It was a long way from being Scum – the original monicker shed by the band in 1992 – to becoming one of the most original, honest and straight-forward Swedish death metal bands ever.
During the first wave of Swedish death metal the band went largely unnoticed, even though three of the current band members – guitarist and main song writer Olavi Mikkonen, Ted Lundström on bass, and the blond giant Johan Hegg on vocals – already featured in their ranks in the late eighties. With the name change to AMON AMARTH the band developed its lyrical concept about the life and death of Vikings and Norse Mythology. The group dismissed its 1993 debut demo "Thor Arise" as too immature for release, yet two songs off its successor "The Arrival Of The Fimbul Winter", released a year later, became the foundation for the MCD "Sorrow Throughout The Nine Worlds".
AMON AMARTH were the only band that reached the desired success through a slight detour, in the shape of a release on an Asian label (Pulverised). With their unique brand of metal they soon became one of the most talked-about bands of the European underground. Around that time, the once flourishing death metal scene in their hometown of Stockholm – the band members all come from the residential suburb Tumba – had become but a shadow of its former self. Iconic bands like Entombed were trying to reinvent themselves through experiments like death'n'roll, while others had cowardly opted to call it a day. AMON AMARTH neither represented the city's old school sound, nor did they follow any modern trends. Their style was aggressive, yet always melodic. At the time Hegg's vocals may have been reminiscent of black metal due to their high pitch, but the only "satanic" song was, and is to this day, the old demo track "Risen From The Sea".
The Metal Blade label seized the chance to build up this new Swedish band with an incredible potential, resulting in a friendly business relationship which remains vital for both sides up until today. However, the line-up, which had stayed unchanged since the old Scum days, experienced a series of severe shake-ups: "Once Sent From The Golden Hall" was recorded in late 1997 without a second guitarist at Olavi's side, while the participation of Martin Lopez (who later moved on to Opeth) on drums only lasted for a short time. The recording of the debut album ended in a nightmare, as the production had to be moved from the once-reknowned Sunlight Studios to Peter Tägtgren's Abyss Studios. The pounding anthem "Victorious March" stood out on the album, even more so than the theme song "Amon Amarth", becoming an untouched live classic in the band's repertoire. After the recordings Johan Söderberg (guitar) and Fredrik Andersson joind the band, completing the still existing line-up.
The following records, "The Avenger" (1999) and "The Crusher" (2001), strengthened the band's ties to the Abyss Studio and allowed them to repeatedly take their "Metalwrath" to the New World (America), supporting established acts. The band very carefully polished its trademark style without any loss of heaviness whatsoever. On "The Crusher" they delivered the prototype for their brand of steamroller riffs with "Masters Of War", while the last songs on the album formed an interesting trilogy.
The road-tested five-piece landed a masterstroke with "Versus The World" only a year later, providing the band with headliner status and making them climb positions in the billings of many prestigious festivals. The album concentrated all of the band's strengths, enriching them with even more melody and dynamics. The following release, "Fate Of Norns", continued the band's ascension. AMON AMARTH's popularity reached levels usually reserved for far less extreme artists, save for very few exceptions. The band decided to thank their fans old and new in their very own way: The triple DVD-set "Wrath Of The Norsemen", released in 2006, offered value for money, and with the Viking deity Odin as their personal protector, "With Oden On Our Side" became the strongest and most varied album of their career. After using Berno Studios a few times, the band had finally arrived at Jens Bogren's Fascination Street Studios. The group's already triumphant shows were further enhanced by Viking battle action and a specially designed dragon ship. AMON AMARTH seemed to have reached their zenith.
In the spring of 2008, almost exactly two years after the last time they began recording, the band returned to Bogren's studio in Örebro to show there was still room for improvement with "Twilight Of The Thunder God". "Jens gave us new ideas and perspectives about songwriting and sound", explains Johan Hegg. AMON AMARTH's songs have become more varied than ever, incorporating the roots of death metal as well as showing openness towards different styles. Up to now, the Norse themes had provided the only connection with the traditional scene of their hometown. This time Johan sings a duet with L.G. Petrov, the only true Entombed singer, on the mid-tempo scorcher "Guardians Of Asgaard". The title track and "Where Is Your God?", the former an uptempo hymn, the latter probably the most brutal AMON AMARTH track of all time, seem like the best letter of recommendation the band could have needed for the "Unholy Alliance" tour, which will take Hegg and Co. through Europe alongside Slayer, Trivium and Mastodon later this year. Johan: "All of us have been huge fans of Slayer since the mid 80s, and to be able to tour with this legendary thrash band is a dream come true." "The Hero", on the other hand, continues to draw from the band's melodic potential. The well-dosed appearance of Apocalyptica's string prowess in "Live For The Kill" shouldn't put anyone off, since AMON AMARTH always retain their predominance, keeping the song together. The band's credo? "We have developed our sound without changing too much. We don't want to upset our fans." The only track that is epic in length as it is in content, "Embrace Of the Endless Ocean", completes the Twilight of the Thunder God.
AMON AMARTH refuse to stagnate musically as well as in their appearance: A comic serves as companion for the countdown to the release of "Twilight Of The Thunder God". Furthermore, the band has come up with a very special idea for their loyal German fans for around New Year's Eve 2008/2009. Under the title "Bloodshed Over Bochum" the band will play their first four albums in their entirety, in chronological order, on four successive evenings at the Zeche club. Valhall awaits!