Like a drop of blood in the open sea
As promised, this is the special blog from my brief tour with Amaranthe, as the stand-in harsh vocalist for Andy. This entry will include neither a Q&A section, nor anything related to what’s currently going on in camp The Unguided. So if that’s what you’re looking for… GTFO!
The story begins, Part I:
Many months ago, I received a cryptic e-mail from Olof (chief commander and axe wielder of Amaranthe). He was curious if I could fill in for Andy during a short period in their current touring schedule. If I was interested at all, Andy was to mail me and we would go over further details.
At this point, I’d already been listening to their S/T album a lot. I also knew a lot of the members to be really good people from past encounters, or word of mouth. So it wasn’t really something I needed to waste a lot of time thinking about. Challenge accepted!
Andy and I got along really well in our opened and humorous, yet somewhat professional mail conversation. There’s always something special talking with a colleague like this—a screamer in crime so-to-speak! I mean, there’s something “mysterious” about the people probating this throaty handicraft. But fact is; you always know the other guy kind of views the world from the same angle as you in a sense, with the very same normal values. The pros and cons are also well understood in doing it, and what comes with being in a band utilizing the concept. I guess Andy is even more close to my own format, seeing we’re both in a band sharing the same front man duties. And I suppose this is partly the reason (together with my experiences on bigger stages possibly) why I’ve been chosen to step in for the task, in this messy ocean of harsh vocalists out there. This is, however, entirely based upon my own speculations since I wasn’t given any specific reason, hehe. I know for fact it’s not because of my big collection of Manowar shirts. I’ve asked.
Nonetheless, he’s a great vocalist and good dude. Needless to say, putting on his big shoes for the assignment ahead would be a big challenge for me. Funny anecdote with Andy is that we actually opened for his former(?) band Evildoer with Sonic Syndicate in Gothenburg, right after we released Eden Fire. They were all metal to the bone and terribly scary (some of them even had beards) and we were just naïve youngsters in fashionable clothes. We had really no idea of what we were doing at all, hehe. Good times! I do think they thought less of us back then. And it is funny how paths do cross again, eventually.
Anyways! We both came to a settlement and I talked over some of the practicality with their manager, who is by far the best and nicest band manager I’ve ever had the opportunity to exchange words with. Do hold a firm grip around him, dear Amarantheniens! Right after everything was sorted; I immediately started to practice their songs. I literally listened to their debut album 24/7. I listened to it while I was awake and while I slept. In the foreground and background alike, it was chronically present, provoking some frustration into my environment at times. This went on for a couple of months but enough about that; let’s fast forward to where the action takes place, shall we?
The adventure begins, part II:
The Hammerfall tour with Amaranthe, Death Destruction, and Vicious Rumors as support was the mission ahead. It was the second leg of the tour after a type of “recharge-iPhone-battery” break. The tour schedule looked as neatly as this:
27.11.2011 - Piano - Trencin, Slovakia
28.11.2011 - Petöfi Hall - Budapest, Hungary
01.12.2011 - SKC - Belgrade, Serbia
02.12.2011 - Boogaloo - Zagreb, Croatia
03.12.2011 - Siska - Ljubljana, Slovenia
04.12.2011 - Dreiländerhalle - Passau, Germany
06.12.2011 - Salamandra 1 - Barcelona, Spain
07.12.2011 - Sala Heineken - Madrid, Spain
08.12.2011 - Fanatic - Sevilla, Spain
09.12.2011 - Hard Club - Porto, Portugal
10.12.2011 - Santana 27 Gold - Bilbao, Spain
Let's search for treasure!
On Friday the 25th of November my sister drove me to the Falkenberg train station in the evening, and I was on my way. This, of course, happened after struggling for many hours trying to figure out what I should bring on the tour. It’s remarkable how fast you adapt to a normal life at home, even if it was roughly just a year since I was on the road last time. I honestly felt awfully green on packing my bags in a clever way. So I rolled with packing them in a not so clever way instead. I ended up bringing a lot of unnecessary shit I didn’t even get to use, thus gaining a lot of scores in favor to my feminine side.
The train’s destination was set to Gothenburg. Their manager generously had booked a hotel for me there, so I didn’t have crawl up piss early and drive from Falkenberg. Ella came down from Stockholm to wave me off, as well. It was very appreciated due to the fact that we’re not going to see each other for 17 days. That actually would be the longest period of time we’ve been apart in our relationship so far, even though it’s (for now) a long distance one. I still had to get up at stupid o’ clock to get ready for the flight and meet up with the band. But at least I was in the right city.
