Amon Amarth have recently released their new album, Fate of Norns, and a quality one it is at that. Having recently become a fan and on the way to owning their complete back-catalogue, I was very pleased when I was offered the opportunity to ask the band a few questions, which were graciously answered by the band’s drummer, Fredrik Andersson…
GRTR!: Hi, guys. Congratulations for a great new album. Give us a description of the recording process for ‘Fate of Norns’, please. What, if any, difficulties did you encounter when entering the studio?
Fredrik: The biggest problem was that we had the pre-listening session scheduled only three weeks in on the recording, that was a little bit too soon but due to different reasons the only time we could have it. It was stressful to finish guitars and vocals, not to say to do some kind of mixing already after three weeks. We had to put priority on those songs we would show and wait with the rest. Other than that there were no problems more than the usual ones that always are when you record.
GRTR!: How long did you work on the new album before its release? Have you already got some new tracks ready for the next release?
Fredrik: We actually only worked on the album, effectively, for 4 months. We had some more ideas that weren’t finished yet when we entered the studio, but we will continue work on them and probably it’ll be on the next album instead.
GRTR!: What was your inspiration for the new album?
Fredrik: I don’t think that there is one singled out inspiration source. As always, inspiration comes from different things. It can be other music, films, books or just jamming together in the practice room.
GRTR!: The production on ‘Fate of Norns’ is, in my opinion, top quality. Can you tell us about the recording process and the person responsible for the production?
Fredrik: Well that’s great to hear because it was one of our goals to make the best production we’ve ever done. And I think we succeeded with that! Responsible for the production is Berno, Johan S and the rest of the band.
GRTR!: How do you see you have changed since you first released ‘Sorrow throughout the Nine Worlds’ and ‘Once Sent from the Golden Hall’?
Fredrik: I guess we have matured and developed both as musicians and songwriters. I think also we have come to a position where we feel we don’t have to "prove" anything with our music, we simply make the music we want to.
GRTR!: Are you at all tempted to start experimenting with your usual sound or do you want Amon Amarth fans to always find the ‘Viking Metal Guarantee’ stamped on your releases?
Fredrik: I don’t believe in bands that change their style and direction totally. Those bands have in my opinion started to release albums too soon, they haven’t finished deciding what style they want to play. A modest development is of course natural, but I think you should always be able to recognise the band even if you haven’t heard one song before.
GRTR!: Many people take comfort in the fact that they know what to expect from you guys, but isn’t there a danger of exhausting what you have to offer by not changing at all? How do you manage this particular problem that faces all bands?
Fredrik: It’s not a problem for us. We make the music we want, those who likes listen to it the others don’t. If they want to listen to some other music they can buy some other groups CD’s it’s not our meaning to include all different styles in our music, that’s why you have different styles/bands – cause the taste is different.
GRTR!: All of your albums have fantastic artwork, all seemingly based on a central theme, which is something that reflects the connection in your music. Who is the person behind the art?
Fredrik: I guess the mutual theme is fire. We actually tried to do the FON cover without fire, but felt something was missing and once the fire was there it felt right. The artist’s name is Tomas Ewerhard and he has done all our covers except "once sent..." and "sorrow..". We usually send him some lyrics and titles and an idea of what we want as a cover and he then give us one or a few drafts and then we go from there.
GRTR!: Many of your recent live performances have been at festivals. Are you doing a tour for the new album and what other festivals will you be playing at next year, other than at ‘Bang Your Head’?
Fredrik: We just finished a European tour we did now in October (that’s why the answers to this one are so late) but it was unfortunately only central Europe. Our record label in the US is working on getting us on a suitable tour over there but nothing is confirmed yet. Hopefully we’ll be able to do a full European tour also and I think Japan, South America and Mexico are in the works too. So far the festivals in Europe e that are confirmed are BYH, as you mentioned, Rock Hard open air, Party-San and Summerbreeze.
GRTR!: How did it feel to get such a great reaction from the fans at Wacken this year?
