By Greg Grose
CALGARY – Over their nearly three-decade career, Enslaved has expelled thunderously heavy anthems injected with thought provoking lyrical content, mythic imagery and conceptual undertones.
“Before we got involved in Enslaved, me and Grutle, the singer and my cowriter for the lyrics, we both came from homes were there was a lot of interest in culture,” begins Ivar Bjørnson, rhythm guitarist and co-lyricist for the band. He is referring to bassist, vocalist, and lyricist counterpart Grutle Kjellson. They formed the band in 1991.
“We both had parents who were teachers, so there would be a lot of books on Native Americans, aborigines, and Eskimo culture, but also Vikings. We both had the same experience of being drawn to this, and spending the time reading these books as a hobby. When the time came and we formed Enslaved, we agreed we needed some kind of concept behind it, and Norse mythology felt natural.”
What makes Enslaved special is not the utilization of Nordic myth (a topic oft exploited by metal bands to varying success), but rather the metaphorical and psychological lens that they apply to said myths. Thor and Odin are not only powerful figures in the lyrics, but metaphors for aspects of human nature.
“The scientific link between psychology and Norse mythology came from the Austrian Carl Jung, one of Freud’s students, who started doing field work and found compelling evidence that a lot of this mythological language and symbolism, and the different figures that appear in mythology, seem to be pre-installed software in the human mind. Where people come from places with no abilities to obtain these images of dragons or other figurines, or geometric symbols, but they seem to be with us from the time we are born.”
This metaphorical thinking was integrated throughout the band’s 14th studio album ‘E’, released in October via Nuclear Blast. ‘E’ delivers the same masterful and progressive black metal that Enslaved have perfected over their colossal discography. The epic choruses and triumphant progressions weave to terrific heights, but the lyrical subject matter differentiates itself with an acute focus on relationships and empathy, specifically the transformative aspects of those connections.
“It sort of opened up with the song that was first written for the album [called] “Sacred Horse,”” explains Bjørnson. The song ultimately became the third on the eight-track album.
“That just had something about it that didn’t feel like was explored enough on it. The theme of that was the rune Ehwaz, which [literally] translates to ‘horse.’”
The rune is associated with harmony and trust, symbolizing interconnectivity.
“In this, [we] specifically focused on the relationship between man and other living beings. The thought that we are exploring is the relationship between other living creatures, [which] spawned an idea about things bigger than just the mundane, and is extremely formative on how we function. And we thought that was such a big thought, and such an explosive expansion on topics and concepts that we decided to just take on different angles of the concept for the album. They’re all about relationships and interdependencies.”
Enslaved perform with Wolves in the Throne Room, Myrkur, and Khemmis at the Decibel Magazine Tour. The tour takes on Friday, March 2 at MacEwan Hall (Calgary), on Saturday, March 3 at The Starlite Ballroom (Edmonton), and on Monday, March 5 at the Rickshaw Theatre (Vancouver).Enslaved, Khemmis, MacEwan Hall, Myrkur, Rickshaw Theatre, the Decibel Magazine Tour, The Starlite Ballroom, Wolves in the Throne Room