The alarm went off, and I readied myself. Almost exactly when the elevator touched down on the lobby floor, Jake E called me to announce they we’re on their way to a taxi. So far only Johan and Jake E were inbound, but we were hurrying to Olof’s place to pick up him, Elize and Linda (the Amaranthe merchandiser) as well. Olof, was however, not in a hurry at all, and certainly reminded me a lot of my own time optimisms. As far as I could tell, most of them were a bit woozy, due to a night out the day before. Thus, once again, making this excellent company a heavy reminder of my own patterns. And I had to pinch myself to make sure I actually had left home at all.
At the airport, Landvetter, shooting through the check-in and security control, we settled in the airport’s bar to drink beer-breakfast. You never know in a new social company whether it’s going to be natural or just plain… awkward? But it didn’t take long to establish the feeling of being among friends. And the beers sure did their part as well. We talked away until a really worrying flight attendant showed up in the bar and annoyingly announced that they were about to unload our luggage, hence of us being late for the flight. Everyone immediately rushed to the gate! Well, almost everyone… Olof took his own, very unconcerned pace. Nonetheless we made the flight.
Last call for Berlin
On the Tegel airport in Berlin, we met up with Morten (the drummer) who traveled from Denmark and also the tour manager "Sheep". Olof had an episode again, this time with an escalator and its emergency stop device, to the airports security’s big dissatisfaction. And they we’re not very amused over the excuse: “In Soviet Sweden, red buttons are for pushing!” either. We also had to wait a silly amount of time for the connecting flight to Frankfurt. There are a lot of existing examples of how to kill time on an airport, and just when you think you knew them all, a few new ones occurred to me at Tegel.
This one I know well.
This was, however, a new one for me! The Olof-cyclops time killer.
Don't move towards the lights
Many hours later, the flight departed. In the good hands of the TM we luckily made a more timely arrival to the gate, compared to the initial flight. In Frankfurt the tour bus picked us up and this was also the rally point with Death Destruction and Vicious Rumors (who Amaranthe shared bus with.) A happy reunion celebration for almost everyone! Spending a lot of time together obviously brings people together, and this particular bunch of people had already worked their way through a lengthy first leg of a tour. For me, it was a practice of my most fearsome and solid introduction handshake kind of deal. I guess I had to earn my stripes. And my firm handshake would only take me so far, so I whipped my cock out… eh?
The bus left the airport almost immediately, no time to spill to get our asses to Slovakia. On the bus, I was led to my bunk, where I found myself in an exotic (?) surrounding. My bunk segment was namely located over Denmark (Morten), right next to the American (Brian) and down to the right I had my Swedish brethren (Jonas). We all wrote a contract of diplomacy and connected the US to Scandinavia, just to not risk bloodshed and war.
My new home!
Trenčín in Slovakia was about 850 km south of us and we were on our way. I was kindly given some welcome beers on the bus. But moments later I was too exhausted from the lack of sleep to withhold a socially acceptable standard. So I retired to my bunk and started to read a classic vampire book, meaning; not the Twilight saga.
Trenčín, part III:
I woke up the other day all disoriented and the bus was not moving any longer. I couldn’t tell whether it was in the middle of the night or if we arrived at the venue. I had no idea what time it was until I confirmed it with my phone’s clock. It was slightly past noon. I got dressed and set a goal to get myself some breakfast. Luckily, I bumped into the bassist from Vicious Rumors outside, who could point me in the right direction. There was no need to get entangled in a Spinal Tap kind of meaningless catering pursue with no end, when there’s a helpful gentlemen like this around! Even though it was down one of those wayward paths, I usually find myself treading. My stupid pride and a manly unwillingness to ask my way around are unfortunately blocking a lot of easy ways, and switching my life into heroic mode from time to time. However, after ascending a nasty stairway, I found food… sort of. Oh how I’ve missed the delicacy of cheese and ham sandwiches on tour! While I ate, I examined the road crew being all busy setting up the stage. I like to watch people work, and not doing much of an effort myself. I think it’s a gene configuration passed down to me from my great, great, great, great, grandfather Julius Caesar. As more people randomly appeared in the backstage / catering area, my restlessness started to ache and an urge to check out the city emerged.
