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Amulet's Heathen Steven And Sam Mackertich Shed Light On "The Inevitable War"

Traditional heavy metal can often fall by the wayside in the modern world. While legendary bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden are still going, younger rockers can be tempted by the darker and more extreme side of metal music. There are still a number of traditional heavy metal groups going though, many of whom such as Cauldron and Night Demon are growing in popularity with every release.

One of the most exciting heavy metal bands on the rise in 2019 comes in the form of London's very own, Amulet. Today, they release their second album, "The Inevitable War" which has already seen the release of the singles, "Burning Hammer" and "Shockwave." At their show supporting Jag Panzer yesterday, I caught up with guitarist Heathen Steven and bassist Sam Mackertich to discuss the record, the growing fan base in Europe, plans for the future and more.

Diamond Oz: Well straight into it, tomorrow (May 17th) your new album is out, "The Inevitable War." How would you compare "The Inevitable War" to (debut album) "The First"? Obviously there's been a lot of lineup changes since then.

Sam Mackertich: Yeah. There's been a lot of time. A lot of different people that have made fundamental differences to the band but it's happened incrementally as the years have gone by. So actually, "The Inevitable War" is an amalgamation of all the changes and inspiration that we've had over the last few years, especially finding a new singer to just really cement it.

Heathen Steven: It's true, everyone left in sort of like six month bursts to get on with their own lives and we've kind of found people that are probably a little bit more technically adept but still have the same sort of passion, apart from myself I'm still not the best rhythm guitarist! It's been a gradual process, what it's done is given us four years to kind of hone the songs, so I think this album is a bit more complex, a bit more interestingly structured and we've consciously made the soundscape a bit more colourful as well, so hopefully it rewards with repeat listens.

Sam: Quite a big fundamental difference is there's synthesizers included within songs. Previously Amulet had only kind of used them as interludes. It came quite late but it was sort of like me and the producer Tom Blackford just sort of ran with it. We decided to do quite a lot of experimentation and we're really happy with the inclusion of real synthesizers with the music.

HS: I always wanted it in there myself but it was never really possible until Sam joined. It's still the same approach, it's the same band. We like long headed, riff focused, song orientated British heavy metal, but not obsessively British, we're very influenced by international heavy metal. It's kind of frustrating because people call us "NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal)" but that was like 1977 to 1984.

Oz: Exactly, it started over forty years ago, it's hardly new.

HS: Yeah, but that's probably about five per cent of what we listen to.

Sam: I know that the music I've written isn't coming from a NWOBHM influence. There's definitely some lingering in some of the songs still but I think that's just a natural inclusion of an English styles of heavy metal.

Oz: Yeah, you could hear that kind of style before there even was a NWOBHM. Obviously there was a long gap in between "The First" and "The Inevitable War." Was that purely to do with lineup changes and the issues revolving around that?

Sam: Yeah, I guess you could say so, I mean there was material when I originally joined in 2015, there's a couple of new songs that have been turned into material that's now on "The Inevitable War"...

HS: "Shockwave" is an old one. The oldest is "The Satanist," that was written before "The First" came out, I found some of the old recordings on YouTube. There's quite a lot of old stuff sprinkled in there. We did get a new record deal as well and of course, life gets in the way. It's not like we're making any money out of it! (Laughs) So all these things are factors but it's been a nice, steady process really and I think we're all very proud of what we've achieved with it, so that's all that matters really. Hopefully we've been away long enough that people will still remember us but to create a little bit of interest with the new lineup.

Oz: Or even then, it's almost like having a new band come out of the woodwork so it's quite exciting in that regard.

HS: Same guitarists but everything else is new.

Sam: I think with any change, it's hard to address. There's going to be people who will come up to us and say "Amulet's over!" or crazy talk like that. We know that's not the case and we know the truth about how the band's evolved over the years. There's also people that we'll probably appeal to now that we might not have appealed to in the first place because it was a bit more bare bones.

HS: Germans! (Laughs) For example.

Sam: It's not more mainstream but it's a bit more of a contrast, a bit more dynamics, I think people like that in music. We've got slow songs, fast songs, that kind of stuff.

HS: Yeah, the band never consciously tried to sound like shit! (Laughs) Maybe it has an authenticity to it in that way but I've always just wanted us to be the best heavy metal band possible and that's what we try to be. The reason it sounds a bit bigger is also because we spent three months doing things ourselves. So we really took our time to make sure everything was exactly how we wanted it to be. That was kind of inspired by some Swedish bands that we're friends with that have done their albums themselves. Hopefully people check it out and like it!

Oz: You mentioned, jokingly, that the music appeals to Germans. I know you've got some shows coming up in Germany, you've got one tomorrow in France and I think Austria or Switzerland on the schedule as well, so are you finding yourselves getting a bit more attention in the mainland?

Sam: Well, we're very familiar with the scene here in the UK. We've been playing in bands here for fifteen/twenty years but we know there is a scene in England and we obviously have some access to that but it's hard to tour England. People aren't willing to pay. We don't only play for money but it's encouraging to know there's a lot of established festivals all over Europe who can actually provide booking fees and a very reasonable booking fee I might add! You can only play so many gigs to empty rooms in the middle of nowhere in England before you're fed up with that.

HS: It's just more popular in Germany and they've got more disposable income. We're not talking about the fee per se but obviously you need to bring an audience if you're going to play and it's difficult for most bands in the UK really.

Sam: When there's a proper booking, we can organise our whole calendar around it. It becomes a more worthwhile procedure for us and it's how we've done it since I've joined at least. Key bookings here and there and we work whatever gigs we can around those as opposed to touring England and touring Europe ruthlessly.

HS: Germany particularly and Belgium seems to be the ones we do and I like to think we do as much as we can there.

Sam: We have played some great shows in Sweden as well. We played the Abyss festival at the beginning of last year which was amazing and really well put together.

HS: Then I'm hoping to set up a tour with a Swedish band called Helvetets Port, that I think would appeal very much to Germany. They're really cool guys and they really know their shit and I'm really excited about this double LP they've got coming out.

Oz: I know you filmed a music video last month. I've looked online and not found it so I assume it's not been released yet.

HS: No, it's his fault!

Sam: But we have released a different video today to make up for the fact that I haven't finished the other one yet, which for "Call Of The Sirens" (see below) I just used some kind of ridiculous American TV programme and re-edited it to fit the song and it worked really well. I thought we might as well release something.

HS: But yeah, you're right we recorded a video for "Roundhead." The idea was to go to an English civil war re-enactment in Basingstoke and film the band playing there and cut to footage of these people. So the track "Roundhead" was this English civil war epic and it's the last one on the album. It was a fun day so we've just got to finish the edit and hopefully it'll be out in the next couple of weeks.

You can purchase the new Amulet album "The Inevitable War" here.

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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