The Avenger - 1999 - Metal Blade
The Crusher - 2001 - Metal Blade
Versus The World - 2002 - Metal Blade
Fate Of Norns - 2004 - Metal Blade
With Oden On Our Side – 2006 – Metal Blade
Twilight Of The Thundergod – 2008 – Metal Blade
Surtur Rising – 2011 – Metal Blade
Deceiver Of The Gods – 2013 – Metal Blade
Jomsviking – 2016 – Metal Blade
S= JOHANN HEGG
G= Anders Hansson>>Blood Mortized, Just Before Dawn - OLLI MIKKONEN - JOHAN SORDERBERG
B= Eternal Oath>>TED LUNDSTROM
D= Nico Kaukinen>>Same As Last Street, Cruel Solitude - Martin Lopez>>Opeth, Fifth To Infinity - A Canorous Quintet, Guidance Of Sin, Curriculum Mortis, This Ending>>Fredrik Andersson>>Curriculum Mortis, This Ending
In The Lord Of The Rings saga Amon Amarth is the wonderfully titled Mountain Of Doom. On the metal scene, the same name is a Stockholm-based death metal-turned Viking band.
Following 1993's Thor Rise and 1994's The Arrival Of The Fimbul Winter demos, both of which were recorded at Studio Lagret, the band signed to Singapore's Pulverised Records and released the Sorrow Throughout The Nine Worlds EP. The EP was recorded at Studio Abyss. Kaukinen would soon depart in favour of Lopez. The band then moved up to Metal Blade Records where despite some line-up changes things have been upwardly mobile ever since. Once Sent From The Golden Hall was recorded at Studio Sunlight. Nevertheless, the band, unsatisfied with the tones, finished the production at Studio Abyss.
Following the recording guitarist Anders Hansson left and was soon replaced by Johan Sorderberg. Lopez soon defected to Opeth and was replaced by Guidance Of Sin's Andersson.
The Swedes played at the Wacken Open Air in 1999. Amon Amarth further performed at the 2002 edition of Wacken Open Air festival before entering Studio Berno to record Versus The World. A limited edition of this album would feature demo songs as bonus material. Also featuring a German victory March this edition would be dubbed Viking Edition by band and label. The Swedes toured the USA at the beginning of 2003 with Deicide. The band later cancelled its appearance at the 2000 Decibels Festival in Bengtsfors, Sweden. Fate Of Norns was issued in late summer of 2004. On May 2nd, 2006 Amon Amarth released a 3-disc DVD called Wrath Of The Norsemen. The DVD Wrath Of The Norsemen reached gold status in Canada four months after release. Amon Amarth re-signed with Metal Blade Records for three albums at the beginning of 2008 and entered the studio in May in order to record a new full-length. The band announced four shows at Zeche in Bochum, Germany in December, 2008 using the Bloodshed Over Bochum monicker where the band would play one of its first four albums in its entirety each night. The group would also incorporate several new songs from its 2008 album Twilight Of The Thundergod. The band was also touring America with The Absence in the autumn. Sweden’s This Ending – featuring Amon Amarth drummer Fredrik Andersson - completed the recordings for its second album, Dead Harvest in late 2008. Metal Blade would release it on February third, 2009. In the midst of the band’s European tour opening for Amon Amarth, bassist Mike Alexander of thrash metal band Evile fell ill and was transported to the hospital. He died on Monday October 5th in Luleå, Sweden. He was 32 years old. Amon Amarth bassist Ted Lundström would miss the first three shows of the band's North American tour in May of 2010. Steve Drennan of Engel would take his place. Amon Amarth would release its eighth studio album, Surtur Rising, on March 29th, 2011 through Metal Blade Records. It was recorded at Fascination Street Studios in Örebro, Sweden with Jens Bogren. Amon Amarth announced a 2011 U.S. headlining tour. Simply dubbed An Evening With Amon Amarth, the trek would find the band touring without support and instead performing two separate sets each night. One set would feature the album Surtur Rising in its entirety. The tour started mid-April. Munster, Indiana's Three Floyds Brewing Company produced the Amon Amarth Ragnarök beer which was available in the summer of 2011. Amon Amarth celebrated its twentieth anniversary with five shows in August of 2012 in Germany, Poland and Holland. The band was to play songs spanning its entire career. Amon Amarth would soon issue its ninth studio album. Entitled Deceiver Of The Gods, the album was recorded at Backstage Studio in Derbyshire, UK, and produced, mixed and mastered by Andy Sneap. Deceiver Of The Gods would be released in North America through Metal Blade Records June 25th, in Europe June 21st/24th and Japan on June 26th. Amon Amarth was to conduct a U.S. headlining tour in January, 2014 in support of the Deceiver Of The Gods album. Ambient rock band Enslaved and Skeletonwitch were to open.
