November 12, 2018 Amon Amarth – The Pursuit of Vikings: 25 Years in the Eye of the Storm (Documentary Review)
Swedish Melodic Death Metal leaders Amon Amarth have been around for some time now. So, in coordination with the release of their upcoming live album, The Pursuit of Vikings: Live at Summer Breeze, they will also be putting out a new retrospective documentary on Friday, November 16, 2018, entitled The Pursuit of Vikings: 25 Years in the Eye of the Storm. Out through the band’s long time label Metal Blade Records, it promises to cover their history from both the band’s perspective, and from the view of their fans. On top of the Documentary, there are also two of their sets from the 2017 Summer Breeze festival in Dinkelsbühl, Germany. Altogether, it packs up about four and a half hours’ worth of content.
Amon Amarth fans should be well pleased, but it also says it will offer a detailed and riveting introduction to the band for newcomers. One should hope so for over four hours of content. That in mind, will they stick around for the band afterwards? Or is it preaching towards its Viking choir?
Well, the production is rather nice. There are a few talking heads segments, but they are on location. Sometimes it is at the studio or their homes. Other times it is from their car as they point out where they worked during the day, or in their office as they show their first gig poster. The Pursuit of Vikings: 25 Years in the Eye of the Storm does not just edit in photos and clippings into the footage, but presents the actual, physical specimens too. It makes for a nice touch, and presents some surprises – even to the band members (“Agent Steel? I didn’t know I was into them!”- Olavi Mikkonen).
Otherwise it starts off as a tale of humble origins – a group of guys bonding over a mutual interest in booze, Metal and Norse mythology. In a way they began as they meant to go on. Though it does not present their career as being smooth sailing all the way. It describes the trouble they went through in establishing their own identity, as well as trouble-by-association with the Viking imagery. Some got into it to illustrate their far-right ideology. Vocalist Johan Hegg got into it via Peter Madsen’s Valhalla comics and thought it looked cool. So, it goes on to relate how the band managed to maintain their Viking theme while disassociating themselves from the far-right. Something they look to have succeeded in, as the fans interviews talk to people of all colors and backgrounds. Even celebrity chefs and bankers.
Though it is not just about the musical direction, production, image, etc. The film is peppered with little extras to spice things up, be it sets from their early shows to Summer Breeze, or a chat with the head of Underberg AG. For example, the band would put Viking re-enactors on stage during their concert, almost like a live theater version of a concept album. The film shows them in action, but it also interviews them about how closely they replicate the Vikings’ style. It feels a little random, but it shows the band’s passion for the culture. Some of them even got into it through Amon Amarth. Hegg and company do discuss it more in-depth as a musical theme. Though it is possible some would prefer the musical angle to The Pursuit of Vikings than going through a literal Viking pursuit.
Overall, the Documentary does a good job of covering the band’s history, interests, and how they work. Though it could have been more in-depth in places, as it breezes over their line-up changes over the years. Nonetheless, it does cover other topics in depth, often headed by Hegg himself. The film talks to a wide range of people about a wide range of topics, and with clean, clear production throughout. The Pursuit of Vikings is likely already on fans’ wish lists, but it also succeeds in its aim to be a good primer for newbies. Metalheads, or even those just Metal-curious, would do well to give it a try. Thus, for these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives The Pursuit of Vikings: 25 Years in the Eye of the Storm 4 out of 5 stars.