Progressive black metal legends Enslaved have entered the studio in their home of Norway to begin writing album #14! They have entered Duper & Solslottet Studios in Bergen and plan to work throughout April. The album will then be mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios. Artwork for the album will be once again created by renowned designer and painter Truls Espedal (In Times, RIITR). More details below: Continue reading →
Herbrand LArsen with Enslaved, by Jonathan Arevalo Photography
On the heels of a spectacular weekend in New York last week at the By Norse sponsored New York By Norse Enslaved 25th Anniversary weekend, Keyboardist And vocalist Herbrand Larsen has announced his departure after 12 years.Continue reading →
As we dash towards the holidays and the end of the year Ghost Cult is feeling good about this season of giving. So we are giving our fans a chance to get to know our partners, peers, and friends from bands in the world of music. They will chime in with some guest blogs, end of year lists, and whatever else is on their minds as we pull the plug on 2015. Today we have Bidi van Drongelen, Dutch booker and manager who has worked with the likes of The Devil’s Blood, Saint Vitus, Ghost, In Solitude and many more. Every year a multitude of his bands get booked at the excellent Roadburn festival, and we have asked him what he feels were the best releases of 2015.
1. Klone – Here Comes The Sun
Great songwriting, amazing vocals, and a crystal clear though heavy production blending prog and post metal.
2. Ghost – Meliora
Ghost has it all to become one of the leading melodic heavy rock bands in the world
3. Bliksem – Gruesome Masterpiece
If you like Metallica’sMaster of Puppets of Death Angel’sACT III….with the a raw female voice like Doro.
4. Royal Thunder – Crooked Doors
Great atmospheric rock album with the amazing voice of Mlny Parsonsz
5. Tribulation – Children of the Night
Melodies of occult rock like The Devil’s Blood drenched with a satanic black voice which reminds of Satyricon.
6. Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss
Refreshing approach of doom & drone. ART with capital A!
7. Paradise Lost – The Plague Within
8. Steak Number Eight – Kosmokoma
9. Melechesh – Enki
10. Enslaved – In Times
11. Clutch – Psychic Warfare
12. Thy Catafalque – Sgurr
13. Amorphis– Under The Red Cloud
14. RAM – Svbversvm
15. BRING ME THE HORIZON– That’s The Spirit
16. Mgła – Excercises In Futility
17. Baroness – Purple
18. Leprous – The Congregation
19. Graveyard – Innocence & Decadence
20. Hangman’s Chair – This Is Not Supposed To Be Positive
It has been a banner year in the career of Norwegian band Enslaved. Firstly they released a brilliant new album In Times, (Nuclear Blast), sure to be on many Album of The Year lists. This was followed up by a 2015 full of touring relentlessly. Tours of Europe and USA have been fruitful, seeing the progressive metal band tour with the diverse likes of YOB and Between The Buried And Me, show not just the power of the band, but the versatility. Major concert events for the band include a turn at Roadburn festival, curating part of the fest and performing the original piece Skuggsjá in collaboration with Wardruna. They also appeared at many other big summer fests such as Bloodstock Open Air. Captured here earlier this fall in London by Jessica Lotti Photography, the band encapsulates their entire career arc in every show. While their opening sets have been drawing on their more recent work, they always honor their past. It will surely be an exciting 2016 for this very special band of artists.
Not much in this life beats seeing some great bands play live, except for when you see great bands play live and it is the last stop on the tour. On March 24th in front of an eager Cambridge crowd at The Sinclair, Ecstatic Vision, YOB, and Enslaved brought forth a memorable show to close out the first quarter of the year. For me, I had never heard/listened to Ecstatic Vision, only recently started listening to YOB after they were announced for Maryland Deathfest 2015, and have become a big Enslaved fan over the years. To top it all off, this was the final stop on the tour and was curious to see what sort of shenanigans or special moments could occur. To be honest, I still can’t believe some of the things I saw and how ‘Isa’ by Enslaved is now ruined for me forever (in a good way of course).