Amon Amarth would be touring North America in the autumn of 2014. This time around, the band would bring fellow Swedes, Sabaton, along for the ride. Additionally, Skeletonwitch would once again be opening the show, with the exception of New York City where the first-ever North American performance by project Vallenfyre (with members of At The Gates, Paradise Lost, etc.) would take place as part of the Decibel Magazine tenth anniversary celebrations. Singer Johan Hegg was unable to join the band on stage on January 17th, 2015 in Plymouth, England after losing his voice a day earlier. As a result, the band played a mostly instrumental set and was also joined by Jill Janus of Huntress. After 17 years the group parted ways with drummer Fredrik Andersson. The drummer would focus on This Ending. A Swiss-made Viking film called Northmen - A Viking Saga, featuring Johan Hegg of Amon Amarth as warrior Valli, would come to US cinemas in July of 2015. A DVD release would follow on August 11th. Amon Amarth would release its next album, Jomsviking, through Metal Blade in North America and Sony Music internationally. Jomsviking was a concept record about tragedy and revenge. Amon Amarth conducted a North American headlining tour in the spring. It was set to run from April 7th through May 21st with openers Entombed A.D and Exmortus. Amon Amarth’s album Jomsviking debuted at position number 4 in Canada. Amon Amarth would tour Europe in 2017 with support from Dark Tranquillity and Omnium Gatherum.
AMON AMARTH - VERSUS THE WORLD - METAL BLADE
Swedish rising stars Amon Amarth are a study unto themselves. They mix aggression with melody successfully where others fail. While retaining a core death metal sound, thick and chunky riffs and powerful rhythmic vibrations, the quintet boosts its melodic tract thus injecting a modicum of accessibility into the fray which would normally fail a band of this genre. The songs are wholly interesting and varied and the band collectively at the top of its game. The sound is exactly as it should be (love the distorted bass and snare sounds in particular), all credit to Berno Studio (Seance, Deranged, etc.) for delivering an effective crunch of metal while retaining the many nuances that the guys from Amon Amarth insist upon in their sound. Versus The World is recommended without hesitation - not bad for a band considering throwing in the towel as recently as last year! - Ali "The Metallian"
Amon Amarth is an angry band. If the new album's title, namely Versus The World, does not testify to the fact, how about how the band's alternate choice was calling the album The End? The band had pondered calling the album The End and simultaneously throwing in the towel. Thankfully the Swedes are still with us and with the release of their new album have a new lease on life. Singer Johan Hegg along with bassist Ted Lundstrom, drummer Frederik Andersson, guitarists Olli Mikkonen and Johan Soderberg make up the band. Hegg calls Metallian Towers and speaks with Ali "The Metallian" about the band and the new album. - 06.12.2002
Hegg calls from the American offices of Metal Blade where he is spending the week participating in the label's twentieth anniversary celebrations and also speaking with various media representatives about the band's new album Versus The World. So, are the Metal Blade employees posers with short hair?"... not really," replies my interviewee after a slight hesitation. He continues laughingly, "actually most people here are females... "
With Versus The World the Swedish heavy metallers have undergone a slight course correction and introduced more melody than ever before into the musical proceedings. Amon Amarth has often been termed Viking metal. Given the new elements in the music, one wonders whether the term is still relevant. "Actually we never really said that we were Viking metal," Hegg points out. "We always called ourselves death metal. Viking metal is something that the label has made up, alongside journalists and people who reviewed our albums. Viking metal, to me, is like Enslaved, Einherjer or Bathory. It's more black metal-oriented. We sing about Vikings and the Norse mythology, but our music is melodic death metal."
