About Me

Interview with Amaranthe

Amaranthe is a band formed in 2008, currently composed of Olof Mörck on guitar, Henrik Englund on harsh vocals, Elize Ryd and Nils Molin on vocals, Johan Andreassen on keyboards/synthesizers, Johan Andreassen on bass, and Morten Løwe Sørensen on drums. 
Over the years, they have gained international recognition for their unique and innovative approach to metal. By blending elements of melodic metal, metalcore, and electronic music, Amaranthe creates an engaging and unforgettable sonic experience. 
In this interview, we spoke with Olof about the new album “The Catalyst”.

M.I. - Can you tell us how did Amaranthe appeared in the musical scene? How did you get together?

I mean, we all come from really different backgrounds, so it was a lot of winding roads that kind of intertwined somewhere around 2006, 2007. So, just to take an example, the drummer Morten, he’s just into really extreme death metal and black metal. And I was playing with him in a dark death metal band back in 2006, so we started to talk about, you know, doing some project together. I met Jake. We had a similar conversation around 2005 and then I met Elize in 2006. And I was helping her out to apply for Nightwish at the time. 
And we were kind of saying that if this doesn't work out for you, then we should really start some kind of project. So, there were a lot of these conversations going on and it led from just conversations to actual demos released. In maybe 1 1/2 years and in those 1 1/2 years the fundamental sound, I would say most of the core elements of the Amaranthe sound like the three singers and electronic keyboarding influences and you know poppy vocal lines, but really, really heavy riffs and growls and all these things were already in place in this short amount of time. So, we had these ideas, but they were built upon conversations that had been on and on for a long time.

M.I. - What were your main influences when you started with Amaranthe?

It's funny because I actually don't get asked these questions very often, because people can't really figure it out. But no, I mean, on the metal side, I grew up with the Gothenburg melodic death metal scene.
My sister listened to a lot of dance and EDM music in the 90s. So, that would have been an influence as well.
But the fact of the matter is that more modern melodic death metal bands, such as Soilwork and Scar Symmetry and the way that they sounded in 2005, 2006 was a really big influence on Amaranthe for sure. And then obviously, as soon as Elize came with her perspective on music, which is even more poppy, because we're all eclectic individually. Morten Lowe Sorensen listens to every kind of music, same thing with Nils, same thing with Elize, but we get even more different individually. So, Elize had been part of cabaret musical scene. And she had also been singing some jazz, some classical, but she also grew up with a brother and a father that were very into heavy metal as well. She was very influenced by Beyonce, which I thought was a very cool thing, especially back in 2007. I still think it's a very cool thing.
Of course, she's a fantastic singer. Old Destiny's Child is super cool music. So, you have this really tight vocals that you combine with this really tight music. And it had never really been done before. So, my brain immediately really liked the concept of it. I mean, it's killer good music.
I don't think I've ever talked about it in an interview ever, should be the first time because what was cool with them compared to the poppy Spice Girls and TLC was that they had a lot of attitude, it's really powerful music. And when you put it together with heavy metal music, it's a pretty logical combination in a lot of ways from the perspective of powerfulness, so to speak.

M.I. -  With the release of "The Catalyst," how would you describe the sound of this new album compared to the band's previous works?

I would say that we definitely wanted for this one to be more eclectic and more diverse, less boundaries, less limitations. In general, we had a longer time to experiment before we started to write the album on a full-time basis. So, we did a lot of concepting and we realized that there were a lot of different ideas coming.
And sometimes, as you said earlier, different can be good. Different can also mean something else that is just out there. So, we told ourselves, let's try approach anything that comes and we will try to integrate it into the Amaranthe sound and we'll see how it works.
Because the thing is that something that doesn't sound like it's going to work on paper to be influenced by, if we put it into our signature sound, with our style of keyboards, our musicians, the three singers, it's such a characteristic sound that it can work a lot better than you initially think. So, for us, we had some things that we wanted to try after six albums, like also if we introduce and incorporate some symphonic elements, what would that sound like? And how would that be different compared to Nightwish or Within Temptation or Epica or the other bands that do symphonic metal really, really well? So, is it just stupid to compete with that? But then we realized that when we wrote Damnation Flame, we kind of realized that it doesn't really sound a whole lot like these other bands. It's just still Amaranthe but with new elements in it, basically. 

M.I. - And the difference in the songs, I think you can catch that with the three different singles that you released. They all sound different. 

Exactly. They all have a kind of sound that is completely different from one another.

M.I. -  Are you going to release a new single before the album comes out?

Yes and, around the time of the album release, there will be one more song out also, which is my favourite on the whole album. This kind of ties the whole album together, but it also ties the general Amaranthe sound together. And it might be the best chorus that Elize's ever done. So that's something to look out for. It's a really killer song if I can say it myself.

M.I. - And how was the process of creating this album? Was there any particular inspiration?