Fredrik: It was great! We didn’t know exactly what to expect, especially since the Wacken team moved our spot one week before from 19.45 to 2.00 in the morning. We didn’t know how many people would still be awake! But it was definitely a great experience and one of the best shows I’ve ever played.
GRTR!: What do you think the reason for your success has been? I have found few people who have listened to your music first time and have not found that bit of ‘Viking’ in themselves, regardless of where they come from!
Fredrik: I have no idea actually, and for us there is no particular change either. I think we have grown with each album and gained a few new fans throughout all the years and we are simply lucky that our fans keep liking our music and keep coming to shows! But I also think we’ve put a lot of hard work to come to this position we are in today. We have toured, toured and toured and we’ve been fighting our way up.
GRTR!: Was it difficult to start out as a band in Sweden? From personal experience, I know that music and musical ability seem to be greatly appreciated in Sweden, but I’m not sure whether that applies to Death Metal bands.
Fredrik: It does. Back when I started to play, around 87-88 it was so much money pumped in all different kinds of cultural activities. Can you believe we actually got money to practice?! Not only did they pay our practice room, but we could also get money to buy new instruments and stuff! Unfortunately Sweden had an economical crisis in the beginning of the 90's and culture was one of the first to pay the price.
GRTR!: How did you get together as a band and what has been the most memorable period in the band’s history?
Fredrik: Amon Amarth is from the beginning friend-based. The founder is Olavi and all members except Martin Lopez were first friends in some way before they joined the band. For me the most memorable time was when we recorded "The avenger", it was simply one of the few times I actually enjoyed being in the studio. Normally it’s really hard work and a lot of sweat blood and tears, but the avenger session was just fun. The 1500+ Euro bill we had from alcohol might’ve been one of the reasons for that…
GRTR!: When you write music, what comes first – the lyrics (i.e., the concept) or the music?
Fredrik: Both, it’s always different. Sometimes we come up with a riff first, sometimes with a lyric line and sometimes just an idea of what could be a song.
GRTR!: What would be your favourite band to share a stage with? Perhaps you have already done this?
Fredrik: That’s hard to say. You never know how well you get along with a band before touring with them and it’s not always the band whose music you really like. Of course being on the same stage as Judas Priest was always something totally unimaginable, but now I’ve almost experienced that. (Well, Rob Halford at least) Those bands we get along best with are mostly Swedish, it’s something with the mentality and of course the language.
GRTR!: How does it feel being in the ‘charts’? Did you ever think such a thing would be possible for a Viking Death Metal band?
Fredrik: Never thought about it before really, and I have to say it didn’t feel anything really special. It feels more special to almost fill the Markthalle in Hamburg.
GRTR!: Further to this, do you think that there has been a comeback for Metal over the past 2-3 years? If so, why, in your opinion, is this the case?
Fredrik: Yes I do, I’ve felt that metal has grown and also got a lot more medial attention the last couple of years. I don’t know what would be the reason, other than maybe that people start to realise that metal fans still buy CD’s.
GRTR!: How successful was the 34.000 ton Metal Cruise? Would you consider doing something like this again?
Fredrik: I guess it was pretty successful since it was sold out weeks before it happened. Sure I would do it again, it was a lot of fun. I’ve been on these kind of events before and it has always been great fun.
GRTR!: Can I ask whose idea it was to introduce ‘beeps’ to the promo version of the new album? I would imagine this is an anti-piracy strategy, but they were somewhat distracting when I was trying to review the album and get into the whole ‘feeling’…
Fredrik: It was Metal Blade’s decision. The promo is only made to give reviewers and retailers an idea of what the album is like, it should be possible to review the music also with beeps. It’s a way to slow down the spreading of the album, not so much for free downloading – more to stop that it leaks out before it is released.
GRTR!: A message to all existing fans and those you will be undoubtedly conquering in the near future...
Fredrik: The fate of Norns awaits you all!
Interview © 2004