Yet, there is no denying that the band's web site greets the visitors with the picture of a Viking. "I mean our lyrical inspirations come from the Vikings," the singer is quick to admit. "It is not something that we deny in any way. I don't really care if people call us Viking metal. It's just that, for me, it's not correct.. I don't really care about it."
Still, even if the band's style is better described as melodic death metal, the new album might justify a change in that label. Hegg picks up on the theme. "We wanted to do something different. Our previous albums, The Avenger and The Crusher, were pretty similar. We wanted to do something that is different. We wanted to do a more melodic and more epic album. On the other hand, we didn't want to compromise the trademarks that make us Amon Amarth: the aggression, the heaviness and stuff like that. I think we managed to incorporate those into the music and still develop a more melodic sound. We wanted to change, but within the frameworks we have set up for ourselves. It's something that might attract more people of course, but we have hopefully maintained our integrity!"
Furthermore, and on the same topic, Amon Amarth is seeing the release of a so-called 'Viking Edition' of Versus The World. It does not sound like the ideal approach to getting away from the Viking tag. Hegg is rather philosophical and laughs while explaining. "Actually, you are not going to believe it, but it's the guys from Metal Blade in Germany who are responsible for that. They came up with the idea of calling the bonus version of the CD the 'Viking Edition.'"
Speaking of the limited edition version of Versus The World, fans might be interested to know that it features a German song. Hegg also speaks some German himself. "We have translated the song Victorious March into German. There are two reasons for it," expands the Swede. "We were discussing bonus material for this album when we were drunk! We were sitting in the tour bus, having a discussion and getting more and more drunk. Then I popped the idea to redo Victorious March in German. We did that because we have a large fan base in Germany - it's almost home ground for us. So it's for them. It's also just for fun, you know, just a stupid thing.
"I studied German at school," continues Hegg who incidentally speaks Swedish English which is another way of saying his command of the English language is better than most native speakers. "I studied for four years. I don't speak it very well, but had help translating the song from the Metal Blade Germany guys."
Shifting the line of questioning the singer is next quizzed about the album title. It reminded this writer of Napalm Death's Enemy Of The Music Business. "In a sense that is what it's about," confirms my interviewee. "We have been around for ten years now and have had our ups and downs. We are sort of looking back at our career. We have had to fight really, really hard to survive in this business. It deals with that.
"It's being upset, it's more about reflecting on our career," expounds Amon Amarth's spokesman. "Looking back we've had our equipment stolen, we've had problems with people who think we are racist or neo-Nazis - which is pure bullshit - and we almost got thrown off a tour once! That was probably our own fault, I guess, for we were too drunk. Shit like that always happens. I mean when we were recording 1995's Once Sent From The Golden Hall the studio completely fucked things up for us. We had to go into a new studio to record the album. We have had many set-backs, but then again we have been fortunate to be on Metal Blade."
In other words, the band's indignation is not caused or aimed at the record company. "No, definitely not. We are happy with Metal Blade."
Are you saying that because Metal Blade boss Brian Slagel is sitting next to you? "Yeah, he is right here holding a hammer (laughs)."
Still on the topic of the album's name, Hegg is reminded by this writer that the title was originally announced as The End. Things change as the singer explains. "That was actually true," he remembers, "that was the working name. We were fed up with everything last year. We told ourselves 'let's do a fast album and then fuck it all.' We were thinking of making this our last album. You go through these periods where you think everything's against you. It also is another reason for the album title. We were thinking of quitting, but after doing a tour in America and another one in Europe and noticing our new material - we thought it's good material - we decided to take this as long as it will carry us. So we signed for three more albums with Metal Blade.
"I don't know what pushed us over the edge at that time," Hegg replies when asked for more detail. "We were bored. We were bored with rehearsing three times a week, we were bored with everything and to do tours and not make any money and not be able to pay bills when you are home can be very stressful. On the other hand, that's one of the things that changed our mind. We had such a great time on the tour that we realized that this is what we want to do. We said 'it's worth a shot.'"
Speaking of touring, wasn't your North American trek cut short early in 2002? "What happened is that we arrived in the USA and were supposed to open for Marduk," Hegg takes up the story. "Marduk didn't make it and we ended up headlining a three-week North American tour. We did shows in Toronto and Montreal in Canada and then we didn't know if the final shows would be cancelled. Then the promoter said the last week is cut. As far as I know, the local promoters on the West Coast were only interested in the original package with Marduk. They didn't want to pay for us only! That was not a big problem for us. We were happy to do the tour anyway."
