Valkyries Webzine had the opportunity to interview Johan Hegg from Amon Amarth about their upcoming album Jömsviking.
- Hi Johan ! Amon Amarth will release it’s new album Jömsviking soon. There was not a lot of information about this album, did you kept secrets just to avoid leaks or just to make a surprise to your fans ?
Well, we’re scandinavians, if we don’t have anything to say, we don’t say anything, we shut up and drink ! No I mean, I don’t see the point to continue giving updates on what’s going on when there’s nothing really to talk about. Most people understand that we are working on new materials if we’re not saying anything or if we’re not touring. Telling everyone now we’re rehearsing, now we’re writing new songs now we’re going to the studio, blablabla, to me it’s idiot. A lot of bands puts too much stuff on social medias and talk about their album so early that by the time the album is released people have already kind of left it behind. So for us I guess we’re just focus on writing the album and not have to deal with the audience stuff
- Well if I remember well, you changed your producer for your last album, is he the same for Jömsviking ?
Yeah, it’s Andy Sneap.
- Was it logical to continue with this guy ?
Yes, we had a good time last time, I think deceiver of the gods album came up really great, we’re all very happy of our cooperation with Andy. We thought that once we had the album under our belt, we felt that we would be able to continue the cooperation and even develop it further
- Ok, so you don’t change a winning team
(laugh) I mean it’s really hard. I guess it depends but for us it’s always been like that, we do 2-3 albums with a producer and that’s kind of where can we go ? It is intense and we have all these fresh ideas. Then after the third album it start feeling like we’re too much in a comfort zone, so we need to step out of the box again. But just because it happened in past doesn’t mean it has to be like that in the future.
- Now the question everybody is asking, who is the new drummer of Amon Amarth?
Well for writing and recording we enlisted Tobias Gustafsson from Vomitory. We know him for a really long time, we know he is a good drummer, we know his creative side and that’s what we needed that for this album. As far as the permanent member goes we’re still kind of working on that. We have one person on mind, I think it’s gonna be announced very soon but I don’t wanna go ahead of that. We have to see but it looks like we have a guy for touring and the summer festivals so we’re gonna try out during that period of time if we’re happy with him and he’s happy with us. I have no doubts that this guy will manage to play the stuff, that’s not the issue. The real issue for us is that we are looking for a permanent member for the band, we don’t want to have to switch around. So it’s really important for us that the personnality works with us and he feels comfortable in the band. It can be really dificult to get in a group of people that have been working together for so long. So it will be a test I think, both for us and for him. I haven’t met him yet but from what I heard from all the people who knows him, I think it’s gonna go great. He seems to be a really cool guy but I think you only know after a little while on the road if he’s the good one.
- So we’ll meet him at the Hellfest !
(Laugh) probably yeah.
- Talking about new people on the album, there is a woman who sings in « a dream that cannot be true », who is she ?
Yes she’s Doro Pesch from Warlock
You don’t know Doro ? She’s a legendary metal singer. She’s been around for many years. I think she started with her band Warlock when she was like 17 or something. And she’s been doing this for around 30 years now. She’s a tough cookie, a great singer, a great character, a characteristic voice. I think she’s perfect for that particular song and she did a great job, I love her tape on our stuff !
- She sounds a bit like a witch in that song, it’s good performance.
Yeah ! I think she has the perfect voice for that song. I couldn’t think of any other female singer in the metal world that could fit this song better.
- Well about the album, Jömsviking is some kind of an elite mercenaries ; why did you take this particular topic ? It’s quite far from gods and mythology.
Well, Amon Amarth is not always about gods and mythology, it’s also about history and the history of vikings, their mentality and their lives. The Jömsviking have their own saga, there is an old norse legend about Jömsvikings, and when I started writing the story I wanted to use that as a background for my main story to add plausability. And I’m really happy about how it turned out . The jomsviking as you say were mercenaries, a bit like French foreign legion ! (laugh) But in a way, the jomsviking are almost mythical. There are debates whether they actually existed or not. But I think it’s pretty safe to say they did because they’re mentioned in so many places, in old norse sagas and history… But how prominent they were I can’t say.
- So Jömsviking is a concept album. Can you tell the story?
The story is quite a simple. Basically a man is in love with a girl and she’s been married off to someone else. He wants to run away with her but she refuses, so he tries to kidnapp her and he’s caught in the act by one of the guard. There’s a big fight and he kills the guard which renders him outlaw. His father denounces him and disowns him. He has to flee and he eventually joins the jomsviking. And through the jomsviking he finds an opportunity to get his revenge and hopefully win his girl back. He finds a mean to meet her in the song A dream that cannot be. He realizes and we realize that she’s moved on, they will never be together. So his hopes are destroyed. It doesn’t end very well for him !
- Is that why there is a conflict in the song A dream that cannot be ?
