Published Mar 24, 2016Now 18 years into their career as Sweden's premier purveyors of Viking metal, Amon Amarth are hardly content to coast. The band's latest release, Jomsviking is an ambitious concept album focused around themes of revenge and love. It's the first such album for the veterans, which found them navigating uncharted territory while finding inspiration in the unlikeliest of places.
"I think the whole idea started when [vocalist] Johan [Hegg] was in the movie [Northmen: A Viking Saga]," founding guitarist Olavi Mikkonen tells Exclaim! "He came up with an idea based on the actual Jomsvikings, which are kind of like the mercenaries of the Viking era. But he created this character that is based in fiction. What he wrote was almost like a movie script. I think the whole story is 100 pages."
Last year, before their concept could unfold, the band were faced with replacing longtime drummer Fredrik Andersson. Thankfully they saw their impending tenth album as an opportunity for renewal, rather than retreat.
"This is probably the album that we've been working together as a unit the most," Mikkonen says. "We had to bounce a lot of ideas back and forth and brainstorm. [Having] a different drummer made the whole writing process feel fresh."
Although drummer Tobias Gustafsson (Vomitory) was hired for the recording of Jomsviking, Mikkonen confirms that he will not be their permanent drummer.
"We wanted to have a drummer involved early, so we took the easy way, and that was to ask a friend," he explains. "Tobias is a good guy to hang out with as well as an amazing drummer. We kind of knew that [it] might not be a permanent solution, but we wanted to make a good album and that's what we did."
As their popularity continues to grow on North American shores, so does Amon Amarth's stage show. When discussing the band's upcoming tour with Entombed A.D. and Exmortus this spring, Mikkonen's excitement is palpable.
"I'm fucking stoked!" he says. "We have the biggest production we've ever had in North America. We are going to include more theatrical elements than we've had before. I think it's going to look amazing. Of course, Entombed are also friends [of ours] and Exmortus are really talented. It's a really cool package and I think all metal heads can enjoy it."
After 10 studio albums and countless tours, Mikkonen appears content and humbled by his band's current success.
"I would never dream that we would be doing what we do today and be in the position that we are. I am happy that we are still very passionate about making this kind of music, and that we are all still metalheads, and most of all that the four of us are all tight friends and we enjoy working together. With all that said, I'm totally happy."
Amon Amarth play Quebec City, Montreal and Toronto in April and hit Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary and Vancouver in May. You can see all their North American tour dates here.
Jomsvikings is out Friday (March 25) on Metal Blade.