Another change for the band was not recording at Abyss Studio. The quintet instead opted for Berno Studio. Hegg explains that, "Peter Tagtgren is busy and does not produce that much anymore. He has his own bands, Pain and Hypocrisy, and he was unable to take us on when we needed to be in the studio.
"We were thinking of using his studio, but with his brother Tommy engineering. Then we figured 'what the hell, let's change the studio altogether.' Having heard some of the stuff coming out Of Berno Studio we decided to try it out. We were a bit nervous, because we were very comfortable at Abyss - it was sort of a second home for us."
What does the singer have to say about the notion that, similar to many other Berno productions, Versus The World features a higher-than-normal vocal mix? "With the last album we thought the vocals are a bit low in the mix," remembers the front man. He relates "we wanted the vocals to be higher this time! I never really thought about it that way though. What I know is that Studio Berno uses very advanced technology. It was unbelievable to hear the clean and harsh voice I could get. The microphone was unbelievable. Peter and Abyss Studio have good stuff, but Berno was using, like, an eight thousand Dollar microphone for the vocals of a death metal band.
"The microphone was a hand-crafted, transistor one with its own amplifier. It was a numbered microphone made in Denmark. I think the brand is called connoisseur."
Next the chat veers to the more specific and addresses the songs. We discuss how the compositions have become more melodic and eventually the question is put before the singer about the extent of melody Amon Amarth is willing to incorporate into its music. We all know the slippery-slope theory. The singer does not mind addressing the concerns put before him."It's not something we are planning. We are not planning to get more melodic. We take it one album at a time. The next album might be more brutal again - it depends on the ideas we have.
"What the future will bring, I have no idea. I feel that we could get even more melodic. As you say though, there is a certain point where (if we become too melodic) we wouldn't be Amon Amarth anymore. We have certain rules which we have set up for ourselves. We try to follow them as much as we can. It's a thin line. One shouldn't cross that line too much. We don't want to go too far from our original intentions, but it's very hard to say what the future will bring."
In contrast the title track has a very heavy rhythm storming through it. Is that a distorted bass that one hears? "Are you asking me about the song writing?" exclaims Hegg demonstrating a penchant for humour. "I mean, the bass is more eminent on this album anyway, but I don't know for sure."
How about the song Where Silent Gods Stand Guard, which stands out for the relative calm of the music in contrast to the violence of the lyrics. "The song is different from anything we have done before," Hegg answers. "It's not a typical Amon Amarth song. I came up with the idea to write lyrics that are the the opposite of the music - which is soothing. It's the story of a Viking serial killer basically. It definitely does not suit the music and it's different. I started writing the lyrics before I heard the song and then I figured I will use it here!"
Your sister Christina Hegg has contributed lyrics to the song Thousand Years Of Oppression. "She has liked my lyrics for the previous albums," is how Hegg begins telling the story. "She wrote me an e-mail titled something like My Interpretation Of Things. It was written in English because she lives in Canada, Vancouver actually. She always writes me in English and I answer her in Swedish. Anyway she sent me the story and once I read it I felt that it said exactly how I felt about things. I told her I want to use them as lyrics and she told me to go ahead. We made some minor alterations and put it to music.
"I have credited her as the lyricist and have told her to set herself up for publishing purposes."
Again changing the direction of the conversation, Hegg is asked about his musical past. Has he been involved in any previous bands, other than Amon Amarth or its predecessor Scum? Seems the man is not very Scandinavian in this regard. "Scum started out in 1988 and when the second guitar player left and we got a new rhythm section we changed the name to Amon Amarth. There have been no projects in which I have participated.
"You see, I never had that many metal friends. When I went to high school I came in contact with Scum. When I graduated from high school I joined the band because they heard me scream like hell, you won't believe this, to Europe's The Final Countdown! We were on holidays in Greece and the music was playing at the bar. They were like, 'man this guy can sing.' I was totally plastered."
