Amon Amarth - Biography
The Swedish metal band Amon Amarth first formed in 1988 as a three-piece grindcore group known ominously as Scum, and later evolved into a melodic death metal act. Since becoming Amon Amarth in 1992—the name taken from a fictional volcano alternately known as Mount Doom in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth Lord of the Rings universe—the band has released seven full-length studio albums, an EP and a DVD, along with seven music videos. In 2008, Amon Amarth’s CD/DVD Twilight of the Thundergod (Metal Blade), hit #6 on Billboard’s Top Independent Albums. The band has drawn comparisons over the years to At The Gates, Entombed and Iron Maiden (if caught in a lawn mower).
Hailing from Tumba, Sweden, and heavily influenced by Norse mythology and Viking lore, the band in its earliest iteration was made up of vocalist Paul “Themgoroth” Mäkitalo (later of Dark Funeral), guitarist Olavi Mikkonen and bassist Ted Lundström, and it released a single demo under the moniker. When Johan Hegg joined replaced Mäkitalo in 1991—fitting the image with his leather bracers covering his forearms, a long Norse-like beard and a drinking horn on his belt—the band shifted from a loud grindcore act into a melodic death metal band. Hegg became the primary lyricist of the renamed Amon Amarth, penning songs (often unintelligibly) about pre-Christian Scandinavian mythology, the nine worlds of Norse cosmology, banishment, Dungeons and Dragons, the noises of battle, epic havoc and the screams of imminent death.
The band—now a quintet featuring Hegg, Mikkonen, Lundström, guitarist Anders Hansson and drummer “Evil” Niko Kaukinen—recorded its first demo as Amon Amarth, Thor Arise, in 1993, but the production was too poor for official release. This was followed by a second demo a year later, entitled The Arrival of the Fimbul Winter. In 1996, with the emblematic Hegg at the helm, Amon Amarth signed to Singapore-based Pulverized Records and released a five-track mini-CD called Sorrow Throughout the Nine Worlds, which sold more than 6,000 copies.
Kaukinen left the group and was replaced by Martin Lopez (later of Opeth) as it made its first big splash both in Europe and internationally. The group signed with Metal Blade Records in 1997, and released Once Sent From the Golden Hall (1998) to much acclaim. Hegg’s deep-gurgling, barbaric vocals and the excellent musicianship—notably on tracks like “The Dragon’s Flight Across the Waves” and the title track—solidified the band’s place in the burgeoning death metal scene. On the album’s strength, Amon Amarth toured the first of many tours in Canada and the United States.
The following year, Johan Söderberg replaced Hansson on guitar for their sophomore release on Metal Blade, The Avenger (1999). The digipak version contained a re-recorded version of the title track from the first demo, Thor Arise. The record was produced by Peter Tägtgren, who is the guitarist/vocalist from the Swedish death metal band, Hypocrisy.
For the first time in its decade-long existence, Amon Amarth didn’t undergo any line-up changes for its third LP on Metal Blade, the 10-track The Crusher (2001). Using a small balance of slower numbers to spell the ferocious Scandinavian metal assaults, songs like “Bastards of a Lying Breed,” the ratio of egregious indecipherable death metal to super-egregious indecipherable death metal was marked. By the second track, “Masters of War,” the usual engine-like revving returned, with Hegg blood-curdlingly jumping in the way of the forceful instrumentation with his rumbling vox. The following year’s Versus the World (2003 Metal Blade) was another ear-shattering release, this time with 21 tracks, highlighted by songs like “Thousand Years of Oppression” and the agitated, escalating lightning bolt, “Under the Greyclouded Winter Sky.”
Amon Amarth’s fifth studio album, Fate of Norns (2004 Metal Blade) drew comparisons to The Crusher, in its epic scale presentations of ruination set to loud crushing amplifuge. True to its roots, the songs are about Vikings and Norse lore, songs like the title track, which adds unusually poignant lyrics about losing a child, and “Valkyries Ride,” with Hegg’s sore-throat guttural delivery speaking on behalf of the album cover’s hellfire.
After more global touring and gracing the covers of dozens of different metal magazines, Amon Amarth released a 15-track album called With Oden On Our Side (2006 Metal Blade), followed by 2008’s Twilight of the Thunder God (Metal Blade). The latter featured an eight-page comic strip based on Norse mythology, as well as cameo appearances by Lars Göran Petrov of Entombed, Finnish guitarist Roope Latvala of Children of Bodom, as well as the cello metal band, Apocolyptica.
The band has since toured with Slayer, Ensiferum and Belphegor, as far away as Australia and New Zealand. In 2009, Amon Amarth played its first ever show in India, at the Deccan Rock Festival in Bangalore. 2010 saw the release of the live record Hyms To The Rising Sun. In 2011the band released Surtur Rising.