After Ivar Bjørnson (Lead/Rhythm Guitar/Backing Vocals/Keyboard) and Grutle Kjellson (Lead Vocals/Bass) joined forces during their teenage years back in 1991, no one would have known what would unfold over the next 26 years; 14 studio albums and multiple tours around the world, plus a year-long 25th anniversary party is no small feat! They were originally joined by Trym Torson (Drums) on Enslaved’s first two albums, before his departure made way for Harald Helgeson (Drums) to perform on Eld. Helgeson’s stint in the band was short-lived though, as he was soon replaced by Per “Dirge Rep” Husebø (Drums/Percussion); Enslaved also picked up a second guitarist in Richard “Roy” Kronheim and this line-up stood firm for the band’s next three albums!
Enslaved went through a small transition period between 2002-2004; Kronheim’s departure meant Enslaved were joined by Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal (Guitar) in 2002, Husebø left just after Enslaved’s seventh album Below the Lights (2003). That made room for Cato Bekkevold (Drums/Percussion) to fill the void! After Herbrand Larsen (Keyboard/Guitar/Vocals) joined the band in 2004, this line-up went to remain unchanged for 12 years and produce not one but SIX albums together; unfortunately Larsen left the band in late 2016 for personal reasons. This paved the way for Hakon Vinje (Keyboard/Vocals) to fill the gap; the story of how this came to take place is quite interesting!
Enslaved stepped foot back into the studio last year and recorded their 14th album E, which is available October 13th via Nuclear Blast; OVERDRIVE got the opportunity to speak to Bjørnson about the upcoming album, as well as the addition of Vinje to the band.
The first topic of discussion was about the approaching release date of E and how excited the band are to have it almost here; Bjørnson went on to explain how the band are “shockingly excited I would say! It sounds like a Spinal Tap reference; to say that we’re releasing our 14th album because it sounds like a lot. But then you remember that Motörhead had something like 23 and they weren’t really done! We had our 25th anniversary last year and we feel like we’ve made our strongest album to date; I don’t think we’ve been this excited before, as it feels like we’re exactly at the point we should be! We got our hands on the finished mastered product towards the end of June, then the artwork and design was done a few weeks into July. We haven’t seen the finished product yet, like the LP or the CD; for us though, the most important thing is that the sound has been done.”
After releasing In Times only a few years ago (2015), anything that Enslaved wanted to change next time or things they wanted to try would still be pretty fresh in their minds; Bjørnson gave a small insight into how Enslaved approached the creation of E:
“When it comes to the writing, I try to keep everything independent; I try to put the last album out of my mind, as I like them to have their independent existence. When it comes to the recording of the album, we picked up a few things; on the performance side, we’ve focused on recording the basics of the album and it has really paid off for us! Basically the production philosophy is to get the sound of the band as it is; five guys with their instruments, throw in some amplification and try to get that record as genuine and authentic as possible! It sounds easy but it’s quite hard; everyone needs to be on top of their game, especially when we’re trying to record a ten or eleven minute song all in one stretch. We learnt that the more time we put into rehearsal and preparation, the easier it would be to record; I would say we were more prepared than ever before and that gave us a more relaxed vibe in the studio!”
As covered in the introduction, Vinje stepped into the band after the departure of Larsen before the creation of E; Bjørnson gave some insight into how Vinje’s arrival has changed the energy of the band, as well as giving an insight into how Vinje came to join Enslaved:
“It’s been a very positive contribution to the band, as well as a very important part towards making the album what it became. Of course losing Herbrand as a member wasn’t easy; he told us that he was leaving during the summer of 2016 that he was leaving at the end of the year. He was also a very important member during his twelve year contribution to the band, so we decided to not let it get us down and we just continued ahead like a steam engine; we knew something would work out as we’ve been doing this too long to let us be stopped by anything like this. Hakan magically appeared at the end of the year; he was performing in a prog band from Bergen (where we’re from) called Seven Impale. We heard his work there and we approached him to see if he would do some session work to try out with Enslaved; it turned out that his band was going on a bit of a break as the singer was going to another country! It was just perfect, so we just said that ‘if you want to spend that time to try out and play with Enslaved, you’re more than welcome to do that!’ He chose to do try it out; at the end of the recording session of the album, both us and him were really clear that we wanted him to continue as a steady member! I really think his attitude to being part of the band was really super; he wanted feedback from the band as he recorded his parts, as well as wanting us to be there to bounce ideas off which really inspired us! Also having a guy who is a year younger than the band applies a certain energy to the band; it really puts the pressure on us older guys to be a bit more energetic and really give it all, it’s one of the best things to happen to the band in the last few years!”
As stated earlier, Enslaved celebrated 25 years as a band last year; not only that, but In Times was stated as ‘the representation of the end of an era’; this interviewer was curious as to whether Bjørnson considered E to be a re-birth of Enslaved that could last another 25 years! Bjørnson responded at first with “I think that’s a good way of putting it” before continuing with ”I think that’s exactly what we’re doing; it doesn’t feel like a complete new start. We still have our history and carry our roots with us, as they are still a very important part of the band; I think that rebirth metaphor is a pretty good description because we’re inventing something new but it still carries the old history of the band. It feels like the start of a new era at least for us; that might be re-enforced by the 25th anniversary celebration all throughout 2016!”
Are Australian fans going to have to wait long to get to see the recently improved Enslaved performing E on our shores? Bjørnson was quick to explain how “we don’t really have any confirmed plans but we’re hoping to try and get out to Australia before too long; we’re hoping it’s a continuation of the lucky streak over the last few years where we were able to visit Australia in both 2013 and 2016. It’s most definitely on the wish list to get to come back during 2018 and we’re ready to come to Australia whenever the opportunity presents itself!”