Well now kids, this is a tour bus
Food… sort of
Global Standard Tour Breakfast & Bad Wi-Fi
I fooled Morten and Johan from my temporary band into joining me into the city. There was little resistance displayed, and off we went. Trenčín was cool. We found a castle, cloudy and cold weather, an abandoned stage on a ghost square, a mall with a reindeer, and most importantly; some exercise. On tours there’s always a lot of sitting around waiting, so the more time I can spend on my legs; the better!
The ghostly citizens wouldn't stick on photos
Everything was delayed on this day, and it was definitely leaning towards us not getting a proper sound check at all. So far I didn’t rehearse on one single occasion with the band, so I guess a sound check would be a good idea. But then again, it wasn’t that necessary since I knew the songs fairly well by now. My only concern would be monitors. I don’t really care if I hear myself that much because I know my voice. But in terms of timing, I sometimes tend to listen and cue myself after different and illogical elements of a studio album. Sometimes I simply let a random source guide me through the song, like the keyboards, lead guitar or vocal melody, or anything really. But when the expected element isn’t present our audible live, there’s a chance I run into problem and get out of time. God knows why I don’t just automatically align myself after the drums, which is actually playing after the click track at all times. But for some moronic reason, my mind is not always pleased with that, hehe. Heroic mode life, as said! Anyways, when we got back Hammerfall was about to sound check, and I made sure to get ready for the stage early.
The times are merely recommendations
First band out for the night was Death Destruction. DD is possibly the band that is the furthest away musically from HF, seeing that they play death metal based solely on screaming vocals. But nonetheless their energetic and “in-your-face” live show does come across a like a solid knuckle sandwich right into your solar plexus. And I believe even the most narrow-minded power metal fanatic could feel the hurt of that one. They even proved it a step further that night by blowing the sub-bass of the PA to hell and beyond, with their first couple of songs. The whole venue reeked of burnt electronic. This also felt like home! Nonetheless a good start of the first night! Can I get a FUCK YEAH? Hehe.
Death and destruction to low freq
Coming up next was our show! I was ready in my stage clothes for hours by now. And at this moment, I was only finding myself walking around, listening to the Amaranthe album in my iPhone to give it one final practice in my head before full on live havoc. The rest of the people were getting ready as well. Jake E and I even found some time to go through some practicality details for the set as well.
This is how a stage ready drummer looks like! Examine him closely.
Our show went well! Better than I had expected going up blind like that, with no rehearsal together in our back. I kind of fucked up “Call Out My Name,” and I kept doing that for the rest of the tour, so that got to be my constant nemesis, hehe. But other than that, there wasn’t really much other trainee related collateral damage. I had no idea where to position myself on stage, and how much space they actually wanted me to take. So I improvised and went with my guts, and it turned out quite all right. I enjoyed the show! Their fans and the crowd were really cool.
Amaranthe - 1.000.000 Lightyears (Video)
After the show, save from being sweaty, we tended to autograph and photograph duties and some “job-well-done” drinking. A big Slovakian fan was very determined to give us small white cups of vodka, which he claimed to be liquor made from the trees (?). I didn’t let myself to be fooled so easily, and thought twice about drinking my Ent friends. He, however, reminded me awfully a lot of the fluor lady back from school; with his white cups and a strong will to get liquid in my mouth. Vicious Rumors and Hammerfall played their shows and it was a nice evening overall. Eventually everyone returned to the bus and the 328 km long trip to Budapest in Hungary began.
The flour lady
Spreading vicious rumours
Commander Olof, saluting off his grunt
Budapest, Part IV:
I woke up, this day fairly early. When I took my first steps outside the bus I didn’t recognize myself being in middle of Europe but rather in the wild, wild west. This venue was thematically built after America’s old west customs, inside and out. I guess it was like a false sense of homecoming for Vicious Rumors, hehe. Literally everything was made from the Native American / Cowboy culture basically. Pretty cool venue indeed!
Inside the tipi
If you're gonna die, die with your boots... hanging by the door
When I overcame my fear of being scalped, I began my search for breakfast, which was conveniently located on the second floor. The catering this day was really good and there was a selection of everything I could desire to carry inside of me, in this time and space. I also noticed there were two really familiar French faces on this tour in Céline (lampy) and Sébastien (drumtech), who worked with Gojira during our tour with In Flames back in 2008. A little blast from the past! It’s weird that you spend six weeks in a tour bus together, living closer to each other than you do to with your family, and then you don’t see each other “ever” again. Oh well, I’ve actually bumped into both of them on some festivals since 08. But that’s not always how it goes.
