No highways, lots of fields, and wide forests – the North-Eastern part of Germany is probably not the first place you would think of while looking for a nice spot to spend the weekend, but if you are able to watch the warriors of Amon Amarth in their (more or less) natural habitat, it’s definitely worth a journey. In February 2016, Sweden’s melodic death metal veterans shot a music video for the song “At Dawn’s First Light” from their upcoming album ‘Jomsviking’ in the outdoor museum Ukranenland. And of course, we couldn’t say ‘no’ to the opportunity to watch the filming of the epic music video.
I expected to see some blood and drama as I sneaked through the entrance of the village at 10 A.M., but all I spotted were a few Viking women and children enjoying breakfast, while smoke climbed up from a nearby forest. Apparently the battle was already raging, but only for the Polish actors and the famous film crew Grupa13, who already produced several pieces of art for Amon Amarth and Behemoth. The band itself was still in casual clothes and watching the fight from afar, while nobody seemed to have a clear time schedule. The band’s tour manager destroyed the rock n’ roll illusion in just one sentence: “Everybody expects lots of action and parties during a video shoot, but in the end, we spend most of the time sitting around and waiting.”
But who would complain about a beautiful sunny morning with these metal heroes? And while some of us started a little discovery tour through the small Ukranenland houses, the band gathered at the food stand “Grillhalla” to enjoy their first Jack- and-coke in honour of Lemmy. This wasn’t a bad idea actually, since the temperature still wasn’t climbing over 4°C, but Swedes never seem to freeze (or get enough of Jacky-Coke, since the first bottle was empty within minutes).
Around 12 AM, the brave warriors finally returned to the village sans any missing arms and legs (yet), and then it was time to “kill” the band – but slowly. The concept of the clip was easy but exciting, showing Amon Amarth get more and more wounded while two opposing Viking forces fight an atrocious battle around them. Luckily, all the warriors were trained professionals in show-fighting with swords and spears, and therefore, the band needed only a make-up artist and not an ambulance. One after one, the Scandinavians disappeared in the make-up tent and crawled out with horribly realistic cuts and wounds in their faces. The band’s search for a drummer was not yet complete, so the band shot the video as a 4-piece act, but this made the situation a little easier for them too, since no one had to carry a heavy drum-set around.
The shoot itself took place on a square in the middle of the village, where a beautiful campfire spot and an old well were surrounded by ancient houses. There was enough space to place the band in the middle, but as the first Viking warriors ran across the square to cross their swords and shields, the fact that the guys didn’t even blink an eye was impressive. Without hesitation or mercy, the actors jumped at each other, and the fog machine made the scenery even more epic. Amon Amarth were professionals and didn’t need much time to slide into their roles as cruel berserkers, so as soon as the playback music set in, they shredded through the short part. Johan Hegg instantly became the camera’s best friend by raging, suffering, and putting on his most psychotic look during the performance. Thus, it was only a few minutes until the scene was in the can and the Polish actors were able to catch their breath. Before we knew it, it was time to chase the poor Amarth-ers to the makeup tent again, to watch them get destroyed even more.
Suddenly the sound of a chainsaw made us wonder how “realistic” Grupa13 wanted their victims to look, but it was only Johan Söderberg’s guitar that got sacrificed to the Nordic Gods. While some of us still stared at the tortured instrument, Olavi Mikkonen explained that those were dummy guitars exclusively bought for the shoot. Nevertheless, it hurt to watch the director’s assistants drill holes into the guitar body to fix arrows inside – and even an axe! But life is cruel in the Viking era, and therefore, no one has the time to mourn. Besides, we preferred watching the rest of the massacre: several arrows got stuck into small plates of wood, making it easier to tape them onto the arms, legs and chests of the musicians, who not only enjoyed pretending that they were wounded, but also struck their best poses, yelling, “Shit, I’m dying – but first, let me take a selfie!”.
It was getting more and more dangerous to hurry back to the set since the fixed arrows stuck out in every direction and the band members needed to be careful to not stab each other. As everyone jumped into place, the technicians created the perfect atmosphere with fog and wind machines, and when the music started to play again, the battle grew more and more violent. Weapons met shields, with Johan Hegg even swinging a blood-soaked axe. “When I fly home tomorrow, I should walk into the plane like this!” he joked, while half of his face looks like a battlefield.
But things were about to get even nastier, as every band member starred in his own little fight scene. Hegg was the first to destroy his enemy as he worked out a small choreography with his Viking partner, who was about to enter Valhalla for good. The acting of the final kill was especially amusing to watch, not only because Hegg swung his axe almost into the camera, but particularly because the makeup artist was once again about to do a brilliant job. With a syringe filled with fake blood, he was standing right behind the camera and shooting a massive flood into Johan’s face in the second as the frontman hit his invisible enemy. The Swede didn’t mind all the blood – as long as it wasn’t his – smiling and commenting “Ah, tastes like strawberry.”
Then it was time to make the guitars suffer again. Söderberg fought an opponent with his instrument in his solo scene, but of course, such moments were not easy to capture on camera; the guitar was supposed to break in half, as it got struck by the weapon and everyone took cover. But in the moment of truth, nothing happened. The guitar stayed intact. Of course, this meant that all the preparation needed to be done a second time and with even more violence. The actor, Igor Górewicz, slammed his weapon into the guitar – this time with success – and the instrument split in half. “I forgot to press the record-button”, the cameraman laughed, but in the end, everything worked out the way it should have.
Olavi Mikkonen received the most dangerous job though, since he still had an axe sticking in his guitar and no one knew if it would or wouldn’t fly into the next best head as soon as he moved it. At least this gave us a valid reason to sneak into the sweet little houses and take cover, but it smelled funny in there and the various skins don’t really invite you to spend the night on them. So I was only glad to hear that Mikkonen finished his fight scene successfully.
Fredrik Andersson as the last victim had to hurry though, since the sun was about to disappear on the horizon and it was turning terribly cold. Some of the warriors gather around the small campfire, and one of them had severely injured his hand during the last fight, but just shrugged it off. Andersson’s bass met his maker as well, but in the end, all the destroyed instruments would hopefully find a new and loving home in a prize draw for the fans.
It was 6 P.M. and the temperature almost reached freezing point as the shoot for “At Dawn’s First Light” officially wrapped up. The Director, band and actors seemed to be happy, and everyone involved survived the cruel massacre, thank Odin. And as I started my journey back home, it seemed like my car had turned into a Viking ship and I had grown a massive beard. Well, that’s what happens when you spend the day with Amon Amarth!
Check out our Photo gallery of the video shoot, here!