Berserkers Arise! Amon Amarth has returned in 2019 with Berserker — their triumphant follow-up to 2016’s Jomsviking. Just prior to the launch of their album, and Metal Wani’s Jake Patton had the opportunity to talk with Amon Amarth drummer Jocke Wallgren to canvass all the hot topics around the album, how his integration into a longstanding band has been going, and much more.
Berserkers were the fiercest warriors of Norse legend, a meta-human role that was bestowed upon only the elite by the Norse gods. It, therefore, seems like a fitting title to name one of the bands strongest releases of their career. Wallgren was asked why the band picked the title ‘Berserker’ and what the title means for them, with which he offers “We wanted to do a brutal album, not in the fast, what do you say that fast aggressive way, but in a heavy way pretty much since the band is getting more and more into heavy metal than just quick and fast death metal. So we wanted to mirror the berserker aura to the album, the and that’s pretty much what we did I think”.
Berserker sees a variation in the bands longstanding sound, incorporating many elements that have not been seen predominant in Amon Amarth tracks before. These stylistic differences have seen Amon Amarth’s sound grow in one of the largest ways in their illustrious career thus far. When asked if these changes were conscious or deliberate when heading into the writing process, Wallgren alludes to it not being something that was consciously decided by the band and affirms that as a group they just enjoy writing music that is rooted in the genres that they like, and music that they enjoy performing.
While not a concept album, Berserker touches on previous readings of teachings from Norse Mythology, including pivotal moments or events or characters that were considered significant such as the Battle of Stamford Bridge and Ironside, after Bjorn Ironside – the first king of Sweden. This diverse collection of tales seems like an intriguing combination, so when asked about how the band determines what themes or topics they include in their songs, Wallgren responds again that the music is borne out of the band playing music that they are interested in before adding “the lyrics come from Johan’s (Hegg) big interest in Viking history, and history in general” and indicating that any questions relating to lyrics would be a better suited for him. The discussion then covers the separated recording process that the band went through on Bettering and the intricacies in bringing an album together via email.
Being the newest member in a band leading into an album recording can often be a daunting thing, particularly when you are unsure what sort of a contribution you are able to provide. This was something that Wallgren was lucky enough not to experience due to the open arms that Amon Amarth embraced him with. When discussing his contributions to Berserker, Wallgren states “They were very open about my input. They said from the beginning we don’t… Let’s say Olavi (Mikkonen) speaks to me and then he says “everyone is one-fifth of the band, so everyone has equally as much to say. Even though you are the new guy you still have your share of opinions” — and that’s very nice because that also reflected my input in the songs”.
To date, two film clips have been released for the tracks ‘Crack The Sky’ and ‘The Ravens Flight’ from Berserker, clips that are linked by a clear directional narrative. When asked about what the connection between the film clips is and what is next in the works, Wallgren states “I’m not going to tell you what the next song is”, before providing some discussion around the themes present in the film clips.
Learning the music of a renowned touring act is always a difficult task, particularly when there is 20 years worth of history to cover – and this wasn’t a consideration lost on Wallgren when he joined the band. When asked what the hardest song to perform or learn following his introduction as a member of the band, Wallgren responds “Victorious March. Because I know how to play the song, I know what the song sounds like, but I can never learn that song!”
The interview wraps up discussing the bands touring plans for the remainder of 2019, and what the future holds for Amon Amarth beyond this year.