Johan Hegg's Guide To Vikings

They’ve infiltrated our world in metal, they’ve been the subject of many movies and they are set as the benchmarks for the most fearsome warriors of all time. But what exactly do we really know about Vikings? If anyone was going to help us then it would be Amon Amarth frontman Johan Hegg, a man so passionate about his Norwegian culture that he’s made a career from incorporating Norse mythology into his band’s death metal stylings. So, go on then Johan, what do we need to know?

**Don’t Believe Every Thing You Hear
**“Vikings didn’t have helmets with big horns! That’s not true, but the image of Vikings are changing. There were a bunch of movies that portrayed Vikings as these murderous warriors, where the opposite is probably more true. They were warriors of course, but that is true of all cultures at that time. It just happens that they were much better at it than anyone else.”

**The Mythology Is Intriguing
**“Well the mythology of the Norse gods, the relationship between Thor and Odin and how that relates to human beings, is very intriguing and throws up a lot of philosophical questions. We, as a human society, need rules. And if you look deep enough into the stories in this mythology you can see moral codes we can implement for honesty, loyalty all these kind of traits that we as a human society can lock hold of to function.”

The Norse god Odin, ruler of Asgard

The Norse god Odin, ruler of Asgard

Acknowledge Their Achievements
“Vikings have accomplished amazing things as a people. They settled in North America four hundred years before Columbus even made it over, they traded with the Chinese and travelled the rivers of Russia, they travelled almost anywhere they could and made an impact, not just in a violent way either, but with diplomacy and development. They were very open minded and able to adapt to other cultures.”

Explore The Sagas
“The Sagas were basically the first novels, the first thing that could be comparable to the novels that we have today. They are fantastic family sagas with history, defeat, and love – all the elements that you would love to have from a good novel.”

You Can Still Be A Viking In The Modern World
“We as a band still feel like we are modern day Vikings; we travel the world and share ourselves with people and we drink and start parties and have a good time. That spirit is still with us, so, yes, there is a connection to the modern world. For us anyway.”

Viking ships invading England, circa 900AD

Viking ships invading England, circa 900AD

Don’t Take It Literally
“Most religions should not, well… all religions should not be taken literally. There is no man in the sky, it’s just nonsense. I’m sure you can take something from every religious book, but the Bible is much more violent than any Norse mythology! I think to get inspired by mythology is great, it does inspire me, but I think you’re on a dangerous and treacherous path if you start to treat it as a belief and an absolute truth.”

There’s Plenty Of Reading Material
“There are many books about Norse mythology, some obviously are better than others. I think the best way to get into it is to read up on it, see whatever it is that inspires you. I mean if you read The Poetic Edda, which is often referred to as the Norse Bible or the Viking Bible, then a lot of stuff in there is very interesting. It might be a bit tough as a first read as it’s all in prose, but it is definitely worth a read if you are interested in the mythology.”

**They’ve Add A New Dimension To Metal
**“If I didn’t write about the Vikings then I don’t know what I’d write about. It’s been such a huge part of my life since I was a kid, and if I didn’t have that then who knows? It has been the a huge part of Amon Amarth, because when you think of us you think of the stories and the imagery, but I do think there is more to us than just the Vikings lyrics and stories that people enjoy. The music is the most important thing, and all of the individual facets put together is what make us a unique band I think.”

Johan Hegg is also a part of Viking-wear store Grimfrost specialising in historical items and “Viking-inspired contemporary items”. Check out their online store here.

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.