DVD REVIEW: AMON AMARTH – “The Pursuit Of Vikings: 25 Year In The Eye Of The Storm”
‘I have an idea, let’s start a band centered around Vikings and tour the world for 25 years’. It sounds like a drunken idea you’d have one night with your mates. But that’s exactly what Amon Amarth have done. ‘The Pursuit of Vikings: 25 Years In the Eye of the Storm’ documents the bands
The documentary begins with guitarist Olavi Mikkonen and vocalist Johan Hegg telling stories of the origins of Olavi’s first band Scum and how a drunken holiday to Greece would be the first time that Johan displayed his synonymous vocal abilities during a drunken rendition of Europe’s The Final Countdown. The perfect sing a long track and how this led to the ultimate formation of Amon Amarth (Mount Doom in Sindarin, the Tolkien invented language from Lord of The Rings)
Basing lyrics on cultural heritage and telling stories through those lyrics shouldn’t necessarily be a controversial topic. Choosing to sing about Vikings in 90’s Sweden was a bold move, bands such as Bathory had begun to use Viking inspired lyrics in their music, but it was still not a particularly popular topic at the time. Unfortunately, elements of Norse Mythology and Culture had been hijacked by the political right, so focussing the band’s lyrics around Norse History and Culture without being perceived to have links to any right-wing nonsense at the time was something that may not have been as accessible as it is today. The origins of the band focussing on the Viking image are well documented throughout the documentary, with Johan telling of how Viking stories and sagas have influenced him throughout his life, and nothing to do with politics or nationalism.
This Viking identity as the interviews with Brian Slagel CEO of Metal Blade and others show, alongside excellent musicianship and hard work is what would forge Amon Amarth into the band they are today.
The early days and formation of the band run through many of the challenges facing up and coming bands; the hope to make a full time living from music but also having to work day jobs to pay for tours, rehearsals etc. But as with achieving anything worthwhile, there are always bumps in the road and after the release of their debut album ‘Once Sent From The Golden Hall’ in 1998 and the follow up albums of ‘The Avenger’ (1999) and ‘The Crusher’ (2001) the band were at a crossroads, with support tours and also some semi-successful headline tours, the band were at a point asking themselves whether they should continue as a band or not.
Thankfully for a hell of a lot of metal fans they chose to continue and ‘Versus The World’ (2002) and ‘Fate Of Norns’ (2004) started to solidify the trademark Amon Amarth sound, retaining that early death metal heaviness but bringing in that melodic feeling, that really grips Amon Amarth’s sound. For any long-term fan of the band, listening to those early albums and then the more recent albums from ‘Fate Of Norns’ onwards, there is a distinct shift to a more wholesome melodic sound, while retaining that death metal edge.
There’s a fitting tribute also to Michael Trengert the former long-term label manager of Metal Blade who died in 2013 was the brains behind Amon Amarth having members of a Viking reenactment society on stage with them and also the Viking ship that accompanies them on stage today and who helped the band a lot in their progression. There’s also a nice interview with Andy Sneap, producer of the bands latest two albums ‘Deceiver of The Gods’ (2013) and ‘Jomsviking’ who shows a behind the scenes look at the recording process and production side of things.
Authenticity would be the most fitting way to describe Amon Amarth a deep connection with their own heritage but also to their fans, and the final part of the documentary highlights this with fans describing the individual significance of the band on their own lives. Also mentioning my own Amon Amarth claim to fame, being at Bloodstock Festival in 2009 where the Viking Row in the crowd first broke out. These personal insights show exactly what Metal music should be about: Good Music, Good Beer, Good company.
Accompanying the documentary is two live performances, both from the Summer Breeze festival in Germany from 2017 capturing the band at the height of their powers. ‘25 Years in the Eye of the Storm’ is a must watch for any fan of the band. It paints a detailed picture of a band from humble beginnings who have progressed throughout the years to one of the top and most innovative bands of the modern era.