Amaranthe breakfast club
Hi Céline! So... you're still French and stuff!? :D
After breakfast the TM Sheep got all dressed up in gorilla costume. The occasion was to surprise join our bus driver in the shower, to everyone’s big amusement. I filmed the whole event so I can look at this bestiality act over and over, while I cry out with laughter. Other than that, there was not much more to mention about this afternoon. When I did my “Zen of Screaming” warm-up I found a signed vinyl by Blind Guardian and a signed poster from Queen including Freddie Mercury’s signature. I was impressed; I admit it (obviously the BG part of it, earned my respect a good amount more than the other component.) I also found TV’s from early 20th century, which had luckily been discarded. Before our show, I listened extra carefully to “Call Out My Name” (not that it helped, but still) and tried to address some issues, from the show in Trenčín.
My fingers were itching
R.I.P Mercury, you legend, you!
“Can I hang in my TV in your wardrobe?”
Very important sheet of paper
This came to be one of the shows I liked the most of all the gigs. Whether it was because I had my lucky “Hell Frost” shirt on, or because the audience was awesome and very loud, I do not know. But it altogether felt a bit more organic sharing the stage with the band. I got to know the songs a bit better from the night before, not only from a sound perspective but also some obvious movement patterns, or who stands where and doing what and when. It was overall more natural.
Amaranthe - 1.000.000 Lightyears (Video)
Afterwards, I took a shower. Then later I went down with Jimmie, to the riff raff and enjoyed a beer or two while Hammerfall was playing. The bad news was that there was something wrong with the bus that evening. But the fact we had a day off the next day (AKA travel day) made people less worried, and we would most likely make it to the Bucharest show anyways since the bus would be repaired in time. Or so we thought...
Jimmie checking out Hammerfall, like a baws
Still Budapest? Part V:
Woke up, still in Budapest. It was a cold day in Hungary, and the part we needed for the bus was being brought all the way from Germany. It wouldn’t show up until late that evening. So today was basically every man on his own; hope for the best, plan for the worst kind of deal. The Swedish members of the tour (Minus; Hammerfall, who already left for Rumania in their own bus) plus the English TM took the opportunity to take the tram into the city to get something to eat. Sheep had some handy dice on the tram that kept both him and Jake E busy for a while during the rid.
Waiting for the bus, LIKE A SWEDE
Slice and dice
We soon found a hamburger joint in the city with some free Wi-Fi access as well. And I guess it was more interesting to call home and power surf, rather than to eat a moderate burger.
Jonas handing out facial hair
Warning sign for “slow children; playing?”
The Star Wars shrine made better impression than the food
After we had killed an impressive amount of time at the restaurant, almost making the waitress go into cardiac arrest because of our company wanting to pay on separate checks, we moved on to a little pub to drink our sorrows away. A midget dressed in a Laa-Laa shirt managed this pub. That alone made the visit worth its trouble. Add that together with the very cheap beer, and it made the place flawless.
Next stop mars painting?
We returned to the bus via a pizzeria, just to find out the part we needed was about to arrive. Then we would relocate to a garage during the night to get the damned bus fixed and be on our way to Bucharest. I went to my bunk to finish up the day with my book (which was quite a page turner) and digest all unhealthy fast food I had stuffed myself with during the day.
Budapest x 3, Part VI:
When I woke up by the greasy smell of… not pizza, but oil; I hurried outside. I found out we were properly in a garage. And according to some inside Intel, the cord to the buses break system (the spare part that was delivered from Germany, which was going to be replaced) was surprisingly the wrong one and couldn’t be assembled. Meaning, we were unfortunately still stranded in Budapest. Thus making this day, according to my count, day three in the very same city. Any chances of us making it to the Bucharest show were as of now eliminated and we unfortunately had to cancel the show. The mechanics were busy detaching the original damaged cord from the bus, sending it into the city, in an attempt to get that repaired, instead of using the invalid spare-part from Germany. Such a hassle! What convenient turns this matter would have had, if only the tour had an electrician onboard…?
I love the smell of grease and oil in the morning
That extremely important sheet of paper again
Wait... how did you know the setlist?! SPEAK MACHINE!!!!
Anyways, instead of spending our precious time in a pointless garage, we set a plan in motion to get to the city, once again. The German driver who had delivered the erroneous cable was willing to repent his incompetence by driving us into the city military style. We loaded in the safe confines of the backspace of his APC. And off we went! Since this was a military operation he couldn’t risk going too deep into the city and left us at a safe walking distance from it. Very appreciated!
Loading up the APC
GO, GO, GO!!!
