Heavy metal isn’t just music: it’s a way of life. No current band embodies the spirit of metal’s immersive culture with more fervour and might than Amon Amarth: Sweden’s celebrated Viking overlords and undisputed modern masters of epic heavy metal.
Today, Amon Amarth stand tall and unassailable: over 25 years into a career that has seen them evolve from humble origins in the dark, dank rehearsal rooms of their native Tumba to their current status as explosive festival headliners and one of the metal world’s most widely adored bands. Their most recent album, 2015’s Jomsviking, hit the #1 spot in Germany’s official album chart and swiftly became their most successful worldwide release to date. As a result, Amon Amarth are very much at the height of their powers as they prepare to return to action in 2019, with their biggest, boldest and most bombastic musical statement to date.
Formed in 1992, Amon Amarth became modern metal greats the hard way. Ruthlessly dedicated to creating new music and taking it out on the road, the Swedes steadily built a formidable reputation as a ferocious live band and, as the years passed, were increasingly recognised for their recorded achievements too. Since the dawn of the millennium, Amon Amarth have been unstoppable. Breakthrough releases like 2006’s With Oden On Our Side and its now legendary follow-up, 2008’s Twilight Of The Thunder God, further cemented their popularity throughout the metal world, while the band’s stage show evolved with each successive tour, transforming into one of modern metal’s truly great spectacles. All of this and more has been captured in the band’s recent live DVD and documentary, The Pursuit Of Vikings: 25 Years In The Eye Of The Storm, which put a stylish seal on one of modern music’s most unlikely success stories.
Meanwhile, in 2019, Amon Amarth – completed by vocalist Johan Hegg, guitarists Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg, bassist Ted Lundström and drummer Jocke Wallgren - know that expectations for their next move are at an all-time high. The excellent news is that the band’s 11th studio album, the aptly-named Berserker, is guaranteed to have all discerning metal fans punching the air with joy. Comprising 12 monstrous Viking metal anthems that bulge with irresistible melodic hooks, bursts of thrilling savagery and moments of spine-tingling dynamic drama, it’s the results of the huge surge of creativity and a collective desire to keep moving forward with no compromise.
“The previous album was a concept album but we didn’t want to get into a situation where every album has to be a concept record, so this is different,” states Johan. “We wanted to step away from that and look at being a little bit more diverse, with the lyrics and everything else. I got ideas from lots of different things, from history stuff and mythological sources. Sometimes you just get something in your head and there doesn’t have to be a bigger meaning behind it – sometimes it’s just a great metal lyric that fits with a great metal song. And these are fucking great metal songs!”
From the disarming melodrama and explosive riffing of opener Fafner’s Gold and the brutish simplicity of the rampaging Crack The Sky to the epic fury of Raven’s Flight and the grim, gritty storytelling of Ironside and Skoll and Hati, Berserker is an album full of trademark Amon Amarth bluster and bite, but with every aspect of the band’s sound somehow refined, sonically enhanced and made vastly more potent, both in terms of metal oomph and emotional power. Neatly summing up the spirit behind these exhilarating new songs is the album’s semi-title track, The Berserker At Stamford Bridge: a visceral but vivid historical tale, recounting the Vikings last stand against the English army in 1066 and the mind-bending heroics of one axe-wielding warrior.
“The Vikings were cut off from their supply ships, so they had to retreat over Stamford Bridge, with the whole English army hard on their heels,” Johan notes. “The Vikings sent just one man out on the bridge to hold the whole English army back, about 15,000 men. So this guy, equipped with a Dane Axe, I think he killed between 40 and 70 people before they got him. And the only way they could get him was to send four guys onto the river on a raft, and they got him from beneath with spears! So it’s the perfect story for a great metal song.”
Showcasing an undeniable and startling upgrade for every aspect of Amon Amarth’s iconic sound, Berserker was recorded in Los Angeles with renowned studio guru Jay Ruston (Anthrax/Stone Sour/Steel Panther) manning the controls. After recording several rounds of professional demos for the new songs (initially with fellow Swedish metal icon Peter Tägtgren and then later with Ruston himself) the band crossed the Atlantic to make final recordings in LA, eager to take a fresh approach to the album-making process.
“Working with Jay was great,” Johan recalls. “The studio was amazing, and Jay’s methodology was new to us - he suggested that we record one song at a time, so that you can go back and change things and then it’s easy because everything is already set up. It was interesting, and we had a great time.”
Emboldened by their recent triumphs and unerring longevity, Amon Amarth return in 2019 with Odin’s breath billowing their sails with more strength than ever before. Encapsulating everything that fans love about the band while boldly stepping into new territory, Berserker is a career-best tour-de-force from 21st century metal’s most dedicated foot-soldiers. The march to glory continues!
“For me, this is Amon Amarth 2.0. I think what we’ve done here is give ourselves the space to explore other parts of our musicality and who we are as a band. If you’re content with where you’re at, what’s the point of continuing? We always want to come up with new ideas and find new ways of doing things and to create bigger and better shows and really try to improve every aspect of what the band is. We want to try to keep growing and to do this for as long as we have the possibility to do so, because this is the best fucking job in the world.”