When Mayhem Fest announced its lineup for 2013, Amon Amarth was the name that had us most intrigued. For one thing, it’s always nice to have a little Viking metal at any festival (especially from the Swedish gods themselves). But on the other hand, Amon Amarth isn’t exactly the type of band you get to see on the same stage as Rob Zombie or even Mastodon quite often. Could the just-wrapped Mayhem Fest be Amon Amarth’s chance to attract a wider North American audience? Well, with their latest album Deceiver Of The Gods still blowing fans away after its release over a month ago, Amon Amarth certainly deserve the chance.
We had the chance to speak with drummer Fredrik Andersson before taking the stage and stepping foot on their massive Viking boat in Camden, NJ. During our chat, the drummer discussed the opportunity that comes from playing Mayhem Fest, how Amon Amarth was able to get Messiah Marcolin and Andy Sneap on board for Deceiver Of The Gods, and what it’ll take to get an Amon Amarth song featured in a Thor film.
Deceiver Of The Gods was Amon Amarth’s first time workng with Andy Sneap. What was that experience like?
Awesome. We had a really good time with him. He’s a very relaxed dude, and we hit it off already when we had the first couple of meetings with him. Even when we were deciding to go with him, he just seemed really…well, of course, he’s Andy Sneap. He’s been everywhere in metal. He’s produced every good metal album and he was just very relaxed. He had the same kind of visions that we wanted to achieve with the album, so it seemed to seem natural.
The album also features Messiah Marcolin, formerly from Candlemass. How did that collaboration come about?
I think Johan [Hegg, vocalist] met him a couple of years ago, they were loosely talking about it. And then he came to one of our shows in Stockholm, hung out the whole night drinking, and we talked more about it. I think both him and we started with this during drunken talk, but then when we wrote the song “Hel,” we figured out maybe that song would be cool to try something like that on. We called him, and he was there.
When I heard that track, I was like “Whoa! So this is what Amon Amarth would sound like with clean vocals.” Was it kind of weird to hear his vocals against the Amon Amarth sound?
Yeah, of course, I mean, that was really interesting. And we were like five fanboys sitting in the studio like “Aw…this is awesome!” It was really cool, and of course it was super awesome to hear his vocals on one of our songs. He actually sung the whole song; all the lyrics, and we just mixed in as much as…we wanted to build it up, so it’s not obvious in the beginning.
As epic as the new album is, does the band ever find it to be a little limiting to write about such a specific topic like Norse mythology?
I mean, Johan writes most of the lyrics, but I know that it’s such a broad subject. So I think that as of now, he feels as if he can never run out of topics. Some of our lyrics don’t even have any connection with Norse mythology. It’s just rewrites of modern day events. A lot of stories are made up.
Well, let me rephrase the question. For you, as a musician, are you afraid of ever being limited by the subject matter?
No, I mean, I think the theme goes hand in hand with the band name Amon Amarth. As long as we’re Amon Amarth, it’s going to be Viking themed. That’s the whole baseline of Amon Amarth. The only way it can be limiting, I think, is when people who haven’t heard the music judge it beforehand because it’s Viking metal, and then they won’t check it out because they think it’s like accordions and stuff.
I think that also when you first hear the name Amon Amarth on Mayhem Fest, it’s like “whoa, that’s a really unique combination.” How has the experience been playing on a tour like this?
It’s been awesome, actually. It’s been over our expectation, I would say. Obviously, when we signed up and we were asked to open up the main stage, our management and record label said it was going to be some tough shows. People have to walk over from the side stages. A lot of people are there for the main acts. They had never heard of us, and plus we have our fans that are going to be all the way back on the field. But so far pretty much every show has been really good and over our expectations. It’s been overwhelming.
Even though there’s a whole pre thought of what the band might be, there is such a classic metal vibe to Amon Amarth’s sound with a mix of other genres of metal as well.
Yeah, I think a lot of people who thought that we’d be something else got surprised, and seemed to get into it. It seems like a lot of people are like “Oh, it’s this” and then three songs in they’re like “It’s not too bad. Not too shabby.” [laughs]
And also they’ve got to be a little impressed with the big ass boat on stage!
Yeah, obviously, yeah!
I’m not sure if you’ve gotten the chance to see any of the other bands, but have you had a moment where you were looking over at the side stage and were like “Oh man, that looks like a lot of fun. I wish we could play over there”?
Well, after the show, we go to have dinner and usually at that time Children of Bodom and Machine Head are having dinner as well, so we usually chat with them and they always talk about awesome shows and mosh pits after mosh pits. And we’re like “Aw, that sounds like fun,” but we knew that when we went into this tour that we’re not here to have fun. We’re here to show ourselves for a new crowd and new people. We see it as an opportunity for us to go outside the box a little bit.
What would you in your mind say the biggest difference is in touring North America versus touring in Europe or around the world?
Well we’ve never done a tour like this; like a festival. We did tour with Slayer in Europe, and that was like…it’s only these six bands so the production was kind of bigger. But if you mean just regular club shows…
Or just differences in crowds or differences in perception.
I don’t think there is such a big difference. I mean, metalheads are metalheads all over the world. It’s not really any difference. They can be a bit more warm blooded if you go south, like in South America and south Europe. They tend to sing along more with the melodies and stuff like that. Other than that, it’s pretty much the same everywhere, I think. People like to head bang, they like to do mosh pits, and everyone’s there to have fun.
I’m sure you might be sick of getting asked this, but what is it going to take for us fans to get an Amon Amarth song in the new Thor film?
[laughs] Well, that’s not up to us at all.
But how can we help? You’d think it’d be such a perfect kind of combo.
Honestly, I don’t really know how that works. I think it usually has to do with which publisher you have. Like, if you’re on…I don’t know who produces the Thor movies. If it’s Warner Music, then it’s whatever they have for a music side that they push for.
Fair enough. Is there a song, though, off Deceiver Of The Gods that you’d want to see used in a battle scene?
To be honest, I haven’t seen the Thor movies, if there’s one or many, I don’t know. I’m not a huge fan myself. But it would always, of course, be an honor to have any of our music on any good movie.
Especially since I know the band writes music with the idea of telling a bigger cinematic story.
That’s usually how we try to write the songs. Like “If it was a movie, what does it sound like or what would happen?”