I mean, it was definitely a consequence of the pandemic, because the last album, Manifest, was out at the end of 2020.
And we kind of told each other to take some time to chill. We have been out touring for 10 years, very busy schedule, very intense. And we were all a little bit more exhausted than we realized.
And we were doing promotion until maybe November of 2020. But come February, March, something like that, we were not playing any shows, we were not touring, it was all kind of silent. And a little sad, because you have just released an album, but you were not out there playing it to people who will hopefully appreciate your music.
So, what we started to do these concepts, like I said, think outside the box, and all these things. And I was recording probably 50 small ideas. And Elize kept sending me a million small phone audio recordings, so I could see where her mind was at.
It was a really creative process. And I think just the fact that we had that time, plus the fact that the world was in a sort of a very dark place, everybody was isolated.

M.I. - I don't know if we were in a dark place back then, it looked like that. But I think we are in a darker place right now. 

I think it's a different kind of dark, isn't it? 

M.I. - Yes, it's really weird, because we came out of a pandemic. We got our freedom again. And all of a sudden, the world goes crazy again and we don't know why.

I think it's just the fact that this opened up possibilities, that we hadn't really considered before. Because us who grew up in the 80s, and the 90s, and the early 2000s, the world seemed very fixed, it was also post Cold War. And we didn't have these threats to deal with. So, it seemed like it was going to go on like that forever. And obviously, there were some exceptions, like, September 11.
And these events that felt crazy at the time, but I'm really sad to say that if something like September 11 should happen somewhere else now, it unfortunately would feel logical, because I think our generation is a lot more used to crazy stuff happening, basically. And to tie this together to what I was talking about, this is obviously going to influence you as a creative person as well.
Because at the end of the day, you always have your radar on, you're always kind of scanning, the general mood and general atmosphere. And the way that we like to deal with these things in Amaranthe is that, because there's so many great bands in the metal scene writing really dark and depressive lyrics and all that, we like to approach it from the other way around that we deal with this tough and heavy subject matter.
And we try to see it from the bright side, because there's always a bright side to it, even if it's dark as hell. And I even feel bad for saying that, but there's always some kind of silver lining. Just to take the pandemic as an example, a lot of people acted like idiots, but on the other hand, there were so many people who were actually helping each other, communities going out, buying food for the elders, people thinking about and respecting the fact that they shouldn't spread the virus, washing their hands, like all the small little heroic deeds. And it reminds you that when human beings have something like that we come together and we have a tendency to deal with it in a more hopeful way than a lot of people think. 
So, that's the kind of things that we like to focus on, like the uplifting things. So, you deal with the heavy subject matter, but since we are uplifting, up-tempo, happy band, in that sense that's how we approach the problems from the music. For the pressing things, we already have the world around us.

M.I. - And who is the person that writes the music and the lyrics for Amaranthe? 

Me absolutely and also Elize. We write everything together. And we usually deal with different perspectives on it.
So typically, I write like all the music, what's going to go on the guitar parts, the keyboards, drums, chord progressions, all these things. And Elize mainly focus on vocal lines.
So, a song can begin in both ends, for example, Damnation Flame or Insatiable that started as musical riffs, small little ideas that run typically to the verse. I play it to Elize and it's like, what should come here? What would you like to hear? And she sings something and nine times out of 10, it's amazing. And then we kind of take it from there and work on it together.
Sometimes she has this vocal line idea or a fragment or a description of a song. For example, when we wrote the ballad for this album called Stay a Little While, obviously, you haven't heard it yet. But I was sitting at home at 10 or 11 in the evening. She says, out of the blue, I think that we should write a ballad. I'm like, we should. Oh, no, I mean now.
Because I have so many ideas. I'm like, but I'm at home. You're at home somewhere else.
She's like, yeah, but listen to this. And she sends me 40 ideas for what the ballad could be. And I'm like, good, great, amazing, really good.
And then after 25 clips, I'm like this one, this one. And she's like, yeah, I also like this one, probably the best. So, I start to arrange it.
I start to play the theme on the keyboards. And about three hours later, I have half the song done based upon just that fragment that she was singing. So, we work on it in different ways.
And then we kind of attack the lyrics together. It's not obvious who is going to do the major part of the lyrics. But we have a little bit of different writing styles.
And usually, I don't write the whole song or the lyrics, or she writes a whole song. It's usually something that we cooperate a little bit on, typically, she would come with a lot of ideas. And I would kind of put it together from that, if I was to say any kind of normal way of doing it.
But I like the spontaneousness of the process. We write music exactly the same way as we did 15 years ago, when we were just jamming in my apartment as friends, instead of going to some fancy studio and doing something and doing songwriting sessions and all that stuff. So, we like to keep it simple and straightforward.

M.I. - Well, I was going to ask you if you're going to have any ballads, because Amaranthe is known for great ballads in every album.

Yes, thank you. This is a good one. It's definitely one of the better ones. This one is a little different, because it's a little bit more of a classic old power ballad from the 80s, or something like that.
Big symphonic arrangement, lots of changing between Nils and Elize. So, it’s more like in a duet form, instead of Elize singing her verse, and then Nils singing his verse. They're kind of singing like towards each other in a way and doing harmonies on top of each other. So, it turned out to be something really special, actually.

M.I. - Who usually thinks about the design for the cover of the CD? 

