Interview: Michael Amott of Arch Enemy
Tuesday, June 7, marks the release of the first new album of original material from Sweden’s Arch Enemy in almost four years. Guitar World recently caught up with Arch Enemy guitarist Michael Amott about the band’s new album, Khaos Legions.
GUITAR WORLD: It’s been four years since the last Arch Enemy album, but in 2009 you released The Root of All Evil, which saw the band re-recording tracks from your first three albums. Do you think revisiting your older material had an impact on the new album?
MICHAEL AMOTT: It probably had some effect. I hadn’t thought too much about that, but it probably did. You know how everything you do and all those experiences turn up later on. I think it was kind of cool. On The Root of All Evil, we kind of covered ourselves from the first three records. It was cool for me and Chris [Amott, Arch Enemy guitarist] to go back and revisit those guitar arrangements and try to figure it all out.
Some stuff it was like, “Wow, this was cool; we should do stuff like this again!” And some stuff was like, “This kind of sucks” [laughs]. So it was obviously interesting.
Have you guys been writing for the new album since the last all-original album?
Yeah, since 2007, absolutely.
This album might be your most consistent one. Do you think letting the songs gestate for three or four years is the reason for that?
Probably. Usually we kind of come out of a world tour on a Friday and start pre-production for the next album on a Monday [laughs]. That’s how it’s been for 10 years for us, pretty much.
We definitely had more time, but we’ve been on the road a lot as well. We tour like crazy. We actually learned something, which is how to write on the road. You know, just capture little riffs, licks, little melodic ideas, chord progressions or whatever. We’ve been able to capture those ideas and save them for later. And we just got really into that routine.
We didn’t really get that year to write material. That doesn’t really happen, so we just got in the routine these last few years of writing on the road.
That sounds really serious, but really it’s just me and my brother backstage jamming, improvising something and then saying, “That’s really cool. Let’s record that real quickly.”
How did all those ideas start to come together when pre-production time rolled around?
When we actually started pre-production for the new album in the summer of last year, we just started trying to piece all these things together into proper songs. It was kind of like a heavy metal jigsaw puzzle! [laughs]
We just had a lot of material this time, so that’s why you have the variety.
The album kicks off with a couple of faster tracks, like “Bloodstained Cross” and “Yesterday Is Dead And Gone.” Then there’s something like “Under Black Flags We March,” which is more plodding …
Yeah, that’s like our Judas Priest bastard child. If we had a melodic thing around that, then it’d be straight-up heavy metal. But, uh, fortunately we don’t. [laughs]
We have a lot of melody with the guitars and a lot of aggressive riffs as well. We have these extreme dynamics where we go from aggressive, heavy, fast, brutal riffing to some very sweet, kind of emotional guitar lines. Then when Angela sings on top of it all, it just sounds like Arch Enemy.
Talk a little bit about your songwriting process for Khaos Legions. You’re the main songwriter in the band, correct?
I’m the main contributor of music, but I don’t really write full songs. I just bring a bunch of riffs to rehearsal and we do it the old-school way.
It seems like every time I read an interview with a band nowadays, they’re talking about the latest software they have, and how much easier that made it for them to complete an album. How everyone can email each other files and stuff. We don’t do it like that at all! [laughs] We just get in our rehearsal room and play too loud for hours on end. I started my first band when I was 14, and I’m still doing it the same way. [laughs]
That’s what I really get out of it, the give and take, the communication that you have with other musicians and the music you create together takes it to the next level. Hopefully. When you get it right. [laughs]
Was there anything different about the creation of Khaos Legions compared to your other albums?
We spent a lot more time on this album, and we engineered a lot of it ourselves. We worked and Angela tracked the vocals in another studio, a smaller studio that she had access to around the clock so she could go in and scream when she was angry in the middle of the night. [laughs]
We had a good way of working on this album. We gave ourselves a lot of time, but in the end we were right up against the deadline with the delivery date.
How much material did you record for this album?
We actually recorded, I think, 21 pieces of music for this album. There were, I think, three cover tunes, and then some instrumental pieces that aren’t mixed yet. I think we might put that out as an EP later this year or the beginning of next year.