lthough they prefer the term "Viking Metal" they are, in fact, black metal in the classic musical style. Under the former incarnation of Phobia (1990-1991) they featured Hein Frode Hansen, who left to form Theatre Of Tragedy. Enslaved, as they are now known, formed in 1991 in Haugesund, Norway. They got the attention of Euronymous (of Mayhem) who signed them to his 'Deathlike Silence' record label, and got them involved with the "Black metal circle" on the strength of their split EP with Emperor titled Hordanes Land in 1993. Previous to this they released two independent EP's titled Nema (1991) and Yggdrasill (1992).
With the line-up Grutle Kjellson (bass/vocals), Ivar Bjørnson (guitar) and Trym Torson (drums), and a new label, they were set to release their debut album, Vikingligr Veldi (1994), but Euronymous' murder prevented that. 'Voices Of Wonder' came to the rescue, however, and released it. The album gained them an underground following and launched them on a promising start within that genre and their past relationships with Euronymous and Hein Frode Hansen certainly didn't hurt the launch of their career. The band signed to 'Osmose' for their future albums thus published.
Frost (1994) was another inspiring release from these up-and-coming black metallers. They became somewhat of a paradox on this, and future releases, offering classic and stereo-typical black metal contracts of occult lyrics, blast-beats, vocal and guitar style as well as costume, while at the same time managing to keep their style unique and fresh on each new release, separating them from the crowd. Psychedelic and mystical, but heavy and dark all at the same time, as one reviewer once put it, as if Voivod played black metal. Eld (1997) saw them perform the entire album in Norwegian and depicted them dressed in Viking gear and chain-mail outfits, further serving to set them apart from their peers with imagination and style to propagate their Viking obsession. Eld saw a membership change, with Harald Helgeson taking over from Trym Torson on drums. Blodhemn (1998) followed much in their traditional path, the most remarkable feature was another membership swap with Roy Kronheim (guitar) expanding the band's size, and Dirge Rep (Real Name: Per Husebø) replacing Helgeson on drums. Mardraum - Beyond The Within (2000) showed an expansion of their sound with new elements into their mix without loosing their connection to the old. Monumension (2001) and Below The Lights (2003) followed; Below The Lights featuring Arve Isdal replacing Kronheim. Freddy B. would step in on drums after the release. Isa would follow in 2004 with and Ruun in 2006.
Although the band has used mainly English lyrics since Monumension, their albums before that were recorded in Norwegian except for three songs with Icelandic lyrics on their first full-length album; while the lyrics of the 1994 track Heimdallr consisted of an Old Norse excerpt from Gylfaginning by Snorri Sturluson. Most of the band's lyrics relate to Norse mythology. Following Ruun, in 2007-2008, Bjørnson, Kjellson, and Isdal collaborated with the Norwegian noise duo Fe-Mail.
Vertebrae came in September 2008, their tenth studio album and their first on 'Nuclear Blast'; Terrorizer Magazine named it the album of the year in 2008. After touring Europe, Enslaved embarked on a North American tour with the progressive death metal band Opeth in May 2009. The album was noted for is shift in its approach and its diverse sounds; the album's sound has been said to be akin to Pink Floyd's sound on several occasions.
Enslaved released their eleventh studio album, Axioma Ethica Odini in September 2010. The following year, Enslaved released two new EPs. The first EP, The Sleeping Gods was made available as a free download consisting of 5 original tracks. The second EP, entitled Thorn in partnership with 'Soulseller Records' in fulfillment of a decade-old agreement and released on seven-inch vinyl, was strictly limited to 1,000 copies and featured a more atmospheric sound than the band was known for. An official tribute album called Önd - A Tribute was released on 'Pictonian Records' in July 2012. It contained twenty covers from twenty bands (including Dordeduh, Fen, Kraków, Vreid and Wodensthrone) to celebrate the two first decades of Enslaved's career. After signing to 'Nuclear Blast' in Europe, Enslaved released RIITIIR (2012).
In Times arrived in 2015. The Sleeping Gods - Thorn compilation (2016), Roadburn Live (2017) live album, and E (2017) would follow, featuring Håkon Vinje on keyboards and (clean) vocals. Iver Sandøy would assume drums in 2018. Utgard (2020) would follow.
Footnote: Diskery founder and author met with the band personally in their tour bus on Jan. 13, 2007, the same day he met (and interviewed) Dark Funeral. Enslaved subsequently personally reviewed this article.
Footnote: What is an 'Yggdrasill'? Impress your bar buddies by telling them that it is the same in English and is the Norse (Viking) mythological view of the universe. It is an Ash Tree which holds nine 'nests', each representing a 'home world' where man (us) are in the center one and Odin & Valhalla are in the top (to really make this stupidly simple).
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Enslaved performing live in Toronto at 'Opera House' 2007. Photo by: Derek McDonald.
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