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Amon Amarth’s Olavi Mikkonen: The Gun Shy Interview

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Amon Amarth
Swedish melodic death metal tyrants are no strangers to the United States. They’ve toured America extensively, and have a large base of fans here in the U.S. who are eagerly awaiting the March 29 release of their eighth album, Surtur Rising. While guitarist Olavi Mikkonen says he likes America for its food and “everything being open 24-7,” there is one thing he’d change about the U.S., and it’s a very specific thing: Toilets.

Mikkonen tells Gun Shy Assassin he is no fan of American toilets. “In Europe, we don’t have the water so close to your ass,” Mikkonen explains. “We don’t have so much water as you guys have. It happens that you can dip your fingers [when wiping],” and let’s face it — on a warm day, the velvet-orbs may hang down a little to far and go dunking for bacteria.

“That is something I would like to change,” he says. “Other than that, I am happy. I also like tour buses in America. It may be the only country that actually have buses that are made for touring. In Europe, they take normal coaches and make them into a tour bus but in U.S., they create them already in a factory as a tour bus.”

I happen to agree with Mikkonen wholeheartedly. There’s too much fucking water in the toilet bowls in America. Why do we need that much water. It’s wasteful and frankly, I’d rather use a cat box and conserve water.

“But the U.S. is not the worst,” he adds, as I’m thinking about the new litter box I am going to design for human beings. “In the U.K., they still have one tap for cold water and one tap for hot water. So its like you’re either freezing or burning. They’re not coming from the same faucet.”

For those of you who haven’t heard it yet, Amon Amarth’s Surtur Rising is easily going to end up one of 2011’s finest metal releases when year-end list-making time rolls around. There’s more melodic moments throughout this effort, and there’s even more wild, epic, and absolutely daunting shredding going on. The vocals are ferocious and devastating while the unrelenting drums rattle along with the quickness.

“We try our best,” says Mikkonen. “Production-wise, we wanted to have a more brutal approach this time, and song-wise, we tried to reach out to all the corners. We wanted to make some songs really, really brutal and on the other hand, we wanted to make other songs that were slow and epic and also for the melodic parts, we wanted to expand and make them more melodic than in the past. We just wanted to make everything just…well, more — so to say.”

While the cover’s graced by Surtur, the fire giant from Norse mythology, only two of the songs on the LP focus on him, with the rest centering around “other viking topics,” the guitarist says.

“We don’t really think too much about it,” says Mikkonen. “If we all like the riffs or the idea, we just go with it. We sit down and bounce ideas around, and some ideas come after a bottle of wine on tour — some come from the rehearsal room. We don’t really listen to people around us; whatever we think is cool, that’s the stuff we go for.”

In April and May, Amon Amarth will be touring the states again, but by themselves. Billed as “An Evening with Amon Amarth,” the band plans to play the entire new album plus a set of their best stuff. They’ll be back in late August for a regular tour, with openers…but this forthcoming spring tour will be a one-time deal.

“We wanted to try something new,” says the guitarist. “It’s going to be cool for us when it’s done, because we can prove to ourselves that we can pull it off, that we can tour ourselves and don’t need opening bands. If there is one time you want to see the band, this is probably the tour.”