by Brendan Reid
VANCOUVER – Enslaved has never been a band to shy away from esoteric concepts. On E, their latest work, the group delves deeper than ever into themes of arcane lore, the bonds we have with nature, and our identities.
Each song on E is part of a grand narrative, an interpretation of the human experience that can only be described in varying, ever-changing forms, much like the music itself. The melding of heavier moments with haunting and beautiful melodies is a reflection of our natural essence. Lead songwriter Ivar Bjørnson penned the compositions in an appropriately organic fashion.
“A lot of the songwriting has to do with feeling,” Bjørnson explains. “They are interpretations of dreams and stories that don’t necessarily fit together in a narrative way.”
“Storm Son,” the album’s opening track, demonstrates this structure. Bjørnson describes the song as a tableau of man’s relationship with the natural world. As you listen, it floats between mythical ideas and our simple struggle to survive in a harsh, unyielding environment. The lyrics focus heavily on the runic character “Hagalaz,” which stands for “hailstone” or “severe weather.” It’s a call to overcome the challenges that life throws our way.
“People often forget that nature is a dangerous place,” offers Bjørnson. “There are predators at night and the forest floor is lined with death. But it is this death and decay that allows for the growth of beautiful things.”
We are a part of the flow of nature, no matter how much we try and overcome it. Bjørnson laments the way we destroy nature, along with the fear and discomfort this unconsciously brings us. Despite the pessimism in the air, Bjørnson sees hope on the horizon. Much like the themes of life, death, destruction, and rebirth explored through the track “Axis Of The Worlds,” he believes our disconnection from natural reverence is just one part of an ever-changing cycle.
“Shifts are always occurring. We have taken a step away from the mythological, but you can feel that things are beginning to swing the other way.”
Transformation is a huge part of man’s journey, and the emotions of this universal experience are captured most poignantly in “Sacred Horse.” The track examines man’s taming of horses while telling the story of Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged horse. This act embodies E, or the Ehwaz rune, which is emblematic of trust, harmony, and loyalty, and celebrates our ability to work with nature and evolve. It reminds us that even though nature can be terrifying and challenging, we still need it to survive, both physically and mentally.
“Through the horse, we were able to commune and connect with nature on a much more personal level,” says Bjørnson. “That feeling resides within us still.”
Enslaved will be playing the MacEwan Ballroom (Calgary) on March 2, the Starlite Ballroom (Edmonton) on March 3 and the Rickshaw Theatre (Vancouver) on March 5.Enslaved, MacEwan Ballroom, Rickshaw Theatre, Starlite Room