An Interview with Olof Mörck of Amaranthe – "Music that is powerful and energetic.”

Don’t let their catchy pop-infused choruses that leave you wanting to hit the nearest dance floor fool you: Swedish/Danish sextet Amaranthe are metal to the core.

Amaranthe are one of the hottest metal acts on the planet right now thanks to their new record The Nexus. It went straight to number one on the US iTunes metal charts upon release and their music video of the same name has racked up over 1.7 million views on YouTube. Inspired by the melodic death metal scene that emerged in Gothenburg in the 90s, Amaranthe is the coming together of a group of musician friends who have garnered metal cred with bands such as KamelotDream EvilNightrage and Mercenary.


The all-star act unites the individual talents and influences of each of its six members to create a unique sound that boasts three (yes, three) lead singers. Contrasting death metal screams against distinct male power metal vocals and the honeyed voice of Elize Ryd, it is violent one second, sweet the next; delicious and addictive. With The Nexus now available in Australia, Metal as Fuck caught up with Amaranthe’s co-founder and guitarist Olof Mörck to talk about the success of the band, the pros and cons of being a guitar player from Sweden, and how one of his solos ended up on an album by Aussie metallers Lord.


Hi Olof! You’ve just wrapped up a six-week tour of Europe that you co-headlined with Stratovarius, how was it? "It was absolutely fantastic! Great turnouts, very enthusiastic crowds, and the fans are responding very strongly indeed to the new songs. The general atmosphere between the bands on the tour has been better than any tour I have been on – if all tours were like this, you would never need to go back home!"


The buzz surrounding Amaranthe at the moment is quite phenomenal. As one of the band’s founders, composers and producers, how does the success of your latest album make you feel?" The situation right now is quite astounding and dizzying! We were hoping and aiming for The Nexus to perform at least as well as our, undeniably relatively successful debut album, Amaranthe. After the release of our first video, The Nexus, we realised it was doing ten times as well, with over a million plays in one month! It was a good omen, and with all the chart positions we have received all over the world, especially combined with the heart-warming laudations from the fans, I think it is now safe to say we made the right album, career wise."


I’ve heard Amaranthe be described as ‘Modern Metal’ ‘Pop Metal’ and ‘Melodic Death Metal.’ How would you define your sound to those who are unfamiliar with it? "I have indeed heard us being described in a million different ways, with a lot of different genre terms and epithets – I heard someone call us ‘Modern hybrid metal’, which I think is quite a fitting term. However, we usually stick to the ‘Modern metal’ label if we use any at all, and let people define our music themselves. To attempt to put it in words for someone who has never heard us, I would say: 'A fusion of all music that is powerful and energetic, both from and outside the metal spectrum.'


Your single The Nexus is a very catchy song that doesn’t seem to become repetitive, and at just 3.18 minutes long, it has lyrics from three different vocalists as well as a great guitar solo. Is it difficult to compose a song that incorporates so many different elements and to keep it short? "That is a really good observation and question, because quite a few fans of metal think it is simple to write short songs, while I firmly believe the opposite. Some might know my other band Dragonland, and if they do, they will know I am no stranger to 14-minute orchestral epics, and in a lot of ways they are technically easier to write, because you can express anything you want for as long as you want. To concentrate a lot of emotions, musical ideas and concepts without dragging it out while keeping the energy constant for 3-4 minutes is a real challenge, but also very rewarding when it works well. If you manage to say everything you want to say in 3-4 minutes, then the musical message sent has the potential of becoming very strong and powerful."


Aside from Amaranthe you also play guitar for Nightrage and Dragonland. How demanding is it being in three bands and is it difficult finding creative inspiration to contribute to different projects at the same time? "I think it is quite the opposite. The three bands play and write music in three very distinctive genres of metal, and every note is very consciously written for a specific band. There has never been a case of 'what should I use this riff/piece of music for?' Time has only been an issue when a US Nightrage tour and a European Amaranthe tour clashed, but then Amaranthe came first – the order of priorities is clear to everyone involved, but usually it does not create any problems. I like having a pretty big creative output, so it is a really good thing for me to do different things, and probably keeps me more focused on what one specific band should sound like, instead of trying to incorporate all my different influences and ideas into only one band."


You’ve cited Yngwie Malmsteen as one of your influences among many others. For me, your solos are reminiscent of those of Nocturnal Rites fame by Nils Norberg. Coming from a country that boasts some of the best metal guitarists in the world, what kind of an impact does that have on someone who wants to play the instrument professionally – is it daunting, or does it inspire one to play – and be good – even more? "A bit of both really, but in general it is a very positive thing; historically speaking musicians and other artists have always thrived among other practitioners, and growing up right in the middle of the emerging Gothenburg metal scene really helped in shaping my own idea of what my career in music should be. Yngwie is obviously a great influence for me, Nils is a good friend of mine and we probably have a ton of influences in common, and there are just a ton of other great players from around here. Just the other day I was filming a promo clip for a practice amplifier together with Mattias ‘IA’ Eklundh, whom I consider to be one of the world’s absolutely greatest players. To sit and shred in the same room as him was as challenging as it was rewarding, and things like that really keep you on your toes and make you perform better."


Soilwork are touring Australia later this year and are commonly regarded as the pioneers of melodic death metal. How much of an influence were they when you and vocalist Jake E formed Amaranthe? "A huge influence. I have no problem with openly admitting that we used a lot of their innovations in the melodic death metal scene as a direct influence for what we wanted to create; their 2002 record Natural Born Chaos was as groundbreaking as it was completely mind-blowing when it was released, and we wanted our debut album to be equally ground-breaking and as fresh in its era. No small ambition, for sure, but looking back on the album today it really became, to my ears, just that thing that we wanted to achieve. We of course had a huge number of other artists and bands that influenced us, but at least for the musical parts, Soilwork was probably the greatest."


You were one of a number of well-known musicians who made a guest appearance on Set in Stone – an album by one of Australia’s best-known metal bands, Lord. How did that come about? "We toured with Dungeon – which could be called the previous incarnation of Lord – with Dragonland in Japan ten years ago, back in 2003. It was our first show abroad ever and we were very young and green to the whole thing. The Dungeon guys took care of us and we became very good friends and have stayed in contact since. Tim is a very good player and a great guy, and when he wanted me to join in on the Set in Stone album there was no hesitation involved. Hopefully we will share the stage again sometime in the future, and hopefully on Australian soil!"

Have you ever been to Australia and what are the chances of an Amaranthe tour here in the future? "Our ambition is to tour the whole world with this record, and we already have shows in the works for practically the whole world – including some pretty exotic places – so I would deem the chance to be quite good! It has been a dream for many years to get the opportunity to play there, and we’ll work hard to make that dream come true and go rock for our Aussie fans and friends!"

Thanks for your time and congratulations on your success. Hopefully we will see Amaranthe in Australia in the near future!


And thank your for a great interview, and see you soon Down Under!


Photograph: Courtesy of Caparison Guitars