Ecstatic Vision, Photo by Hillarie Jason Photography
To start off the night on what turned out to be a great note, Ecstatic Vision rocked out and certainly made a vast amount of new fans in Cambridge, MA. The entire set I tried to place what I was listening to, and the best description I could come up with was Deep Purple with Rob Zombie during the White Zombie era on vocals. Naturally, this combination got me excited from the start of the set and straight through until the house lights came on. In a strange moment during one of the epic tracks in the set, Enslaved’s own Grutle Kjellson (lead vocals/bass) and Herbrand Larsen (keyboards, synthesizer, clean vocals) appears on stage to provide some manly hugs to the guys in Ecstatic Vision. Strangest of all was Grutle walking around in a t-shirt and his underwear. Due up next, doom titans, YOB.
Yob, Photo by Hillarie Jason Photography
Having only got around to really listening to the latest album from YOB and a select few other tracks, I had high hopes for their live performance. I am happy to say that my high hopes were met, and then some. Given the length of the available set time and the average length of a YOB song, I was not anticipating anymore than a few songs and more than likely one or two off the latest album. Turned out they played a total of four tracks, three of which came off of the new album. The set kicked off with ‘In Our Blood’ which shook the very foundation of The Sinclair and the souls of its guests. In a surprise turn of events, Grutle made his way out to center stage again where a spare microphone was waiting for him as he provided guest vocals for ‘Nothing To Win.’ This would not be the end of Enslaved’s appearances as Grutle, Herbrand, and the rest of the crew would come out and provide more manly hugs to the guys from YOB. It appeared YOB may have been done after just three songs, but Mike Scheidt announced they had time for one last song, ‘Burning the Altar.’ The threesome from Oregon had absolutely blown me away with their live stage presence and I am more than excited to catch them again at MDF this year!
YOB and Enslaved, Photo by Hillarie Jason Photography
At long last, it was time for Enslaved to return to the stage, but actually play some music rather than provide comic relief. The set list from the long time extreme metal favorites was obviously in support of their latest release, In Times (Nuclear Blast), so a couple or so songs could be expected and then a few other songs sprinkled in. Off of the new album, the Cambridge audience got to hear ‘Thurisaz Dreaming’, ‘Building With Fire’, and the album title track, ‘In Times.’ On top of that, the set included a track from 8 other albums such as: Axioma Ethica Odini, Below the Lights, Frost, RIITIIR, and Ruun! Normally when I order a flight, I expect a couple of sample size beers for tasting. However, Enslaved truly put on a flight of their catalog for fans both new and old. Personally, I really enjoyed hearing some of the older tracks such as ‘The Watcher’ and ‘Fenris’. In case there was any question, yes, Grutle’s in between song banter and jokes were present and as funny as ever. Always nice to know that some bands out there today can still play some great heavy metal, but can avoid taking themselves so seriously and just have a good time. As most of the Enslaved fans could guess, the set ended with fan favorite ‘Isa’. However, the joke was on Enslaved at this point as members from both YOB and Ecstatic Vision rushed the stage playing pretending to play instruments unplugged. Also, and most notably, some members of the band and road crew were holding pieces of cardboard that looked to spell ‘Iza’ or someone had difficulty drawing the letter S. Then another Z came out, and then a P. Just when I realized that they had spelled out “pizza” (which is all I can hear now during said song now) some ladies from the merch tables came out on stage and started handing out pieces of pizza out to the crowd! This was certainly a first for me and I am not sure I will ever see anything like that again.
Enslaved, Photo by Hillarie Jason Photography
Enslaved, Photo by Hillarie Jason Photography
Enslaved with YOB and Ecstatic Vision, Photo by Hillarie Jason Photography
It just goes to show you that not much can beat an Enslaved show, regardless of who comes with them. However, on this specific tour, I think the selection of support bands were damn near flawless. Also, I wanted to quickly mention my ever growing love for The Sinclair venue. I have been to this venue now for a handful of shows and the staff is always friendly, lighting/sound is perfect, and just the overall atmosphere just seems to really click. As for Enslaved, YOB, and Ecstatic Vision, I think the rest of the heavy metal world has a lot to cover at this point to bring such a diverse but entertaining group of bands together for a tour.
