We’re going to move away from the past. 2016 was the 25th anniversary of ENSLAVED and that was really important, for us and for the fans. But now, we move on…”
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. According to Ivar, »In Times« represented the end of an era and the opening of a gateway to somewhere entirely new.
“»In Times« felt like a great step for us. We kept going with the progginess that we’d been trying to develop for many albums, but we also went back and picked up on those early roots too,” he explains. “In a sense, when »In Times« was done, it felt like a little bit of closure at that point. This task of combining all these things, old and new, experimental and conservative, that was done. As we started to work on the new album, we didn’t really feel that it had to be this or that or going anywhere in particular. That means freedom for the creative process.”
Despite rarely pausing for breath – not just as a result of ENSLAVED’s hectic touring schedule, but also due to numerous extracurricular projects – Ivar and his comrades have 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.