The city within our grasp
Once we successfully made it over the bridge and into the city, we all ate at McDonalds. However, Henrik, Jonas, and I decided to stay behind and spend the rest of the day at the golden arches as well. Free Wi-Fi, coffee, access to food and restrooms at any given time? This was as close as you could get to paradise on tour. We we’re holding ground at McDonalds for over 6 hours, being undeniable indefatigable troopers of our time. But all good things mostly come to an end, so we decided to move on to a neat little Irish pub, where we could drink some Guinness instead, to balance out our diet chart.
After a couple of hours of me eating, my iPhone also wanted nourishment.
On our way to Ireland.
You might want to look over your restaurant name.
After a while we got bored of Guinness as well and decided to make our way back to the bus, which SHOULD have been repaired at this given time. Not that I was to bet a fortune on it, but at least that was the word on the street. We walked to the closest tram station and the very tram we managed to catch also harbored our dear colleagues. Weird shit! Like someone pressed the “sync travel party” button on iTunes and all relevant people straying in the city, ended up on the same tram. Well, less mysterious stuff has converted people to scientology before. Anyways, the tram broke down some blocks from the bus rendezvous, so we found ourselves on foot again. Sometimes on tour, it’s fucking rocket science to figure out how to get from point A to B. By now I was sure someone was jinxing us in the group, and when I figured out whom, I was to dispose of the entity for a more fortunate continuation of this adventure. Anyways, bad news; bus was fixed. Good news; there was 376km to Belgrade! Or the other way around, at this point, I was too tired to care. I had a fistful of cheeseburgers to dissolve in my stomach. I would make good use of the time in my bunk.
Strangers in the night
Poster Boy 2.0
This is not a repaired bus, this is a hotel in need of some frontal attention.
Belgrade, Part VII:
At the Serbian border there was some fuzz. We had to pass the border together with Hammerfall, so we needed to catch them on their way back from Bucharest or we would not be able to enter the country. As far as I remember this was the first time for me in Serbia as well. Well, if we made it through the border, which we obviously did since I’m writing this post the actual happening. So I know what happened, ha! Anyways, first time for me in Serbia. I think.
The whole travel party made a late arrival to the venue, hence of the border hassle. We parked the bus in a park (?) and upon exiting the vehicle; I had to try hard not to put my feet down on dog shit—meaning the jinxing entity was still around. Who could it be!? Later on I came to the conclusion it must have been Larry from Vicious Rumors. He was by far the loudest on the bus. I’m positive he, with his loudness, attracted some negative spirits and possibly upset a cacodemon or two. It was unfortunate that the punishing bane fell upon the rest of us as well and wasn’t focused on the source. It was literally physically impossible to be “loud as Larry,” as the new saying that was established read. There was not much I could do. He was American and I was Scandinavian. I was not trained in the delicate combat art of the Wal-martian eagle punch. I let it go, for now. Not even when Krakatoa erupted was the measured dB even remotely close to the “loud as Larry” standard.
This venue was located in some sort of students' union type of building, and there was little to outline where backstage began and the venue public zones ended. There wasn’t a shower either, so I had to water bottle my hair in a portable toilet, just to wash it. It was fun for a while, but after like three seconds of doing it kind of felt wrong. The smell was the biggest element of dissatisfaction. However, I shrugged this feeling of disgust off when I entered in my Manowar shirt with pride (the smell was still persistent though). It was Manowar shirt premiere tonight. And this fact strengthened every muscle fiber in my body!
The catering today was pretty decent as well! We had our own waiter. He kind of got the similar appearance as Alfred in Batman. I’d be damned if he’s not in the cast of the new “The Dark Knight Rises” movie.
Olof shows his appreciation with the food.
Alfred, doing his butler thing.
Death Destruction played their set, and I was doing my vocal warm-ups while enjoying their music. Looked like a pretty cool crowd tonight as well. I readied myself mentally for full impact.
When I was ready, Jake E was still trying to find his stage clothes.
The show went well! The crowd was good as anticipated, and I was really getting warm in my clothes and beginning to get the routines up. I managed to spot some Manowar brothers and sisters in the crowd, which lead to a couple of bro fists and dual “sign of the hammer” gesticulation. Made me proud!
After the show, we just chilled out and met up with the fans for some photographs and autographs, nothing out of the ordinary, really. And before I knew it, I was back in the bus and we we’re on our way. Next stop Croatia and Zagreb! Roughly 393km.
Morten can watch me and Jonas at the same time. Amazing!
Temple of Love
To be continued...