Black avantgarde Norwegians ENSLAVED recently toured across Europe and the United Kingdom alongside co-headliners High On Fire and support band KRAKOW. We caught up with Ivar from Enslaved and Frode from KRAKOW at the bands’ sold out London show to see how the tour has gone and to find out who is willing to dish the dirt on each other’s bands. Find out what happened, here:
Formed in Bergen, Norway, in 1991, Enslaved had evolutionary zeal in their eyes from the start. Even as they emerged from the nascent Norwegian black metal scene of the early ‘90s, guitarist Ivar Bjørnson and vocalist/bassist Grutle Kjellson demonstrated a fervently idiosyncratic approach to making extreme music. By eschewing the wilful conservatism of their peers in favour of an outward-looking ethos, Enslaved’s reputation grew rapidly in the wake of extraordinary, epic albums like their primitive but insidious debut Vikingligr Veldi and its strident follow-up Frost (both 1994). By the late ‘90s, the band had morphed into a wildly progressive and adventurous beast, always retaining the core, aggressive tenets of their musical roots but increasingly in thrall to the limitless possibilities that music, in its entirety, truly presents. Widely acknowledged as a powerful and ferocious live band, Enslaved entered the 21st century by flexing new muscles on the acclaimed likes of 2003’s Below The Lights and its groundbreaking successor, Isa (2004). Now as much a part of the flourish progressive rock and metal realm as they were loyal servants of the extreme metal underground, Bergen’s finest hit a rich vein of form as the years passed, with albums as diverse and challenging as 2008’s Vertebrae and 2010’s Axioma Ethica Odini joyfully expanded the Enslaved musical universe, drawing in countless new acolytes along the way.
In 2015, Enslaved released their 13th studio album, In Times. A tour-de-force of hypnotic prog intensity and scabrous, blackened pomp, it exuded an air of completion and finality that led perfectly into 2016’s extravagant celebrations, as Enslaved marked their 25th anniversary with some truly life-changing shows that explored all shadows and hidden corners in the band’s colossal catalogue. In Times represented the end of an era and the opening of a gateway to somewhere entirely new.
Despite rarely pausing for breath – not just as a result of Enslaved’s hectic touring schedule, but also due to numerous extracurricular projects – the band somehow managed to piece together yet another full-length milestone in the shape of their 14th studio effort, the elegantly titled E. Written amid a burst of creativity, grabbed at the tail-end of the band’s 2016 US dates, the new album marks the majestic birth of a revitalised and newly inspired Enslaved. Against the logistical odds, a new dawn was coming.
An album full of revelatory moments, spine-tingling dynamics and exquisite but alien atmospheres, E showcases a refreshed Enslaved line-up via songs that take the band into unprecedented territory. From the grandiose, weather-beaten riff-scapes of 11-minute opener Storm Son to the wild, psychedelic frontier squall of Sacred Horse and the muscular, sax-powered shoegaze barrage of monstrous closer Hiindsiight, it is both a typically bold and fearless statement from this most inventive of modern metal bands and a thrilling sideways step that harnesses the spirit of old and sets it loose in a whirlwind of imagination. Conceptually, too, Enslaved are making giant forward strides. While past albums frequently focused on notions of individuality and isolation, E offers a transformative fresh perspective.
14 albums and 26 years into a career that shows no signs of losing neither momentum nor its magical, effervescent creative sheen, Enslaved are once again evolving before our ears and eyes. This time, however, even the sky is no limit. Stronger than ever and manifestly thrilled to be in such rude health, life in Enslaved has never been more rewarding. And the best is yet to come.
KRAKOW was formed in Bergen, Norway in the fall of of 2005. The post metal collective received much praise and recognition for their special take on the genre with their second album diin, which was voted the 3rd best metal album of the year by Metal Hammer Norway in 2012.
Their third album, amaran, saw the band develop their style even further. The band made a unique and atmospheric record that stands out against its competition. With this album, the band explored both the calmer side of their sound, as well as the more experimental and drone aspects. This makes amaran a highly varied album, filled with both dreamy soundscapes and sinister, harsh atmospheres.
Following the laborious process of distilling two albums worth of material into one focused gem, the band then created their latest offering, minus. The pinnacle achievement of KRAKOW’s thirteen-year existence. After a year of recording, shaping, re-recording and refining, minus has been reduced to the bare essence of who KRAKOW are as individuals, as a group and as story tellers. It’s an album that defies any attempts at genre definition and covers the heavy, the subtle, the melodic, the atonal, the groovy, the sluggish, the dense, the airy, the naked and always, always, that wall of sound where no light can escape.
With themes spanning from outer space to the hidden worlds deep below, travelling in time from the distant future to the near past like an inverted space odyssey, we are taken on a journey where “we all become stories”, in ways as much a reflection of the ones we tell, as a revelation of the ones we won’t.
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