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Melodic Death Metal, Viking metal

Amon Amarth

Country: Sweden

One of the most respected and consistent forces in the melodic death metal scene, Sweden’s Amon Amarth emerged in the early ’90s with a sound that infused traditional scorched-earth Scandinavian death metal with Viking history and lore. They broke into the mainstream in 2008 with the release of their landmark seventh LP Twilight of the Thunder God, which charted both at home and abroad, paving the way for subsequent triumphs like Deceiver of the Gods (2013) and Berserker (2019). The Great Heathen Army followed in 2022.

The seeds for the group were sewn in 1988 under the moniker Scum, which featured vocalist Paul Mäkitalo (Dark Funeral), lead guitarist Olavi Mikkonen, bass player Petri Tarvainen, and rhythm guitarist Vesa Meriläinen. Four years later, a re-tooled lineup consisting of vocalist Johan Hegg, guitarists Mikkonen and Anders Hansson, bassist Ted Lundstrom, and drummer Niko Kaukinen began operating as Amon Amarth, taking their name from the Sindarin translation of Mount Doom, the cursed volcano in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings. In 1993, the quintet recorded their first demo Thor Arise, which went unreleased due to sound problems; a second demo, Arrival of the Fimbul Winter, followed in 1994, quickly selling out all 1,000 copies. Signing to the Singapore-based Pulverised label, Amon Amarth issued the EP Sorrow Throughout the Nine Worlds in the middle of 1996; soon after, Kaukinen exited and was replaced by drummer Martin Lopez for 1998’s full-length Once Sent from the Golden Hall. The LP, released on Metal Blade, helped establish the band as a force to be reckoned with in the death metal community. Hansson left shortly after the album’s release, making way for new guitarist Johan Söderberg and drummer Fredrik Andersson, who made their studio debuts on 1999’s Avenger — this would prove to be the strongest and most prolific iteration of the group, lasting well into the 2010s.

The punishing and aptly named Crusher arrived in 2001, followed in 2002 by the dark and melancholic Versus the World, the latter of which introduced a more measured, bottom-heavy style. 2004’s Fate of Norns continued in that vein, and was followed in 2006 by With Oden on Our Side, which was the band’s first album to enter the Billboard charts. 2008’s Twilight of the Thunder God became Amon Amarth’s most critically acclaimed and commercially successful outing to date, landing in the Top Ten of numerous year-end lists. In 2011, the group released their eighth studio album, Surtur Rising, followed by a world tour alongside metal luminaries Children of Bodom and Ensiferum, among others. Deceiver of the Gods, which featured a guest appearance by former Candlemass vocalist Messiah Marcolin, arrived in 2013. Two years later saw the departure of longtime drummer Fredrik Andersson. The band recruited session kit man Tobias Gustafsson for 2016’s Jomsviking, and tapped Jocke Wallgren as the official replacement shortly thereafter. Wallgren made his studio debut on Amon Amarth’s 11th long-player, 2019’s Berserker. In May 2021, the band issued a re-recorded version of the classic 2001 track “Masters of War” in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the release of The Crusher. In June 2022 they the band announced the August release of The Great Heathen Army with the music video “Get in the Ring,” written especially for AEW pro-wrestler Erick Redbeard — he also starred in it. The nine-track album was produced by Andy Sneap and showcased a renewed emphasis on crushing death metal.