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Amon Amarth

Een nieuw Amon Amarth album is altijd een heuglijke gebeurtenis. Mondjesmaat wordt informatie vrijgegeven, terwijl de fans elk nieuwsbericht met argusogen gadeslaan. De Zweedse Vikingen zijn dan ook immens populair en dat gaat nog steeds in stijgende lijn met een expansiedrift gelijk aan hun woeste voorouders. Op 25 maart komt ‘Jomsviking’ uit en dat gebeurt in Europa door Sony en in de VS door Metal Blade. Het is een heus conceptalbum. Johan Hegg schreef een uitgebreid verhaal en pas dan ging de band aan het componeren. Met de imposante frontman gaan we in gesprek om het vervolg van het succesverhaal van Amon Amarth te schrijven. We pikken de draad op vlak na de release van voorganger ’Deceiver Of The Gods’.

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder death metal / grindcore

The former album ‘Deceiver Of The Gods’ embarked on its glorious conquest in Summer 2013. Then the touring started for a long time. How do you look back at the tour cycle for that album?
With pleasure and satisfaction. Indeed, it was a good tour cycle. We did the Mayhem festival tour in the States and that was a huge success for us. I think we will have the benefits from that when touring for the new album ‘Jomsviking’. Our success is still expanding in the US. We also toured with Enslaved in the US and our own headline tour with Sabaton supporting us was ace. The main tour in Europe was with Carcass and Hell, the band from our producer Andy Sneap. We have experienced amazing things, like Japan. We only played few gigs there, but it tastes for more. We hope to reach that with the new album.

Did you take a break from touring to focus on writing the new album?
Not really, but we started to speak about new material pretty early. We wanted to make a concept album. So I started writing a story while we were on tour. I ended up with 140 pages (chuckles). At home we soon decided that the story was great and the guys started composing the music.’

What’s the story about?
A young man is in love with a young girl, but she is already married to a man with power. Yet they try to run away together, but they got caught. Our protagonist kills the man and he has to run away. Being on the run he has to cross savage mountain sides in winter. He almost dies. He is helped by a mystical wanderer who saves his life. In the end he arrives at the place of the Jomvikings, an elite mercenary who is known for their courage and never loose a battle. He joins them and gets a proper training. He turns into one of the best warriors. He can return home and wants to win his girlfriend back as revenge, but she has gone on with her life and she does not want him anymore.

The last track seems very dramatic…
I am not going to tell every detail of the story, but it is a sad ending that follows.

When did the Jomsvikings have their glorious heydays and what was so special about them?
It was in the tenth/eleventh century, of course in Scandinavia. The training was very hard. They had to live by strict rules, also in behaviour towards each other. They were merciless, but invincible. For example in ‘At Dawns First Light’ they take a village by storm and it is easy, because the people in the village are not awoken yet. The protagonist lives for taking revenge, that’s all he wants. He wants to go back to the village and take revenge.

Is there a kind of philosophy or hidden message in the story we can reflect on modern life?
Mainly in the song ‘A Dream That Cannot Be’. This song wants to illustrate that having an obsession is not always positive. Sometimes you have to let go in life. And it was important for me to show that women used to be high in line in the Viking era. They were prominently present and powerful. They were not dominated by men. After Christianity came in Scandinavia, it was way much worse for women and their equal roles in society.

You returned to the studio of producer Andy Sneap on the countryside in the Midlands of England. So that means that your first cooperation with him was a good one, for ‘Deceiver Of The Gods’, isn’t it?
Indeed. In the first place we went there, because we wanted to come closer to our live sound. We were happy with the result for ‘Deceiver Of The Gods’. In the meantime Andy knows where we stand for. Hell was on tour with us. We know each other better on personal level and musical level. We like to go in the middle of nowhere to record our albums; then we can focus on the music only without the distractions of every day life. But I am glad the job is done. It is a relief, because I better like playing live than working in the studio. I get bored from the waiting.

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One of my instant favourite tracks happens to be ‘One Thousand Burning Arrows’. Can you tell a bit more about that track?
It is one of the highlights of the story as well. A prominent warrior dies during the end battle in the story. It has that epic and glorious feeling.

Even with some violins and arrangements…
Indeed, but we have done that before. We recorded a song with Apocalyptica once, you know. What we did not do before is female vocals. You can hear Doro Pesch in the track ‘A Dream That Cannot Be’. The story asked for a female contribution, since that’s the moment when he meets his previous love again. Doro came over to the studio in the UK for a few days. She is a genuine and enthusiastic person. We liked her input and way of working.

On the other hand ‘Raise Your Horns’ seems to be the new Viking hymn to sing along…
That’s how it came out, but it was not written with the intention to make a single. On the contrary, it is one of the few songs we have written in the studio. 80% of the material was very well prepared before entering the studio, but two or three songs were just skeletons. We have finished them in the studio. One of them was ‘Raise Your Horns’.

After seventeen years of trusty dedication, drummer Fredrik Andersson left the band in 2015. That must have been not so easy…
Indeed, that’s a pity. But that’s the way it goes in every relationship. Sometimes things change and you have to accept that. It was something we did not want, but things happen.

And now?
Tobias Gustafsson (ex-Vomitory) has helped us out in the studio. That was a good choice. We know him for a long time. We know that he is a good drummer and a good guy. He has contributed to the making of the album in a very positive way. He has a very positive attitude. But he will not go on tour with us. Now we are rehearsing with someone else who will do the touring with us. No, I won’t tell his name. And no, he is not a famous drummer (laughs).

You have shot a video clip for the opening track ‘First Kill’. What about the making of?
There is not so much to tell about. We went to Germany with the band. Over there the band shots were taken. We went back, period. The people from the film crew did the rest, Groupa 13 from Poland.

Can you tell something about the arrangements with the labels?
Sure. The album will come out via Metal Blade, but for different reasons they will cooperate with Sony in Europe. We have resigned with Metal Blade, but if we want to grow further, they had to come up with something. They gave us the solution with Sony and I think that will work. In Europe and the US it is going great, but for instance the market in Japan is something where Sony can help. They have a lot of connections over there.

When you started the band, Viking metal was something underground, only Einherjer and Thyrfing were obscurely representing the genre. How do you feel about the sudden booming of pagan and Viking metal some years ago?
I don’t know, it just happened. People seem to have more interest in it now and that is a positive thing. I do not think too much about others and what they are doing. I rather focus on myself and what I must do, what Amon Amarth must do. That is the most important thing.

Like launching a special Amon Amarth beer?
(laughs) That was an idea from our management. They wanted to do that and we gave them our blessing. It is not a beer, it is mead. That suits better for Vikings hehe. It is with honey indeed, but not too heavy. You can drink it during a meal without having a heavy stomach, so it seems. I still have to check it myself.

Soon you will hit the road. What are the plans?
We start with some exceptional club shows, small locations with an intimate atmosphere. One of them is in Tilburg, the Netherlands. Then we have a very long US tour with Entombed A.D. I am looking forward to that. They are good guys. They come from the same city, Stockholm, and they are good friends. We have toured with them before in Europe, not in the US. At the moment we are booking the festivals and every day we have some news. We will play at Graspop in Belgium and Fortarock in the Netherlands.

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