Amon Amarth chat big stage shows & The Great Heathen Army

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Amon Amarth have never been a band to do things by half. If you’ve ever seen the Swedish metal titans play live, you’ll know they are one of the most entertaining live bands on the planet right now.

“I think I remember I read a review from one of the Bloodstock shows that said, you know, they had this big show, and they weren’t even the headliners!” says guitarist and founding member Olavi Mikkonen.

Olavi is chatting from his home via Zoom ahead of the release of Amon Amarth’s new studio album, “The Great Heathen Army.” The record sees the band delivering their epic anthems, often tagged with the genre Viking Metal.

“My goal was to make a shorter album compared to Berserker,” says Olavi, referring to the band’s 2019 release. “I thought 12 songs on Berserker was too many, and I don’t say that there’s bad songs on that album, but it’s difficult to give a hundred percent attention to twelve songs instead of a hundred percent attention to nine songs. I actually wanted to have eight songs only because I wanted to make every song as amazing as possible. And I also wanted to have as divided an album as possible. So there’s not going to be two songs that have a similar sound or similar tempo or whatever. So that was my goal. And the reason we did nine songs, that was because of Saxons & Vikings, that one was not supposed to be on there.”

Saxons & Vikings is one of the album’s standout tracks and features the unmistakable voice of Saxon‘s Biff Byford.

“The thing is that I had this idea for, I don’t know, maybe ten years, or at least the first time when we recorded with Andy Sneap and I think he was mixing Saxon a month before or whatever. So we talked about Saxon, and I said that it would be fucking amazing to do the song together with Saxon. And then, for whatever reason, that never happened, but the idea was there. And since we were coming back to Andy now for this record, I thought, you know, maybe it’s time to look into that idea again. And musically, I had a few parts that I thought it’s going to fit both Biff’s vocals and Johan’s vocals. So yeah, the timing was right. And so we were like, okay, let’s go for it. And we reached out to Saxon, and they loved the idea, and the rest is history.”

Formed in Tumba, Sweden, in 1992, they have forged an extraordinary legacy over three decades of thunderous, anthemic metal, all rich in the magical imagery of Viking history, folklore and culture.

From their underground smash debut Once Sent From The Golden Hall (1998) onwards, Amon Amarth have been an unstoppable creative force. With a unique and unmistakable sound that combines the best of several epic strains of metal, the quintet have become renowned for their ageless anthems and explosive, theatrical live shows. Albums like 2008’s widely acclaimed Twilight Of The Thunder God and 2016’s conceptual triumph Jomsviking, the Swedes have been consistent standard bearers for heavy metal as a life-affirming and communal experience, armed with a seemingly endless stream of instant classic songs.

Now reaping the rewards of all those years of hard work, Amon Amarth are now regarded as one of the metal world’s most vital and imperious live acts. From headlining festivals across Europe to claiming a place on Slayer‘s final tour of the US in 2019, they have honoured the adventurous ethos of their Viking forebears by taking their music anywhere and everywhere.

Unfortunately, as the world ground to a halt early in 2020, Amon Amarth were in the midst of a wildly successful world tour in support of Berserker. Disappointed but unbowed, the band decided instead to forge a new creative path, resulting in their most crushing and heroic full-length album to date, The Great Heathen Army.

“Basically, we were in South America when the shit hit the fan, so we had to cancel the last couple of shows and head home,” recalls vocalist Johan Hegg. “At first, we thought we’d just see how it played out and maybe book a couple of tours, but fairly soon we realized it was going to be a long hiatus. When it was getting close to being a year, we thought, fuck it, there’s no point in going back out on the road with an old album, so let’s just start working on new stuff instead. So that’s what we did.”

Amon Amarth return to North America later this year and will stop at Place Bell in Laval on December 3rd. The show includes an incredible lineup that includes Carcass, Obituary and Cattle Decapitation.

“Obviously we know all these guys except for Cattle Decapitation, that we have never toured with before, but we toured with Obituary and Carcass before, so they’re all good friends to us. And I think Cattle Decapitation’s album from 2019 is probably one of the albums I listen to the most recently. So I think they are three amazing bands. And, you know, we always try to put together as amazing a package as possible. And last time we did this more or less like a Swedish package, we had Arch Enemy and At The Gates and, Grand Magus. So now we thought, let’s do the most bad-ass death metal package that we can. It’s amazing. We’re definitely gonna make it a little bit bigger than what we did in 2019. But since we have a much bigger room this time, I think last time we played twice at MTelus. This is a nice venue, but the stage is not that big. And I don’t think we even put up everything we had with us during 2019. So that’s going to be awesome. And yeah, we’re going to just make it better than what we did last time.”

Buy tickets here

Watch the full interview with Olavi below:

“The Great Heathen Army” is released via Metal Blade Records on 5th August 2022.

Pre-order here:

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