That would normally be my department, typically. Like when it comes to the album titles and the general concepts, but it's always a good conversation with the rest of the band and particularly Elize also.
But when it came to The Catalyst, we had worked with this artist that we worked with on Manifest as well. The guy is called Emmanuel Shiu, and he's normally not a cover artist for metal bands. He hasn't really done anything like that.
It's just this artist that I found online. Normally he does concept art for really big movies and TV series. He did Game of Thrones and Blade Runner 2047, and Thor and Marvel and that kind of stuff.
So, he's really busy, and it's kind of expensive too, actually. But he's absolutely fantastic. And I sent him the idea and he really liked what I was describing. So, we were kind of bouncing that back and forth. And the end result is the album cover. And I think it's maybe the best one so far. We're really happy with that.

M.I. - Why did you choose that title for the album: The Catalyst?

I think we, about halfway into the writing process, we sat down and kind of looked at the meaning of the lyrics that we had written so far, the song titles and the kind of general vibe. And just to discern, like, where are we heading with this kind of conceptually and lyrically.
And we figured out that, all of the songs that we've written so far were dealing with change in some way. And more specifically, we were dealing with the moment of change and what the trigger for that change is, which becomes this catalyst moment. So The Catalyst, because obviously this is a consequence of the pandemic as well, that you have this catalyst moment.
If you want to take this as an example, we don't know how it happened, but let's say a guy in Wuhan goes to the wet market, he eats a bat, and then the world goes crazy for two and a half years. How's that for a catalyst or should I call that a “Batalyst”? I'm writing this down. How random is that?
I mean, these moments can happen on so many topics. Like a person says one unexpected sentence to you, and your entire life changes maybe for the better, maybe for the worse, maybe, you know, someone you thought was your friend gets down on your knees and proposes to you, and all of a sudden you realize that you've always been in love and now your life changes dramatically.
So, these are the moments that we were looking for. But also from a fantasy perspective, like a catalyst moment in Damnation Flame is the bite or the kiss of the vampire that turns you into an undead person that lives forever. It's kind of a loose theme, but it's definitely something that we thought was really cool, and it's a good sounding title.

M.I. - You made a cover of a song from Sabaton. Are you going to have any other covers in this album, like in a special edition or something?

A short answer, yes. And I can make the answer longer also. It's actually funny because some people have heard it because it's included in the pre-listening version of it. So, it's actually a cover of a Swedish band called Roxette.
You had, It Must Have Been Love and Listen to Your Heart. And they also have a song called Fading Like a Flower. So, when I was a kid, this was one of the first songs that I really loved when I was maybe four or five years old, really young. And I think around the time when we were traveling a lot to shoot videos for the Manifest album, since we couldn't fly anywhere because of the pandemic, or at least not always, then we were spending a lot of time in cars and vans and we were kind of discussing, should we hypothetically go into the studio and record some cover songs? So, we started to throw some ideas around.
And one of the songs that came up the most was this Fading Like a Flower song. Basically, we took the song, we arranged a hundred percent like it would have been an Amaranthe song because it already has a lot of these chord progressions, musical parts and so on and so forth. So, for us, it was a lot of fun but also a very logic song to make it to an Amaranthe version.
And, you know, for the people who are from the United States who might not have heard Roxette, they just figure that, oh, it's an Amaranthe song. It's only when I tell them that it's a cover that, oh, really, is it?

M.I. - In one of the previous albums, you have a song called Digital World. And in this digital era, what do you think about the digital platforms as a way of promoting the music? Because digital platforms came to change all the way we listen to music nowadays. 

Absolutely. From my perspective, I know that a lot of people will not agree with me, but for us, it's always been great because we're a little bit of a newer band, released the first album in 2011, and it was already in the streaming era. So, for us, it was a good way to reach a lot of people in a very short amount of time, especially as we were touring at the same time, it was very easy for people to just go on Spotify and on YouTube or iTunes.
And, you know, immediately you check out the band instead of having to go to the record store and actually listening to it. If you want to make it as an artist full time, if you're just starting out and you're younger, I think in a lot of ways, it's actually easier.
But you still have to put in a lot of work, you still have to tour for many years. But once you have enough followers and listeners on Spotify, this means that you will get something that looks a lot more like a salary. Back in the day, because I released my first album back in 2001, you would get paid once.
And then you have to, as a very young person, think that this money now has to last until whenever the next album is released. And that's a challenge for a musician and especially a young one, I might add. So, the way that things are working, both from the financial perspective and also from the perspective of reaching people, I think it still has a lot of improvement to be done.
And I think it could be fairer to musicians that I can say and agree with but I think in most ways, it's almost only been good for us. 

M.I. - One last and quick question. What message do you like to send to the to the fans here in Portugal? 

So, I would like to say the ones who are still there. After all these years, I would first say I apologize for not coming sooner. It's unfortunately not up to us. I think you guys know how it works but we cannot wait to finally come and play in Portugal again because if I count it correctly, it's been 12 1/2 years since the last time. So, I would say now is about the time to return. 
Thank you to the people that have been staying loyal. Hello to all the new ones and I hope to see all the Portuguese people soon, including yourselves.

Listen to Amaranthe, on Spotify

For Portuguese version, click here

Questions by Isabel Martins