Sweden’s Amon Amarth have been pillaging the world with their uniquely identifiable melodic death metal sound since 1992. After 2008’s “Twilight of the Thunder God” debuted at number 50 on the Billboard 200, Amon Amarth is ready to pillage the world once again with their eighth full-length studio album “Surtur Rising”, set to release on March 29th via Metal Blade Records. To refer to their sound as viking metal is to do them an injustice, as they have been able to successfully forge their own style from the bloodied iron of viking and Norse mythology for going on two decades.
On their latest ride they bring you Surtur, fire demon and ruler of Muspelheim (the fire lands), the oldest being in the nine worlds. He is fated to be the last being in the universe when he takes his sword Twilight and lights it in the Eternal Flame thus given the power to raze the nine worlds.
Metal Riot was able to sit down with Amon Amarth founding member and bassist Ted Lundström and talk about the upcoming album and tour. Check it out here.
J.D. Kleinhans: Hey, it’s Jeremy from Metal Riot. How you doin’ man?
Ted Lundström: Oh, I’m doin’ good man. Doing good.
JDK: Good. So, where you calling from?
JDK: Oh, you are? Damn, what time is it there?
TL: Oh, it’s ah… 9pm. So…
JDK: Wow. Long day?
TL: Yeah, very long day.
JDK: I bet. So, I gotta tell you man I’ve been a huge fan for, god, like a decade so forgive me if I get all gushy fan-boy on ya.
TL: Oh, no worries man.
JDK: I’ve been listening to your promo for the last two days, sounds fantastic.
TL: Thank you. Thank you man.
JDK: Yeah. So, you guys have stuck really close to your very identifiable melodic death sound. Lots of bands try to reach out and change in extreme ways but you guys have seemed to just really stick to your sound and try to perfect it without alienating your fan base. Is that right?
TL: Oh, yeah. That’s probably true. I mean we, I guess we found our style and we don’t really want to experiment too much with other stuff. I mean, some people call us boring ‘cause they say we do the same thing all the time. We’re aiming to do the thing we do just better each time and maybe add a little bit more for each album. But not go too far away from the original sound.
JDK: Yeah, it definitely shows.
JDK: Love the title for the new album. How’d that come about?
TL: Well, I guess when we started to prepare, when we were done for all the touring for “Twilight of the Thunder God” we sort of started to prepare for the new album and what kind of direction we would take and of course what kind of title we needed and cover, you know. For the first time ever probably we had a cover idea before the album was supposed to be at the record label. You know usually they’re on our back, you know “We need a cover. We need a cover.” So we started we thought like Surtur would be a great guy to base the album on. And we knew the artist we used for the last album cover, we knew he would do a great image with him. We decided to go with him on that and the title. He maybe not be the most famous character in Norse mythology but he’s quite an impressive and powerful guy, he’s a fire giant and fire has always been our element. So we decided to do an album by him.
JDK: Yeah, I love it because I loved the cover for “Twilight of the Thunder God”. I thought that was amazing. And then I saw this one and it truly captures your sound. And I think it’s awesome because I think heavy metal is one of the few genres where album art cover is actually still an art form.
TL: Yeah totally. I mean, we all grew up with it, you know with the vinyl and the cover was half the album.
JDK: Yup, exactly.
TL: Always listening to the album and looking at the cover and details and whatever. So, we tried to keep that even though today with the MP3s and stuff and iTunes you know you lose a little bit of that. But we still got to keep it as artistic as possible and I think the metal genre is the last and has the most art and we need to try and keep it as artistic as possible.
JDK: Yeah, definitely. For those people both new and old to Amon Amarth, that have yet to get a preview of “Surtur Rising”, what are they in store for? People that haven’t heard the album yet, what should they be prepared to hear?
TL: Oh, I guess, I mean we tried to make the new album a bit more aggressive than the last one. A bit more guitar, a bit more rock n’ roll, kind of, not rock n’ roll, but more metal sound through the whole production thing. And every time we do an album, the epic songs that come down right away. It’s a classic Amon Amarth album, just a bit more wide, you know, a bit more aggressive type songs, a bit even more epic songs. To make it a more dynamic album.
JDK: Yeah. That’s a perfect word, ‘cause that’s exactly what I was thinking because “A Beast Am I” is I think one of my favorites off this one. It’s just one of the most brutal songs I’ve heard you guys come up with and just the way it’s ends with a subdued melancholic atmosphere and then it leads into a symphonic “Doom Over Dead Man”.
TL: Yeah. I’m a bit surprised because like “A Beast Am I” is also one of my favorite songs of the album. Olavi wrote the main riff of that song and he showed it to me and we’d just started writing the album and I was just impressed by the sheer power and energy of that riff, you know. And then everything from that to the really almost ballad, epic songs. So I mean, I think there’s something in the album for everyone that is a fan of death metal.
JDK: What I also noticed on this album is that you guys seem to have a more organic, kind of analog sound that I haven’t heard from you guys in a while, but yet it stills retains that tight production level. Was that done on purpose?
TL: Yeah, pretty much on purpose actually. I mean, we have an idea about the sound of the album but also our producer Jens has a big say in the sound. And especially with the drums we used a lot of blurs in the drums to just get the natural sounding acoustics sound more because most death metal drums you tend to have too much clicking and too much confusing sounds. So, we tried to work towards getting a more old school, like classic metal sound but in a new sound, but still working with death metal music. And I think it sounds great in my opinion.
JDK: Yeah, I think it sounds fantastic. So, how do you guys typically approach your writing and recording process? Do you guys have a step-by-step procedure you guys have developed over the years? Or is it more kind of, you wing it or?
