This is the epic tale behind Amon Amarth's new album
Amon Amarth have long been metal’s Viking storytellers, but their latest album is a whole new epic. Gather round, children, and let Uncle Johan explain all...
Easing into a brown leather chair in front of a fire, and opening a large book in front of him, Amon Amarth frontman Johan Hegg lets out a deep, beard-shaking laugh. “Let’s start at the beginning!” he quips.
The Swedish metallers have been singing about Norse mythology for years, but their new record, Jomsviking, is their first true concept album – and it’s based on an epic story written by Johan himself. His primary inspiration was the Jomsvikings, a fearsome clan of warriors from the 10th and 11th century who would accept anyone willing to swear allegiance to their cause.
“The Jomsvikings were a mercenary elite force,” explains Johan. “They had a legendary castle in what was probably northern Poland, and a bay with about 300 ships, so it was a massive fortification. It was a brotherhood, with very strict rules, and they were some of the fiercest and best warriors ever in the Viking community – it was like the Viking special forces!”
Johan’s love of Viking writings stretches right back to childhood, where he was surrounded by tales of fury and fire both at home and at school. “It started early for me,” he recalls, sipping on an ale in the cosy confines of The Craft Beer Co. pub in north London, while the wind blows fearsomely outside. “My older sister was very much into it. Then in school we read some sagas and legends in literature classes when I was about 10.”
Continuing Johan’s family connections with the tales, it was his wife who reintroduced him to the Jomsvikings a few years ago when she gave him a copy of the 13th-century Icelandic Jómsvíkinga Saga as a birthday gift, sparking a desire in him to explore the group in his own writings. The result is arguably the band’s most ambitious work to date – Jomsviking is a tale of hardship and doomed romance, following the life of a man who only enters the mercenary gang after his attempt to elope with a woman engaged to another goes awry.