The Great Heathen Army…. You’d expect one, yes? After thirty years, you would expect Amon Amarth to have amassed a great, big, dirty, loud army. iN 2022, it is so; both figuratively and literally. And subsequently, since their debut on the world stage, the ever increasing degree of fans claiming themselves as Viking is groan inducing. I was intrigued though – what has kept this style in vogue for three decades? Was it momentum, just these humble Swedish natives churning and chugging away, was it drinking horns?! Or was it destiny? It was all of the above. Sentinel Daily caught up with Guitarist, Olavi Mikkonen recently to jot down his thoughts on the bands legacy, working with Andy Sneap and of course that zazzy new weapon in the arsenal… The Great Heathen Army.

Amon Amarth are dropping their eleventeenth album next month – there is a bigger question here. The band are looking down the barrel of thirty years? “It is crazy, and the funny thing is, we haven’t really talked about it. No one has mentioned it is the band’s 30th anniversary this year” [Laughs].

We’ll get to the album in a minute, however I want to touch on this small detail of the band’s last thirty years… What were your anticipations when starting out in the band and do those same objectives still apply today? “When we were starting out, we just thought it would be fun to just get a gig at the local pub. And the thought of releasing an album was crazy. None of us anticipated we would be doing this thirty years later. As a band, we didn’t really become a big band from the first – it was always small steps. For where we are today, it feels kind of natural and as for the momentum and changes, we didn’t notice them as the steps were so small; obviously when we started out, we were playing small youth centres with like thirty people and now we can fill arenas. Yes, there is a big gap in between, but for us doing this for thirty years, yes, we are surprised and it is something that none of us could have dreamed about. At the same time though, it has been developing naturally”. I do like this perspective, that Amon Amarth had truly evolved with little resistance.

Seeing as that this was such an organic evolution – when you think in terms of the band’s legacy, what is important to you personally about this band and what it represents? “I am happy if people continue to listen to our songs. I wouldn’t dare compare that to my hopes but I think that it is very cool that we have songs that people will remember”. Definitely living in that ‘one day at a time’ mentality Olavi…

What can fans expect from this latest album? “I hope that the fans, at least, know that we have delivered an album that is something that we hope they are not disappointed with. We did our best. This time around, we settled with nine songs and we tried to make those nine songs as great as possible. The album has great diversity. There is a lot of traditional Amon Amarth in there, the heavy, the brutal – and we also have some surprises too. Avenues we haven’t really taken in the past. We were trying out some things, things that aren’t typical Amon Amarth, so there may be some eyebrow raising”.

Are you accustomed to taking risks with the material? And what challenges would you typically encounter stepping into any uncharted territory? “These aren’t big gaps, the same as our growth – little steps. Though, there have been a lot of times where we have thought to ourselves ‘ooooh, I don’t know, this might be a bit too much’; like, Raise Your Horns, from Jomsviking for example. We thought it wouldn’t be treated like our usual songs – turns out the fans loved it, especially when we play it live. This time around we have gone all in – didn’t second guess ourselves, we just want to enjoy ourselves. And so, we have a similar song, that could possibly be considered over the top – I mean, we having a fucking goat in the song [Laughs] but we just wanted to have fun with this album”.

Working again with Andy Sneap on this album, tells us about this experience and in general, what does Andy bring to the material of Amon Amarth? “Working with Andy is pretty awesome to be honest, he is such a relaxed guy and also since he is such a great musician himself, he can easily point out things we are doing wrong. He adds more than people actually think, not with the riffs but more specifically, he can help out with different harmonies, how to add more dynamics, replacing traditional guitar sounds – like I’m really terrible when it comes to effects, I do know what I want though and I can tell Andy in words and he can just show me – it’s crazy. Andy is just a great guy all round and working with him is always fantastic. If I could work with Andy again, yes. Andy is a very busy man these days, but I’d love it”.

Overall the success of this album; what will it be underpinned by? &”We’ll definitely look back on it, and we’ve done our best with the album – if the fans love it as much as we do; and want to come see it being played live, that will be a success all round because we love what we do, we love playing live for the fans”.

The band’s last tour was derailed by the plague, so what are plans to promote the new album? “So, we are going to hit Europe first and we’re doing that together with Machine Head. A nice strong billing, both bands doing full sets. It’s a nice treat, a good night of metal. After that a North American tour with Carcass and Cattle Decapitation. A nice little package. There is nothing written down yet but I do think that Australia is on the cards for 2023. We did have plans, though they were derailed as you say”.

Taking it one day at a time then? “Yes”[Laughs].

The Great Heathen Army is out on August 5th.