"We are currently working on a North American tour for March. After that we are going on tour in Europe in April. Then hopefully we will return to North America again after that. We are also hoping to start working on a new album and to make it come out fairly quickly. We want to keep this ball rolling."
With that Hegg is off to speak with another interviewer. In the meanwhile, Versus The World is available at better record stores!
Amon Amarth has become synonymous with Sweden’s Viking past and, as such, it’s sort of appropriate that the band is now developing into a force in North America. Much like their Viking forefathers’ discovery of the North American continent, Amon Amarth is successfully traversing to our shores, all the while gaining a strong legion of followers. Amon Amarth’s latest album, With Oden On Our Side, received unanimously positive reviews and the group’s first DVD, Wrath Of The Norsemen, recently went Gold in Canada. Ergo, what better time to speak to Amon Amarth vocalist Johan Hegg than now? - By David Perri - 21.12.2007
METALLIAN: Amon Amarth is back for a second round of touring in North America. How is it treating you guys?
HEGG: It feels good, it feels good to be back. It’s great to finally be doing a headlining tour here. We haven’t done a real one ever. We’ve just had some accidental ones. But it’s the first time for real. It’s been going really well over all, and it’s been fantastic on the east coast. But the crowds have been really great every show we’ve done. It’s been a killer tour.
METALLIAN: Are you surprised by the strong reaction you’ve been getting in North America?
HEGG: In a way, no. We’ve been working really hard. We’ve been on the road a lot over here. And this is one of the goals we’ve had, to be able to do this and get this type of response. It’s always satisfying to feel that support when you come over, especially after the tours we did with Children Of Bodom and Sounds Of The Underground”¦ we felt that we had something good going on. Those tours pushed us really far.
METALLIAN: A lot of bands say that if you tour hard in North America you really see the results, as opposed to maybe Europe where the results aren’t as immediate.
HEGG: Definitely. I think that touring is imperative in North America. In North America definitely, traditionally you’ve had to be on the road all the time. You’ve got to be on the road constantly here to gain a following.
METALLIAN: What are the goals for Amon Amarth at this point? What are you trying to accomplish?
HEGG: We never look too far ahead. We want to be a headlining band everywhere of course, but we want to do different stuff. We’re going to Australia in January and that’s going to be cool, and we’d like to go to South America and Japan. Those are small goals we have, but we’ll see when it’s possible to do those things. But they’re definitely things we want to do.
METALLIAN: And do you guys have any specific goals for the next album?
HEGG: We’re going to Australia and when we get back we’re going to record new material. Hopefully we’ll be able to record and release the album next year. But it depends on how fast we work and get the album together. We don’t have anything right now, just some basic ideas.
METALLIAN: Is the success you’re going through now inspiring you in the writing process?
HEGG: Yeah, when things are going well you get inspiration from that and pushes you to keep going. It hasn’t always been like that of course, but this is what we want to do and what we’ve dreamt of all these years. We want to keep going for another couple of years at least (laughs).
METALLIAN: The band has a lot of Viking imagery, and the band is very rooted in the Vikings. Are you ever surprised that it’s connecting with North America audiences? The Vikings are more of a Scandinavian/ Northern European tradition.
HEGG: We’re not really surprised. The stories themselves are pretty general, and they’ve got a lot of stuff in them that people can relate to. Even though there’s a lot of Viking imagery and themes in the songs, some of the songs are actually quite contemporary. I use Viking imagery as a metaphor for things going on in my life or life in general or the world in general. I guess in a sense the songs are quite easy to get into. If you just like the story, then you just like the story but if you want to find a deeper meaning you can find one somewhere in there. But it’s not meant to be obvious.
METALLIAN: So you’re saying that maybe the themes in your lyrics are universal?
HEGG: I think a lot of people can relate to what I write. We hear a lot of people who come up during the signing sessions say our songs help them. This guy in Vancouver said that Versus The World helped him get through college, and that’s awesome.
METALLIAN: Where does your passion for the Vikings come from? Have you always been interested in them?
HEGG: It’s been more or less since I started reading about it in school, when I was nine or ten. I got really interested in it. Unfortunately, you only get to scrape the surface on this subject in school. You don’t get to dig deeper. I had to read up on it on my own, and it’s been an interest of mine for a very long time. Also, my older sister is very much into it, so that helped to develop my interest, as well.
