The Unknown Guest: Michael Amott
Lets explore the unexpected guest spots of the Arch Enemy, Spiritual Beggars and ex-Carcass axeman in this new Toilet ov Hell feature!
Born in England and raised in Sweden, Michael Amott is still a prominent figure in the metal scene, having shredded his path there from his teenage years. Recently, he is well known because of his work with the melodic band Arch Enemy. He is also regarded by some other players in the scene for being a dedicated and hard-working musician, with characteristic melodic voicing.
Classic heavy metal and Swedish hardcore punk was the foundation of his playing, later broadening his music tastes to hard rock, old-school death metal and doom metal. Always as self-taught players, the bands he cites as direct influences for his general arc work on countless interviews, you can encounter big names like Judas Priest, Scorpions, Trouble, Michael Schenker, Black Sabbath, Morbid Angel, Slayer, Carcass and Anti-Cimex, to name a few.
The first band he was in was with Swedish Punk rockers of Disaccord; but in 1988, immersed in the Swedish death metal filthy maniacs, he started with his friend Johan Liiva, the cult band Carnage. Rooted in that insane thrash d-beat bombing and HM-2 exploitation, the demos are raw, uncontrollable testimonies of chaos, death, grind and punk apocalyptical riffing. After these two demos, Johan got out of the band and Michael re-assembled the project with David Blomqvist, Fred Estby, Johnny Dordevic and Matti Kärki; leading to the only full-length made by the band and published when they disbanded: Dark Recollections.
Michael flew to England to join his idols Carcass after receiving an invitation from the band to play with them. It is still a debate of how much Amott’s contributions influenced the more melodic Carcass sound. My friend Max and I were discussing it, and we found that in Heartwork he was credited with riffs, solos and the writing of two songs.
After Heartwork, Amott exited Carcass and found his own path. The surgical crafted sounds on Necrotism solos, the melodic phrasing on Heartwork and the extreme death metal attitude of Dark Recollections were morphing into his particular style. He expanded his listening and I am sure he shared the space of his Morbid Angel, Atheist and Death records with Scorpions, Black Sabbath, UFO, Deep Purple and Uriah Heep releases during these years; at the same time, he probably found the fresh new albums of bands like Cathedral, Sleep, Kyuss and Monster Magnet.
All of this new melodic approach to his rock music understanding delivered his heavy pentatonic usage, the expressive vibrato technique and the preferences to his signature expansive Cry-Baby soloing. And, also, in 1994, welcomed the arrival of Spiritual Beggars, a band that pays tribute to the classics and gazing into the horizon with a different attitude. It was also an act to detach and breathe for a while from the saturation of the death metal scene, and expand his horizons with melodies and psychedelia.
In 1996, he created Arch Enemy and since their first record, Black Earth, they gained constant airplay in Japan and Europe. The motto of the band is to be ‘heavy and melodic at the same rate’, and that is what they try in all their lifespan, an amalgam of fast songs with thrashy melodic riffing and 80s inspired solos.
Since the early Carnage days, Michael was asked to do some guest solos or session works, too. These are the Amott’s gigs with other artists and bands:
Max Thornell and Johan Liiva started a death metal project named Furbowl around 1990. They were hungry to make new music when, in 1991 after releasing a demo, the duo embarked on a journey to Linköping on a Mazda “borrowed with permission of Thornell’s father” to record Damage Done, the band’s first album.
I don’t know how, but they stored every instrument, chunk of equipment, and a young Michael Amott in the little 626 but the result is an awesome debut in which he helped with the production and glued two sinister solos on “Nothing Forever” and the title track. This jewel is one of my favorite Swedish death metal albums.
Remember when brutal death metal was… uh… brutal? Well, the second EP of the criminal metallers of Deranged, Architects of Perversion, is a 16 minutes crash into a concrete wall and your brains will go out after the impact.
This brutal death metal band made an unsettling and gore-inspired piece full of brutal atmosphere. The mix is revolting and the down-tuned, heavily distorted and mid-paced songs make me think of the rotting process of a cadaver.
To make a strong contrast within this extreme music, Amott was added into the mix and made three guest solos which compliments with hard rocking precision the savage nature of the music.
Candlemass is one of the pillars of doom metal, but in 1998 the band was in turmoil. Bassist Leif Edling had some songs for the second album of solo-project Abstrakt Algebra, but the offer of label Music for Nations to invest on the recording and release it was not too easy to decline. The only condition is that the album had to be published under the Candlemass name, and then we have Dactylis Glomerata.
The first time I listened Candlemass was because of this album. Some parts obscure, some parts groovy, I still like it and it probably was hurt a lot because the heavy expectations that the legendary band name could bring into the metalheads minds.
To help Edling in this quest, Amott was recruited to handle all the lead guitars in here.
Since Michael is a fan of The Haunted, it was very cool to me to check them out after he recommended some songs on his Twitter account.
Searching for them I found that he was also featured in the song “Bloodletting”, of the 2003 album One Kill Wonder, with a Slayer-esque solo and his trademark string pulling. (Starts in 2:20).
Kreator was one of his personal heroes of the extreme metal scene, so when Mille asked him for a guest spot on their 2005 returning to thrash, Enemy of God, he did not negated to help ol’ Petrozza.
“Murder Fantasies” is the name of the song, and his solo starts in 3:04 and end with a fun dual harmony attack.
In 2007, Annihilator made an album with guests in every song. Amott was featured in a dual battle with Jeff Waters on the Pantera-worshipping cut “Operation Annihilation”.
To be honest, the entire album is pretty mediocre, with songs that go nowhere and pure worship in every place, but the solo segment here is one of the few good things here. The battle starts in 2:33!
Probably, from all the guitar players in the metal world, the one that Michael Amott probably got most inspired was Michael Schenker.
The German legend, having played with Scorpions, UFO and his own band, the Michael Schenker Group, is still a force in the melodic side of the genre with his characteristic vibrato and memorable phrasing.
In 2011, the Temple of Rock was another endeavor by the shredder and in the process of making the first album of the brand he re-recorded the song “How Long” and dubbed it “3 Generations Guitar-Battle Version”, featuring Schenker, Amott and Mountain’s virtuoso lead guitarist Leslie West completing the circle of three musicians that were inspired by one another. Starts in 2:50 and, to be honest, I do not know who is who.
*** Did you enjoy this new feature? You’re in luck. The Unknown Guest will accept submissions from our writers and our readers. Do you want to uncover and share the secret guest sessions of your favorite artist? Send Link a your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org with a quick text of the bio of your pick and the songs in which he/she guested. I will be waiting for you, let’s share more music! ***