Interview: Amon Amarth ‘almost split up’

In recent years Amon Amarth have found themselves, to put it very mildly, on something of an upswing. Their stock has risen to stellar heights on the back of three strong albums in the last five years, culminating with their latest effort, ‘Surtur Rising’.

We caught up with guitarist Olavi Mikkonen backstage at their London gig in support of Children of Bodom, where he spoke about the new album and revealed how the band called it quits before recording ‘Versus The World’.


AA: ‘Surtur Rising’ has received a rapturous response both fans and critics. After all the effort you put into recording a new album, it must feel great!

OM: I would be lying if I said it’s not nice, it’s nice to get a good reception after you’ve been working hard and we really put a lot of energy into our music and we always try to get the best out of it, so it’s like winning a football game or whatever. It’s still just reviews, you know? For us, music is what we like. If we are happy with it, that’s the main thing.


AA: Do you feel like it’s about time you started getting the recognition that 20 years’ hard work deserves?

OM: Yeah, kinda. We’ve been doing this for a while and with every album we took another step and got more and more fans. I guess the last couple of years we just really built our fan base. I don’t know what to say! It’s super nice! I don’t really think too much about it, I guess. Of course we are fortunate to be where we are today and we’re super happy that everything is going good, but it’s all about the hard work. Soon we’ll be celebrating our 20th anniversary and we’ve learnt a lot over the years. It might be a little bit of luck, and hopefully mostly not luck and a little bit of talent!!!


AA: Why do you think it took this long for the appreciation to come?
OM: Honestly, maybe we were not so good! I don’t know, musically we kind of do the same thing today that we did a long time ago, but maybe we write better songs now. But the style is the same. Maybe it’s just that the time is right, I guess it’s many factors. But ultimately it’s the hard work. We’re not afraid to be the opening act and step back a bit instead of being the headliners every time. We always try and do support tours to reach a different audience. So I think it’s a combination of good music, a cool image with the Viking thing, interesting lyrics, a great frontman, we do good live shows, we’re friends in the band and like to create music together, and lots of hard work.


AA: Is that also why you’ve managed to stay together for nearly two decades?
OM: All the members in the band are involved in not just the songwriting, but beyond playing music as well. We all share the same passion for this kind of music and we all share the meaning of hard work. We have the same goal, and I feel fortunate to have met these guys who share the same dreams that I do and together we’re trying to achieve as much as possible.



AA: There must have been tensions  at some point though. Did you ever think of packing it all in?
OM: Definitely. Before we recorded ‘Versus The World’ we were very tired and nothing was really happening and we said ‘this will be our last album’. Then we started getting recognition and suddenly it was like a whole new world opened up for us. At that point we made a pact that we will do Amon Amarth 100%. After that, we’ve found a lot of success.


AA: What went wrong at that point? Why were you so tired?
OM: We did lots of touring, but back then we had to get off the road and go straight into our jobs and rehearse in the evenings. Then we went to the US and the whole tour was really bad, we got ripped off and the following European tour was terrible as well so we thought it wasn’t worth it anymore. You can’t have things like a family if you don’t have any income and stuff like that. But then we made the pact and never looked back.


AA: What has changed for the band since then? To what do you attribute the recent success?
OM: After ‘Fate Of Norns’ we started to use Jens Bogren as a producer and he has really helped us arrange the songs and take out unnecessary parts and things like that. So it’s probably a combination of writing songs for many years, and getting new input from a new guy who really taught us to make songs more compact. That’s something we learnt from him. And it helps that we’ve now had Amon Amarth as our main job for about 5 years so there is so much more time to play guitar. I have never played as much guitar as I have in the last few years, so of course you get better.


AA: Is that why you stuck with Jens for three albums in a row?
OM: We were a little unsure about the third album but we had a meeting with him and talked about the new album and we said that we wanted to go for a little more brutal approach and go for a more epic touch and he totally agreed. So we felt like there was no reason for us to go anywhere else. The production is very clear, and that’s the way Jens produces, but at the same time he really managed to make it a little more brutal. After the meeting we all felt it would be cool to write some brutal songs so some of the sound came from that. The most brutal songs on the album are the ones we wrote first!


AA: I imagine another punishing touring schedule awaits now. Is that what you’ve planned out for the next few years?
OM: We will definitely do more headlining tours, and I would also like to do more support tours, so I’m pretty sure we’re going to tour for the next two years straight! Next summer we’ll have a 20th anniversary thing as well so there will be some very special festival shows. I’m gonna say anything about it yet, but it will be good!

About Abhijeet Ahluwalia

Abhijeet Ahluwalia – I’m a freelance journalist who goes back and forth between London and Bombay. A huge metalhead, but I have an eclectic taste, from reggae to punk. Oh, and Manchester United are the greatest team in the world. Follow me on Twitter or drop me a line via Email.

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