We recently had the opportunity to catch up with guitarist Johan Söderberg of fantasy/Viking/Norse mythology-inspired melodic death metal band Amon Amarth. He talked about the latest album, Deceiver of the Gods, the writing process involved, being from Sweden, and more. Enjoy!
Congrats on your latest album, Deceiver of the Gods, first of all!
Söderberg: Thank you.
For American bands, we always hear what a different experience it is for them playing in Europe – the entire crowd knows all the words for instance. As a Swedish band, what do you think of the American audience and how different is it from Europe?
Söderberg: It was much more different in the past, but nowadays I would say it’s no big difference between Europe and here. They all sing along both here and Europe. I would say that we have much bigger shows in Europe though, with a much bigger production.
When you play in your hometown in Sweden, do you feel more “at home” compared to playing elsewhere? How is the reception?
Söderberg: Actually, we used to be not-so-recognized in Sweden, more so in other parts of Europe, like Germany. But nowadays it’s picked up in Sweden, which is good.
Check out the song “Deceiver of the Gods”
As a guitarist, how did you approach this latest record to make it sound different/best that you have produced?
Söderberg: First of all, we switched studios completely – for all the other records, we recorded in Sweden. For this one, we went to England and recorded for 6 weeks with Andy Sneap. That was a completely new experience for us. We also recorded in a completely different way, where everyone was playing along to the drums at the same time. In the past, we took certain parts – I would play one part for the guitar, Olavi would play another – but for this record, we played each guitar part through the whole song.
What was it like working with Andy Sneap as the producer for this record?
Söderberg: It was great. We had a good time there – we stayed at his studio which was in the countryside.
Is that kind of atmosphere better to put you in the frame of mind for recording?
Söderberg: Yeah, I like going away to record. I don’t want to record and go home every day, like a 9-to-5 job. I like being able to practice and work on ideas at whichever time of the day I want.
Vocalist Johan Hegg has mentioned that for this album, he wanted to let the music from the individual songs provide inspiration for the lyrics. What was it like for you actually writing the music? Do you have an idea of what the lyrics should be when you write the music?
Söderberg: It differs from song to song. Sometimes we come up with the music and Johan writes the lyrics according to it; sometimes he has lyrics already, and we read the lyrics and write music for it.
A lot of the lyrics seem very similar to the lines from traditional mythology, like the Poetic Edda and those writings. How much of those traditional tales form your lyrics?
Söderberg: Yeah, it’s very much from that. He reads many of those stories and transforms them into the song lyrics.
Who’s the real Norse mythology nerd in the band?
Söderberg: That would be our vocalist, Johan. The rest of us don’t really have a part in the lyrics. We may have ideas where we sit down to talk and say, “Hey, let’s make a song about *this*.” But he’s always the one who actually writes the lyrics.
Does Johan write in English right away or does he write in Swedish and then translate them?
Söderberg: He writes in English immediately.
That’s so interesting, considering how a lot of Swedish bands don’t typically do it that way. So, a lot of this recent album is reflecting Loki, the god of mischief in Norse mythology – he has a strong presence throughout the album, the title is inspired by him. Did you watch the latest Thor movie and what do you think of the portrayal of Loki and the massive Internet fame he (thanks to Tom Hiddleston) has amassed?
Söderberg: I watched the first one but not the most recent one. That’s all based on the cartoon story after all. It can seem strange when you compare it to the Norse version but it’s all the same story, they’re just different in how they look – the movie being more true to the cartoon character.
You featured Messiah Marcolin on the song “Hel” – the contrasting vocal styles worked together really well. You’ve also collaborated with other artists on previous records. If you could feature anyone in the world, or collaborate with anyone on your next record, who would it be?
Söderberg: Hmm… Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden.
Check out the song “Father of the Wolf”
Nice! I think you all have mentioned really wanting to open for Iron Maiden too.
Söderberg: Who doesn’t?!
So what is it about Sweden that makes such great metal?
Söderberg: I think it’s because it’s so dark and cold and boring all the time. (laughs) So we have to make music to do something. But the Summers are beautiful.
Perfect for festivals, right? What’s the relationship like between you guy and the other great Swedish metal bands in the scene?
Söderberg: We have a great relationship with them – touring experiences with Entombed, for example, and we like to hang out with the In Flames guys when we see them.
What’s the least hardcore thing you like to do in your free time, that people wouldn’t expect from a metaller like yourself?
Söderberg: Play with my daughter. Ordinary family things.
Any words for your fans?
Söderberg: Thank you for your support for the album and the tour. It’s going to be a fucking amazing time. It’s a sold-out show tonight and we could not have done it without you.