Johan, before we are going to dive into the matter of the new album, we look back at last year's activities of Amon Amarth and the tour cycles after previous album 'Surtur Rising'. Did you conquer new territories recently?
We did our first headline tour in Japan. We have been there before at Loudpark festival, but not as a headliner. That was cool. In South America we had some new places as well. Fine tours.
2012 must have been a very busy year for Amon Amarth, isn't it?
Indeed, we did a lot of shows last year and the clock was ticking to start writing new songs. We started in February with a Scandinavian tour. After that we were home for one week. Then we went to the UK and straight to South America and Japan. Australia and Greece were next. In nine weeks we were only one week at home. This was exhausting, but rewarding as well. I still like touring, it is the essence of a band. In Summer we did some festivals, huge ones like Wacken and Graspop included.
How do you all manage to do that, physically?
Travelling through time zones can be pretty tricky indeed. But we try to take care of ourselves. I quit heavy drinking (laughs). No, seriously, sometimes we have a drink, but no excessive parties. We travel comfortably, avoid eating bullshit food and try to get through it.
What happened when the moment of song writing was there?
After all the touring we had few weeks off and started writing. Olavi (Mikkonen guitarist Vera) had loads of good ideas left from the previous writing sessions, so we could use them. But everybody is free to come up with ideas and that's what happened. We work on the songs together and fine-tune them until we are satisfied. It is a democratic process, but since we all have been friends for many years, this runs smooth.
'Deceiver Of The Gods' is the first Amon Amarth album, recorded outside Sweden. You wanted to do some things differently this time, isn't it?
Indeed. We went to England to record at the Backstage Studios with producer Andy Sneap. His studio is at the country side, so you can focus on what you are doing. After 'Surtur Rising' we all wanted some changes to break out of our comfort zone. Going to the UK and working with Andy was a challenge. We have recorded three albums with Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios. We know him well. Finally you take things for granted. Jens is absolutely skilled, but his approach is a bit too polished for what we had in mind this time. We wanted to have more aggression, sounding dangerous and menacing, close to our live sound. New punch! It is always interesting to change small things in the whole process of making an album. In a comfort zone you rely too much on the producer and on a kind of routine. It is a fact that you want to prove yourself just a little bit more with new people.
Last album we had Surtur as protagonist, now Loki. Why exactly Loki?
We needed another protagonist for this album. We agreed this before I started writing lyrics. I slowly grew into the matter. Loki appeared to be an interesting character, a trivial one, because sometimes he supports the gods, but other times he misleads them. That is one of the reasons we have chosen him. He has talents to help the gods, but most of the time he is also the one who brings them in trouble. He is very sly. He's got powers within his reach to achieve a lot of things, but he can do terrible things with those powers as well, as a bad, selfish man. Actually he is the god with the most human characteristics.
Can you specify those qualities, illustrating them with the songs?
Especially the four first songs tell about Loki's character. For instance, he is a shape shifter. He can take the form of an animal and mislead the gods. 'Shape Shifter' also refers to his fickle and false nature to mislead the gods to get better from it himself. He changes from good to evil, that's another human quality, but he can get away with it pretty easy. One might call him a sympathetic villain. Loki is the father of the wolf Fenris, that's what 'Father Of The Wolf' is about. His tricks would finally lead to the total decline of the universe during the end battle at Ragnark. 'As Loki Falls' is dealing with that subject.
And there we are at the artwork, I guess?
Indeed, it depicts the battle between Loki and Thor. It is done by our well-known artist Tom Thiel again and it is actually a lot bigger than just the front cover. You will discover that when seeing the digipack. These subjects keep on fascinating me. There is such diversity in gods, mythical figures and heroes with overwhelming battle sceneries. Well, it is the perfect source of inspiration to write sturdy Viking metal (laughs).
You have always released very special bonus material. What do you have in mind for this one?
The special luxury edition comes with a bonus EP with four songs. We wanted to do something that no other band ever did before us, at least I guess they never did. Instead of recording proper covers in our own style, we have written new songs in the vein of bands we all adore. This means that we have written songs and lyrics in the vein of Motrhead, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and AC/DC. We had a lot of fun doing this, although it was not as easy as it seems.
The song 'Hel' deserves some more explanation
You can hear guest vocals of Messiah Marcolin (ex-Candlemass, ex-Mementi Mori) in this song. It was a dream comes true. He does some phenomenal choirs on the song as well, almost feminine. 'Hel' is the goddess from the realms of death in Norse mythology and the daughter of Loki. When we had written the song, we thought about adding any female vocals. But in the end we thought it would sound better when Messiah would do it. I knew him already from a cruise in Scandinavia and now we had a song that would suit him. So we sent him the tape with already my vocals on it and he improvised doing his additional vocals. By the way, this song is not typical for Amon Amarth. On this album we used also traditional heavy metal influences and even doom-like passages. That is obvious in 'Hel'. In the past we should drop these elements, but this time we used them and I think it came out very well. It was an honour to have him as guest.
Your debut album 'Once Sent From The Golden Hall' is fifteen years old this year. Are there plans to do something special around that?
Not really. Last year we did a couple of twenty anniversary shows from the band. It was a unique set with loads of old songs, preceded by the integral performance of 'Surtur Rising'. We only did this in the US and it worked. Although it was pretty exhausting for the band: three hours and a half Amon Amarth. May be overkill (laughs). Anyways, there are always pros and cons on those special shows. Sometimes it is better to be part of an extended bill, sometimes it is amazing when you are the only band.
Did you record those special shows for a DVD?
No, unfortunately those days are over. That medium is disappearing. No big thing anymore. They cost a lot of money and time to make and it is not worth all those efforts anymore.
Are there plans for video clips?
Yes, we are planning something huge, never seen before, but details have to be worked out yet at the moment. We hope to be ready with it half June.
Then touring again?
Indeed. We are practising six songs from the new album now, but I do not know yet which ones will make it to the set list. In June we have a couple of festivals. In July and August we are heading to the US to be part of a huge festival tour in the US and Canada: the Rockstar Mayhem Fest. Later tours will be announced in time. We are working on a headline tour in Europe in Autumn.