The epic tale of Viking vengeance deserves a proper metal soundtrack – so we made one
It’s rare to get a movie as viscerally violent and intense as The Northman. The latest film from Robert Eggers tackles the old legend of Amleth, a story that would go on to inspire one of William Shakespeare’s most famous works, Hamlet, among countless other adaptations and takes on the Scandinavian tale. The tremendous and immersive look of Eggers’ previous films, The Witch and The Lighthouse, hasn’t gone anywhere; The Northman is a gorgeous looking film that explores the thin line of beast and man all while delivering fantastic Viking action.
In the film, Amleth (played by a very large and very shredded Alexander Skarsgård) has his destiny as future king stolen from him by his murderous uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang). Fjölnir kills Amleth’s father, slaughters his village, and makes off with his mother, the queen (Nicole Kidman). Amleth survives the massacre and swears to return one day to avenge his family. In the years that pass, the young prince grows into a hulking and vicious Viking berserker, one hellbent on getting the revenge he’s never forgotten.
The Northman already has a great soundtrack by Robin Carolan and Sebastian Gainsborough, but let’s face it: This movie is as metal as Hel itself and deserves a proper metal soundtrack to go with it. Since Hollywood is too cowardly to make it happen, the duty falls to us metalheads at Knotfest. We’ve assembled a tracklist of appropriate headbanging tunes from Scandinavia, Norway and elsewhere that deal with Vikings and revenge. Yes, Amon Amarth appears more than once.
Check out our unofficial soundtrack for The Northman below and share your own with us!
‘Vengeance Is My Name’ – Amon Amarth
Sweet and to the point. The movie is all about vengeance, so you’ll find that to be the most prominent theme in our metal soundtrack. This track off of Amon Amarth’s 2016’s album Jomsviking is very righteous and speaks to the perilous journey of vengeance that Amleth is fated to take. Its triumphant sound reflects Amleth’s confidence in his mission. And of course, there’s a lot of talk about swords.
‘Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion’ – Meshuggah
An essential Meshuggah track. The song title is an excerpt from a quote by philosopher, physician, organist, and 1952 Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer: “Revenge… is like a rolling stone, which, when a man hath forced up a hill, will return upon him with a greater violence, and break those bones whose sinews gave it motion.” The crushing might of this song is a perfect distillation of the weight of Amleth’s burden as well a reminder of the price he has yet to pay.
‘Payback’ – Slayer
Amleth’s time with the Viking berserkers would probably have included listening to a lot of Slayer had Slayer been around back then. I’m sure they had some sort of musical equivalent. This would probably be Amleth’s favorite Slayer song by default.
‘Harlequin Forest’ – Opeth
Amleth may be full of rage and hate but there’s still a sensitive side to him as well. Opeth is essential Swedish metal – the band effortlessly mixes dark aggression with moving emotional moments. This fan favorite track is a good showcase of the many sides of the band. Amleth has more to him than meets the eye as well. Or you could put this song on during one of the film’s trippy prophecy sequences.
‘Invaders’ – Iron Maiden
The opening track to the classic and essential The Number of the Beast album, this is the rare time that Iron Maiden directly talks about Vikings. In the song, the Vikings are the villains of the story – the titular invaders. Amleth and his fellow Vikings do indeed pillage and plunder and commit heinous acts. Definitely very villain-like.
‘Slaughter of the Soul’ – At the Gates
To kill with the swift brutality that Amleth does requires you to slaughter your own soul. You kill not just literally but also what makes you human. Also, this titular track from Swedish death metal landmark Slaughter of the Soul from genre pioneers At the Gates just plain shreds.
‘Raise the Dead’ – Bathory
Bathory do indeed have plenty of albums that are literally Viking metal (the album Hammerheart marked this shift), but a dose of true black metal is needed on this soundtrack. Their debut album was a game changer and the raw sound of this track only adds to its power. It’s a fitting song since (SPOILER) at one point Amleth fights an undead warrior.
‘Only for the Weak’ – In Flames
You can’t have a bunch of Swedish metal bands on a soundtrack and not include In Flames! Here’s a big breakthrough track from the band. Amleth does indeed accept his fate on bleeding knees! He’s certainly not weak though.
‘A Beast Am I’ – Amon Amarth
“Now banished I dwell, A sword in my jaw, Awaiting the end of time, In darkness I drown, Consumed by my hate, Longing for revenge” There’s more talk of revenge and waiting for it in this absolutely sick song and it’s too perfect to not have on here. Of course, Amleth often becomes a beast himself to enact his revenge and the film – like this song – explores that in ways both brutal and beautiful.
‘Revenge is a Vulture’ – 3 Inches of Blood
Amleth’s quest obviously has a price to be paid. Should he succeed in his need for revenge, the consequences as well as his mind will pick at what’s left of him. Revenge is a vulture indeed. This track from Canadian metalheads 3 Inches of Blood is ol’ reliable Roadrunner Records early 2000s goodness. It’s far too fitting.
‘The Pendulum’ – Candlemass
Candlemass is one of the big four of doom metal, injecting the genre with an epic and grandiose feeling. The Stockholm metal icons have been crushing it since the 80s, but we’ve gone with a recent track to show how the band is still able to shred past the younger crowd. The pendulum swings for everyone in The Northman who commits a wicked act, one way or another.
‘Valhalla’ – Black Sabbath
We end with a deep cut from arguably THE heavy metal band. 1990’s Tyr may not have Ozzy but it does have plenty of references to Norse mythology. This song is a wonderfully theatrical ending to a bloody and shocking and weird movie. It would have been a bold note to end on and play during the credits had Eggers and company had the guts to do it. Good thing we’re here. Play this the second the movie ends and thank us later.