METALLIAN: Being from Sweden, what role has Scandinavia played in shaping Amon Amarth?
HEGG: We’ve never really though of ourselves as a Swedish band as such. We’ve never said, 'Now we’re going to be like In Flames or now we’re going to be like Entombed.' We didn’t want to make it in Scandinavia in the first place. We always wanted to make it abroad. And now we’re also making it in Scandinavia which is great, but that was never our goal in the first place. We felt the market was not big enough. So for us, we never really thought of it as us being a Scandinavian band.
METALLIAN: As a Swede, do you ever have nostalgia for that early '90s Sunlight Studios scene? Y’know, Entombed, Grave, Dismember...
HEGG: (laughs). That’s sort of when I got into the death metal scene, during the early '90s. But I was pretty late into it. I was into old Metallica, Slayer, Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden, Motorhead and bands like that. Maybe some people have more nostalgia when it comes to the bands you mentioned. Entombed and Dismember are great. The first Dismember album is great. Entombed is obviously a classic band. It’s cool to see they’re still around and touring. They lost a couple of members along the way, but they’re still going on. I meet the guys every now and then, especially LG (Petrov, vocals). We root for the same hockey and football teams in Sweden, so we meet each other at the games every once and a while.
METALLIAN: The hockey part is very Canadian, I can relate (laughs).
HEGG: We’re big hockey fans in Sweden, too (laughs).
METALLIAN: Valhall Awaits Me, from the latest record With Oden On Our Side, is one of the strongest songs on the album. What was happening around the writing and recording of the song?
HEGG: The song is very aggressive and I had some ideas that I wanted to work with. I wanted to have a song about a Berserk, like a real Oden’s warrior. So it had to be very intense. The music had to be intense and the lyrics had to be intense, too. The lyrics are maybe 30 seconds of the guy’s life. He’s killing one guy, and then he’s killing another guy. And then he gets killed. That’s what it is (laughs). But I wanted to make it very intense, and very fast but describe the whole scenario. I wanted to get the meaning across. The Berserkers, they were fearless. They saw themselves as Oden’s warriors, so they were totally fearless. They thought that when that their time came, their time came. So they didn’t fear death. They just accepted that death was a fact. I wanted to portray that, the sort of fearsome brutality. He loses his shield, and instead of protecting himself he grabs another weapon and he goes two-handed. That’s what I wanted to do with those lyrics, to portray that aggression. And I think it worked pretty well. (laughs)
METALLIAN: You mentioned death, and you also deal with death in another way on the record with 'Runes To My Memory'. What are your thoughts on that track?
HEGG: The way it came about is actually kind of weird (laughs). It was something I wanted write for a long time, but never really knew how. Then I read an article in a science magazine about Vikings going on the rivers of Russia down to Constantinople, which is Istanbul today. The article was about Viking burial. When a Viking died, they wouldn’t transport the body back home. If it was a chief, they would build a ship for him and set it on fire and push it out to sea. If that wasn’t possible, they would build burial mounds. So there are literally hundreds of burial mounds in Russia for Swedish Vikings who went that way. Some also have rune stones carved. That gave me the idea to do the song. It gave me a good angle, and I think it worked out really well. The idea also started taking form when my grandfather died. I guess I got a lot of inspiration from that, too. It was inspiration to write the lyrics. So you take inspiration from everywhere.
METALLIAN: In terms of Vikings and Oden and that kind of thing, what place does that have in your life on an everyday level when you’re away from the band and away from touring?
HEGG: I’m not a religious person, I don’t really believe in religion. But on a more philosophical level, I would say that the gods aren’t up there in the sky. They’re more in here (note: points to his chest). You feel them. They represent something in all of us, and it’s something we all possess. We all possess the wisdom of Oden, we all possess the rage of Thor, we all possess the bravery of Tyr and we all possess the deceitfulness of Loki. We all have those trademarks, because we’re human. The way I look upon it is that if you follow the Viking way of thinking, you treat your friends and family with a lot of respect. You stand by your word and you treat people with respect. But also, you don’t take shit from anyone. If someone’s giving you shit, you say 'Fuck off' (laughs). But it’s more like a way of life, a way of thinking.
If you enjoyed this, read Entombed