Matthew Clewley has been a long time HEAVY Music Magazine contributor from the UK. When he was offered the chance to visit Swedish Vikings Amon Amarth in the flesh, he jumped at the chance!
A train journey through the countryside is always a peaceful to start of the day, although usually it doesn’t end with me speaking to Amon Amarth face to face! Thanks to the convenience of cab drivers (and they were rather pleasant too!) I made it to the middle of the farm where the meeting was to take place. I was sitting in the kitchen waiting to speak to the mighty Johan Hegg, after listening to Jomsviking for the first time. As I was tucking into some lovely sausage rolls, my name was called and it was time to meet the Viking himself.
Amon Amarth had been very quiet about Jomsviking, so my curiosity was immediate when I started questioning. As I listened to the album I noticed there seems to be a hint of a story: “I wrote a basic story about a young man who accidentally or ‘intentionally’ kills a man and has to run away, and then teams up with the elite force of Vikings called the Jomsvikings. So we follow his progression to grow up and become a fierce warrior.”
What else would you expect besides an epic tale involving beards and violence? “I think the challenge was, because it’s a concept album, you have to make the lyrics work in a different way. Normally when you write an album you get a bunch of songs, and then you have to put them in order; ‘well this goes here, and that goes there,’ until the album has a good flow. The problem here is that you have a narrative, you have a sequence that they have to be in, because that’s the story.”
Deceiver of The Gods was ferocious, I wondered if Johan honestly thinks that album has been surpassed; “I always think that about new albums! I genuinely think that this album is gonna be a milestone in our career, not only is it the tenth album, but when I listened to it I am actually surprised because I was blown away about how everything works together!”
Record deals have always been an interesting topic for Amon Amarth, having originally wanting only a one mini album deal with Pulverised back in 1992. With Metal Blade, things couldn’t be more comfortable; “Metal Blade as far as I’m concerned is one of the best labels in the business. I’m happy to say I am a personal friend of Brian Slagel, he is a metal head through and through. He is Mr Metal head to me! He loves the band and he trusts the band, and I think they are also one of the very few indie labels that still exist and still give a shit about their artists.”
Alright, so where did this Viking power come from in the first place? “When we started out it was just traditional death metal vocals and lyrics with all kinds of crap. I have been interested in Vikings since I was a kid, and I read a lot about Vikings as I was so into it, so I wrote some lyrics that are the shittiest lyrics you’ll ever read, but we thought; “This is pretty cool, it makes us stand out!”
It has also been tough for Amon Amarth after Frederik’s departure, but with a new addition to the band, the only way to go is forward. “It’s like at the end of a relationship when it eventually runs its course. It’s not as dramatic as it sounds. We have a great guy that has brought a lot of positive and creative energy to the writing process of Jomsviking that Fredrik could not have done. Fredrik is a great drummer, however Tobias (Gustafsson) is also a great drummer, but Tobias has more of a groove to his drumming, which this album really benefits from.”
I asked Johan about his first impressions about Australia: “It was f*cking hot! I love it, seriously, I love Australia. I love going, it’s a fantastic country there in so many ways and the people there are so amazing. He jokingly says, “It’s as laid back as Italy, but things actually work!” All of us of who love this band have made at least 1 comment involving beards! Johan chuckled when I gave him examples of YouTube comments, I asked if he approves of these dedicated comments. “Of course I do, everybody needs a beard!”
Amon Amarth are hoping to visit Australia in the coming 12 months. With some extra groove in the rhythm and a story for us all to listen to, things couldn’t be more exciting for the ever popular Amon Amarth. For now, all we can do is wait and somehow cope with the silence.
Jomsviking will be released on 25 March 2016 via Sony Music Australia.