TL: Well I mean, we sort of changed a little bit during the years of playing. Nowadays when we write songs with computers and emails and stuff, it’s a bit different. You know, everyone can work at home and can work on an idea and then when everybody has stuff we meet up in the rehearsal room to sort of arrange songs and stuff and we try to rehearse as much as we can. But we can keep like a stop somewhere where we can’t really get any further. While back in the day when we couldn’t come in here any longer, you know we were just sitting in the rehearsal room and doing nothing, just trying and trying and trying and that was kind of annoying. Nowadays, we can just say “Alright, we can’t come up with anything more. You know, let’s everybody go home and think.” And then if we were to add something new, you know we can email ideas and stuff and then we can meet up again. So, the process of writing songs has changed a little bit, be more adjustable and I think exciting for us.
JDK: The U.S. tour you have coming up, it’s called “An Evening With Amon Amarth”. What was your thought behind that versus the usual traditional single set with an opening band or two?
TL: Well, I don’t know where it came from initially. I mean, we did a few years back “Bloodshed Over Bochum” shows which was four shows in Germany like four days in a row, we played the first four albums, that were supposed to be re-released later. So it was sort of a promotion thing for those. And it was kind of a cool idea, you know. We wanted to try it with the new album, for it to be like our show, fully. I don’t know what people are gonna think about it. I mean, everybody’s used to having a few opening bands too. So, I hope people won’t be disappointed by that fact, you know that they will only get one band. But on the other hand, we will do a great big show for the fans and I hope they will enjoy it.
JDK: I’ll be there your opening night in Chicago, so I’m looking forward to it.
TL: Yeah, we’re very thrilled and excited to do this thing. And I mean we’re working our asses off. ‘Cause it’s gonna be a tough night for us. I mean it’s great for the fans but for us it’s gonna be really tough to play that many songs and remember all the songs. It’s gonna be long sets. And it’s gonna be very fun I think.
JDK: That’s a crazy set. Two full sets? That’s unheard of.
TL: Yeah, I think it’s very challenging and we’re really looking forward to it.
JDK: You guys have been around for, god, like going on twenty years with not a line-up change since ’98. How do you guys keep it together like that in kind of a metal scene where that’s constantly changing?
TL: I think there’s probably many different factors. I guess, the main thing is that we’ve always been like a big family thing, you know it’s sort of democracy, everybody has their say. You know, we try to split moneywise everything alike, everybody gets their share. And we got equal money but also equal responsibilities. It’s been working very good for us. I mean it’s so much easier if you don’t have to fight about stuff other than the music. I mean, when you start fighting about things outside of music, it’s just gonna destroy everything. So…
JDK: Yeah. You see that happen a lot.
TL: It’s been very easy for us to do this. And I guess just the band, the five of us are like good people that work very well together. I don’t know.
JDK: You guys seem to have a fantastic relationship with Metal Blade because every single one of your albums has been on that label. How do you guys keep that going to keep it nurtured and thriving?
TL: We’ve been happy with Metal Blade for as long as we’ve been with them. They’ve been very supporting, even from the start when we weren’t a very big band, they were still pushing us a lot. The guys working at the label, both the European and U.S. office have been cool to us all the time. So, I mean for us it’s been natural to stay with them. I mean we’ve had other offers and stuff over the years but we’re really happy so far so it didn’t make sense for us to change anything.
JDK: So, “Twilight of the Thunder God” debuted at number 50 on the Billboard 200. And “Surtur Rising” is also one of the most anticipated metal albums of the year. You guys feeling any pressure from that or you guys just kind of going with it and living in the moment?
TL: Oh, of course there’s always a little. I mean, you want the new to beat the old one. But at the same time you know, the music industry changes all the time so you never know what’s gonna happen with each album. So, at the same time we feel the pressure you know that the album has to be better than the old one, it doesn’t really matter anyway because we’re happy with everything and I think our fans are gonna be happy with the album. So, it doesn’t matter the numbers we get. We’re cool with it.
JDK: Alright, how about a change of pace. Sound cool?
TL: Uh, yeah. Okay?
JDK: What’s the most embarrassing song you’ve had stuck in your head this past year?
TL: Oh… that’s probably some kid songs. If you have, like I have two kids, they watch these cartoons on TV all the time and these songs from these programs get stuck in your head all the time. So, you can be out walking or you can be at the rehearsal room and you have this stupid melody in your head that goes over and over and over again and you can’t get rid of it. It’s pretty annoying but I guess that’s the only annoying song I have stuck in my head right now.
JDK: Yeah, I got two nephews and they’re both obsessed with the Wonderpets.
TL: My guys haven’t even reached that age yet. They’re like 1 and 3 but still the TV is always on with kids programs of every kind.
JDK: So, who would win a fight: a ninja, a pirate, or a viking?
TL: Of course a viking. But the other guys probably would be pretty good but not good enough.
JDK: If you were a super hero, what would your super power be?
TL: Oh… that’s a good question actually. I haven’t really thought about that. (haha) I don’t know. I have no idea.
JDK: How about this one, any thoughts on growing out your beard like Johan’s?
TL: Oh, I wish I could but my beard, my growth of my beard is not very thick and fat. So, I guess I’d have to stay without the beard.
JDK: If you weren’t doing music, what would you be doing you think?
TL: I don’t know. Probably working some normal job. I used to be like a construction painter so that’s something probably I would do. And I would still be a heavy metal guy and go to shows and stuff. So I’d be on the other side.
JDK: Well, you got any last words for your fans out there?
TL: Well, I just hope to see all of you out there when we come back for “The Evening with Amon Amarth” and I hope you will enjoy the show because I know we will. So, cheers to that.