Yeah, I wrote it to look like a conversation between them, but they’re not actually talking to each other. He says his thing, she says her thing and there’s like barrier between them. I wanted to emphisize the fact that they are on different levels and they never gonna meet. So he is desillused and he goes to the big end battle and eventually to his own death. It’s summarized, the script is 140 pages long, so it’s a big epic story. If it was a book it would be like a thousand pages. I think it’s a good story, I liked to connect the dots with this one, it’s pretty intense and there’s really good moments in that.
- Well musically speaking I noticed changes. About your voice, you put a lot of variations in your singing style. Sometimes you sing very fast, like in At dawn first light and sometimes you just talk, like in Wanderer. Is that a normal evolution of your singing style or did you really wanted to put more emotions for this album ?
It’s about the concept itself, we really needed music and vocals to emphasize the story. Basically we are writing all this like a musical score for a movie. In Wanderer for example, We needed some dark melo and a little bit desperate elements. In the story he is alone, he doesn’t know where to turn, he’s on the run and there is a sense of desperation. And then he finds help but it’s hard to know whether he can trust it or not. And he sees the opportunity and there is some hope. It was difficult to kind of find the right type of voice for each song but I think we did pretty well. And as you say At dawn first light is also really agressive because of the topic of the song which is bassically an attack on the village, sort of a suprise attack, so people are like « oh shit ». It’s pretty dramatic. So you have to be on it !
- About guitar style, I heard much more heavy metal influences, mainly in solos. Is it an evolution you really want to do in your music or is it the natural evolution of Amon Amarth music ?
I guess this part is more the question for Johan, or Olavi, but since they are not here… I’ll try to answer it as far as I understand their point of view. About the music itself, there are a couple of reasons why more heavy metal influences shines through in the songs. First of all it’s an evolution that it’s going on in the band for a couple of years now . We’ve been more comfortable with letting our influences shine through more. They’ve always been there but we always tried to hide it, not allowed it to be so proeminent. But with each album we become more comfortable to let them be out there. I also think that another reason for that is the concept, because here we have the story and that changes our way of writing. Usually we write songs and then we come up with the lyrics. Now we have the lyrics and we have to write a song that fits the lyrics. So we have all these emotions to convey musically as writing music score for a movie. So we needed more melodic stuff to emphisize the emotions. And thirdly we have Tobias drumming on the album and his style is sightly different from Fredrik and I think his style of drumming gives more air to the prodution ; there is more space for other elements to grow more with his style of drumming. It’s hard to explain, but that’s what I feel. So there are several reasons why there are more heavy metal stuff on this album but I would say that those are the main reasons. But still clearly when you listen to it, it’s Amon Amarth. It’s just that there is new things in there due to different reasons.
- Well, a more general question: how do you still evolve after all these years of existence ?
First we love what we do, we love our music and we want to get better in what we do. Then we still have a lot of stuff in us and with each album we become better musicians and songwriters.We always try to push the enveloppe and see where it can take us. But also I think the pure fact that we love what we do gives us the will to keep evolving and still stay true to who we are.
- How do you find inspiration for melodies, how do you fit it with your concept ?
(laugh) Well that question maybe Johan has some time over after and you should probably ask him. It’s hard for me to answer because I focus a lot on lyrics and concept but I think for this album the story give them a lot of inspiration for the melodies. We’ve always worked with imagery, Sometimes Olavi or Johan, came up with a song and for the lyrics it was kind of « If I play this it feels like a big army of vikings on horseback coming over a hill and ride it down » and then we start writing something. We always try to have this cinematic imagery to get the feeling of the music and the lyrics work together. But again, that’s my speculation. I think it’s a question you’d better ask Johan or Olavi, because they write most of the music.
- Ok, so you kind of puts the soundtrack on the movie you imagined ?
Yeah that’s the idea.
- Talking about movies, did you like playing in Northmen ?
Oh yeah ! It’s pretty much fun. It was a great experience, we made a lot of great new friends, that was brilliant.
- Do you think you will play in another movie and not dying in the beggining ?
(Laugh) Everything is possible, once you’ve done it once, doing it one more time isn’t impossible. But even if it’s not a career that I pursue, I would love to do it again if I get the opportunity. And sure, I would like to have a bigger part. But you know, it was fun to do this, the idea was just to have us as a cameo, I had a couple lines, and I fight so that was good and I think it was a good death. There were a fantastic spirit and I made very good friends and I ‘m still in touch with some of them
- To end this interview I wanted to ask if you know a bit about french metal scene ?
Unfortunately I don’t, it’s funny in a way, I have hard time keeping up metal scene these days. I do so many other things on the side, I live in that big old house and there is always stuff to do. I also run a mailorder company with a couple of friends called Grimfrost so it takes up a lot of my time. And at the end of the day I don’t listen that much new music, I tend to go back with stuff that I already listened to. But I try at least to listen what my friends post or when they tell me « ah you should check this ». But I don’t know too much french metal bands. Exept for gojira. I love Gojira !
- Thank you Johan for your time !