sharing quite same experience from this whole scene, and we can respect him as producer, as I think he respects our ideas and ways to work. We had good fun together. He contribute his knowledge about guitar sounds and heavier sound overall, we were looking for heavier and darker sound for this album, and we’ve got it. I think the mix even turned out better than expected!
I know it’s probably too soon to say but, in your opinion how important do you think this new album Circle will be within Amorphis’ discography, especially being produced by Peter Tagtgren?
Tomi: Right now it feels that this album’s gonna take us again to harder or heavier sound of Amorphis, of course Peter’s producing affected that as well, but that’s what we wanted to do when we were thinking about the producer. Time will tell what our fans are thinking about it. So far to us Circle feels fresh to us.
Amorphis’ line-up has been the same for such a long time now. Since your albums are not so radically different as they used to be a decade ago… How has your line-up stability affected your creativity and writing process as a band?
Tomi: I’m sure it of course affects that we haven’t had radical changes for awhile, but that’s also because I believe we have found certain things musically what we’ve been looking for. When we were younger we were searching all the time and also our opinions and tastes were changing all the time as well, even we still have same kind of influences from when we were forming the band. But to us the change is not most important, going forwards of course, but some changes are happening in smaller scale than you first hear. Back in the days when we were changing quite much all the time, everyone were asking that why we are doing that. Now everyone asks why we don’t change anymore! But I only have same answer to both questions, we are not planning when we start to work with new stuff what direction we should go, but just do what we ever feel like.
I noticed you worked with saxophonist/flutist Sakari Kukko again on this record. He played on albums like Tounela and Am Universum. What led you to bring him back?
Tomi: Year ago we did concert hall tour in Finland, which was mostly acoustic set. Sakari was our guest on that tour, as we knew him since he played on our Tuonela and Am Universum. When we started to plan new record he obviously came to our mind, and how recognizable his playing is on woodwinds and sax. He is also known as Crazy-Sakari. He is a great guy.
Stylistically, the album cover seems to be somehow inspired by the works of Alphonse Mucha and John Baizley. To your knowledge, were those influences?
Tomi: Credits about style goes to Tom Baits, who draw/painted the cover. We gave him some ideas what there could be and opened album’s concept for him. I think there is some of that style in his previous works, that’s why we wanted to work with him this time. The cover represents well the mood what’s on the album, great colors and it’s tones. Most important thing to me personally is that cover fits the musical mood of the record. It doesn’t have to be necessarily walk by hand in hand with story. Story happens from dusk til dawn and that character, that lady is the guide who came to help the main character on album’s story. Our singer Tomi suggested that well maybe it could be androgynous in cover, but the artist said then everybody are wondering if artist was incompetent, if you don’t recognize if it is she or he. So we got woman there now, which is nice. I like the cover very much, it is very mysterious and beautiful. I don’t know if Alphonse Mucha and John Baizley were the influences, but I do agree that most likely they were.
Are there any plans to do a North American Tour anytime soon?
Tomi: There will be massive touring ahead. First we do Summer festivals all over the Europe, then in Fall we will tour at South America, Australia, Europe, Japan, Russia… at least. But we do have some plans about North American tour in Spring 2014, although nothing’s confirmed yet. I sure hope it will happen, as it’s been a while since we last time had proper tour over there.
You’re one of the most consistent Metal bands of the last 10 years, always releasing very focused and strong material. In your opinion, which has been the formula for such success?
Tomi: We have been honest to ourselves musically, and not trying to go with trends or anything. To us it is very important to produce albums with best possible quality and making our own thing. We want to make records that sound good still after 20 years. This not just a job to us, it’s a passion, we love what we do and we are grateful that we have had opportunity to do this as long as we have.
Check out song “Enchanted By The Moon”