Amon Amarth - With Oden on ‘Their’ Side

We can’t move away from the theme, not now, not even if we wanted to....

Amon Amarth is a unique strain, a traditional antiquity. Adored by those who appreciate the old world and decorated worldwide by the legions of fans who hold reverence, respect, dread, and wonder for the great Vikings and who follow intently; inspired by their influence, their genius and their archaic old fashioned flavour. The band is classed as melodic death metal, the generic and somewhat indolent labeling of any heavy metal band coming from Sweden. The genre ‘Viking metal’ needs to be reclassified in my opinion. Viking Metal is catalogued as a subgenre of black metal made famous by Norwegian black metal bands in the early 80’s to draw away from the anti-Christian and satanic elements, and concentrate more on the Pagan faith and Norse mythology by using subsequent lyrics and imagery. But why does Viking metal only deem true if it is Norwegian? Any historical text will tell you that Vikings were relevant in all countries throughout Scandinavia. Viking metal does not have a motherland; it is not home only to Norway. Amon Amarth is a true example of Viking metal, perhaps even the truest.  As he who can’t claim heritage suffers.

Metal As Fuck had Frederik Andersson; drummer for the sea-borne marauders on the wire recently, feeling somewhat guilty. It was 11.30pm in the UK; Amon Amarth had just wound up the UK leg of their world tour half an hour prior to the interview. Not only exhausted, Frederik and band were to be up and boarding a plane to Caracas (Venezuela) at 3.30am (UK time). With a not so happy camper, I felt like the biggest of arseholes – however this is the game is it not? So a very somber Frederik clambers to the phone to shoot the breeze about the current tour, the genre Viking metal and promoting that monstrous album Surter Rising 

“The tour has been going really well, two European tours, two American tours. The band has been throughout Russia & Scandinavia. The album has been very well received so far. The tour is long – after South America we are off to Japan, Australia and Greece then we begin the massive two month European festival circuit. Our fan base has remained strong throughout Europe however we are trying to increase it throughout Asia and Australia hence the 2012 tour”. You guys have been to Australia twice if I’m not mistaken – what is your favourite thing about Australia? “The wine! The food is amazing and the people are so friendly”.  

Getting back to the album – now being that Twilight of The Thunder God was considered the bands breakthrough album, did you feel you had to meet certain expectations with Surtur Rising? “Obviously yeah, we wanted to exceed expectations for ourselves first and foremost. There was no real pressure externally, we are very lucky in that respect; all in all we were free to do what we wanted”. What had been the response throughout 2011? “A lot of fans were skeptical in the beginning, as you expect, in time everyone learnt to like it, it is appreciated for what it is, more now than ever”.

What, in your opinion separates this album from previous releases? “It’s hard to say really, I guess this album allowed us to broaden our horizons you know, and in turn has allowed us to introduce a wide range of  elements to future albums. It’s definitely more diverse this time round”.  So you mention elements – what elements are important, or what is the ‘core’ to the music of Amon Amarth? “We aim to keep the ‘old’ sound of Amon Amarth. That is the most important element. We don’t want time to damage the sound of Amon Amarth. We write and compose the music together, like we always have”.  How do you approach the music of Amon Amarth? “With ease (laughs). We have been composing our style of music for almost twenty years, I guess you could say it now comes naturally to us; it’s definitely a part of us now. We rehearse as a band, begin with a riff and build from there, I don’t think there is ever a thrilling philosophical process, we are like all musicians - we start with a riff”.  

The use of Viking lyrical themes for Amon Amarth was an accident in the beginning, Johan [Hegg, AA frontman] has previously stated. Does the theme hold more importance today than it did back in the creation of Amon Amarth? “Yes, I would agree to that. It’s a big part of the band, regardless of the genres actual application to the music. We can’t move away from the ‘theme’ not now, not even if we wanted to. This is Amon Amarth. I think the theme holds a strong part of what is drawn from the music by the listener”.

And how has your technique as a drummer transformed or adjusted (I guess) over the past twenty years? “I never really had a technique, I was self taught, in the beginning it was with will and effort. With the years of touring you know for several months of the year, I’ve managed to maintain a technique in order not to injure myself (laughs). My skills as a drummer have evolved with the music and with the band; each album offers something new, something more challenging, I expand as a drummer with each record”.

Amon Amarth is in fact coming up to their twenty year mark, quite a feat. With appearances at both Wacken and Hellfest for 2012 what plans are there to celebrate this massive accomplishment? “We have five selected shows on the summer circuit in which we will be bringing out a lot of the old material, this will be brilliant. It’s hard to think we have been going for twenty years”. Amon Amarth is an extremely successful entity these days – did you prefer life as an underground band? “The more people appreciating your music the better but we are at a good level, we are not a mainstream band by any stretch of the imagination. We like where we are and we want to stay at this level for as long as possible, we still don’t, even after twenty years have any ambitions to be the biggest heavy metal band in the world. Life is good”.