I’d like you to stop what you’re doing right now and pay attention.
For here is the most impressive and important heavy metal album thus far in 2015. This is the record that is going to inhabit the upper echelons of those end of year lists and we are only in the year’s early months. This is the record that you’re going to smile knowingly about and, when all the hipsters come out of the woodwork to declare their love for it, you’re going to feel smug in the knowledge that you were there when Frost (Osmose) came out and when Axioma Ethica Odini (Indie/Nuclear Blast) changed your world view of what was possible with progressive metal. In Times (Nuclear Blast), the thirteenth album from Norwegian progressives Enslaved, is a record of staggering, jaw-dropping brilliance.
In Times distils the essence of Enslaved in brilliant, grandiose fashion but, like all great albums, suggests new, as yet uncharted opportunities. To use sporting parlance, suggesting that the band are at the top of their game is to truly misunderstand what’s going on here. Enslaved are not just at the top of their game; they are in the process of trying to change the game being played. In Times delivers six extended, expansive aural essays as opposed to songs. They are all brilliant, all have their own internal narratives, nuances and highlights and yet, knitted together, manifest themselves as the most coherent and immersive album of this band’s career.
‘Thurisaz Dreaming’ kicks things off in spectacular yet familiar fashion. We are thrown back into the brutal and ferocious territory that is reminiscent of the black metal hinterland of the band’s early period. This works on a number of levels- as a visceral introduction and a statement of intent for the new record, it is all welcome and vibrant strum und drang. As a reminder of how far the band have come without compromising their aesthetic or values it is a glorious throwing down of the gauntlet. About three minutes in, we move elegantly into the more progressive melodic territory of the band’s more recent past. It’s akin to pulling a handbrake turn. In lesser hands, this juxtaposition of styles would be clunky and knowing. With Enslaved, such is their talent for aural narrative, this seems like the most natural thing in the world. It is a technicolour, vibrant and furious opening.
It then gets even better. ‘Building with Fire’ is one of the best and most compelling manifestations of the band’s melding of clean, open singing and harsher brutalism that I have ever heard. It has a hypnotic 4/4 beat that acts as a simple yet effective architecture for the dual vocal talents of Herbrand Larsen and Grutle Kjellson. It’s brilliantly effective, and catchy as hell.
And then it gets better still. On ‘1000 Years of Rain’ we have one of the most intricate, eloquent and astonishingly creative songs the band have created. It is a rich and richly nuanced epic, covering an extraordinary range of styles, stitched together like a medieval tapestry. This is what the soundtrack to Game of Thrones sounds like in my head. We are treated to folk, hymnal chanting, riffing bigger than tectonic plates and a brilliant attention to detail that brings the listener back time and again to discover new gems as well as simply wallow in the gloriousness of it all.
Exemplary is the most apposite word that I can conjure for the majesty of ‘Nauthir Bleeding’. It stretches to almost breaking point the band’s capacity for bringing together the dream-like melody with gnarly bombast but it’s a stretching that never breaks, largely because this is a band that knows exactly what they are doing and do it with aplomb; being taken to the edge has rarely felt as thrilling.
The simplicity of what Enslaved do – the light and shade, the ambient and terrifying is simple enough to explain, much harder to deliver. On the ten minutes plus dynamism of the title track you really understand just how accomplished they are. This is the most obviously progressive track here with long ethereal passages that reflect the album’s otherworldly nature whilst continuing to blend in the relentless riffage that they are equally renowned for.
The album coda, ‘Daylight’, is well, magnificent, driving through fantastic melodies and power to the inevitable conclusion that leaves you shaking your head at how good it all is.
In Times is a reflection and a look forward; it is the most complete encapsulation of what Enslaved are about and what Enslaved are capable of. Again and again, In Times shifts your expectations about what “good” looks and sounds like. This is the most daring, ambitious, otherworldly and evocative album of an already deeply impressive career. It is the record where any scintilla of doubt of their genius can be banished from your mind, consigned to the dustbin and given a right royal telling off. With In Times, Enslaved have created an album where every ounce of their creative nous has been distilled into an album that is simply and utterly spellbinding.