A project originally conceived to celebrate 2014’s bicentenary of the Norwegian Constitution, Skuggsjá – A Piece For Mind and Mirror (Season of Mist) was a collaborative record from Ivar Bjørnson of Enslaved, and Einar Selvik of Wardruna. After the success of that 2016 release, the pair rekindled their partnership and have now written follow-up piece Hugsjá (By Norse Music).
Ivar Bjørnson (Enslaved) and Einar Selvik (Wardruna) are releasing their new collaboration album titled Hugsjá later this week on 20th April via By Norse Records. The piece will debut at this weeks’ Roadburn Festival. The duo have shared a new video discussing the project and the debut of the title track below. Continue reading
When it comes to talking about the truly great modern day progressive rock bands, both in terms of excellence and in genuine evolutionary steps, Enslaved are arguably one of the most overlooked. Even during their root years in the early 90’s, within the hotbed of ideas and directions that was the second wave of black metal, Enslaved began to stand out from many of their peers, in part due to their, at the time, unusual song structures and their more overt Viking influences. Cut to present day and recent albums such as RIITIR and In Times (Nuclear Blast) showed much greater prog influences, whilst retaining much of their extreme metal heritage (take the blistering ‘Thurisaz Dreaming’ off of the latter, which is arguably the most ‘typical’ black metal song in their canon for many years). Continue reading
BardSpec the avant-garde and ambient project from Ivar Bjørnson (Enslaved, Skuggsjá) recently released its début album Hydrogen on ByNorse Records. Now the project has booked two more live appearances for late this summer. Continue reading
“Ragnarok is not a story about the end of the world. It is about nature. It is about the end of something and the beginning of others. A rebirth.” Continue reading
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.
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From April 9th to the 12th it was time for the festival of Stoner, Doom, and all things Alternative: Roadburn. This was the twentieth edition of the festival, and it was, as always, a spectacle. Music lovers from all over the world congregate in Tilburg and fill the streets with black shirts and beards. One of the streets is even re-dubbed “Weirdo Canyon” in honour of all the lovely and strange people who gather here in between shows to eat and drink. This year saw the return of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch, a daily leaflet detailing the previous day’s highlights, shows recommended by members of the organisation, and other interesting titbits of information.
While it is of course impossible to convey the Roadburn experience in mere words, I will share some of the highlights from the main stages of this year’s festival to explain what makes this festival so special. The pictures are by Susanne Maathuis, who managed to shoot a mindboggling 62 acts this year.
The first day of Roadburn, and what a day it was! Opening on the main stage was Solstafír, who celebrated the thirty year anniversary of cult-classic Viking movie Hrafninn Flýgur (When The Raven Flies). Solstafír played the instrumental film score while the film itself was projected onto the screen. Unfortunately the balance in the music was just a little off, as the bass was too soft. This show did make me really curious to watch the entire film, which was hard to follow here since the subtitles were at the bottom of the projection, and thus hidden behind the lovely musicians themselves.
Diagonally opposite the 013 sits restaurant Dudok with the club above it, Het Patronaat. This venue holds about 500 people and really brings people together – much in the same way as sardines are very close to each other. This is just another part of the Roadburn experience, as is either leaving another show early to catch a show in this venue, or waiting outside in an orderly queue in the hope that enough people leave so that you can experience the show. One of the bands that filled Het Patronaat to the brim on this first day was SubRosa, an experimental Sludge-Doom band from Salt Lake City. With three female vocalists and two electric violins, this band has a really distinctive sound which is truly delightful to witness live. Their overwhelming stage presence combined with the quality of the music made this show one of my favourites of the festival.
What I love most about Roadburn is the amazing diversity in musical styles. It doesn’t matter what your favourite style is, you’re bound to encounter it somewhere. This was highlighted by the show that followed SubRosa in Het Patronaat: Spidergawd. This Norwegian Heavy Rock extravaganza encouraged us all to dance to our hearts’ delight with their ‘Post Boogie’ style, characterised by a rumbling saxophone, hard rock vocals, booming basslines, and especially the drumming. Oh gawd, the drumming. Kenneth Kapstad owns his space at the front and centre of the stage, and he gives those drums such a beating that they need to be tightened every few songs or they’ll fall apart.
Another spectacular and genre-bending band to wow the audience in the main stage was Wovenhand, who were as close to a headliner as you can get with a line-up like this Monday. This magnificent dark folk band fronted by David Eugene Edwards sounds as if someone managed to convert the American Gothic painting to music. After their stunning performance in 2011, we didn’t think they could do any better – we have never been quite so happy to be proven wrong. Playing mostly from their latest and heavier albums, the band performed with more energy than ever before, but with the same humility that brings them even closer to our hearts. Edwards may say that they “are out of [their] league,” but we know that there are few bands that can rival the show that Wovenhand gave us.
Friday, April 10th
Every year Roadburn has a curator, one person who gets the chance to handpick the Green Room and Stage01 bands for a day, as well as headlining the main stage. The choice of curator is important, because this person always gives a unique flavour to the festival by highlighting a genre. Last year Mikael Åkerfeldt bought the keywords of Swedish and Prog to life, as well as headlining with Opeth, but this year saw a veritable Viking invasion with its double curators: Ivar Bjørnson of Enslaved and Wardruna‘s Einar ‘Kvitrafn’ Selvik. Together they programmed Houses of the Holistic, an incredibly diverse program of bands in wildly varying genres, they all had one thing in common: this was pure and unadulterated music. From the eccentric but oh-so-amazing blues from Pekko Käppi to the onslaught of sound from Black Metal Svartidauði, the intensity and passion burst forth from every single musician and made this day an unforgettable experience for the audience. And these weren’t even the headliners!
For the first time since 2007, Roadburn sold one-day tickets alongside the 3 and 4-day passes and afterburner tickets. And the first day to sell out was Friday. The reason for this is quite clear: headlining the Main Stage were not just Wardruna and Enslaved, but also the amazing combination of the two that is Skuggsjá.Wardruna, by Susanne A. Maathuis
Wardruna’s unique modern take on old instruments and chants is mind-blowing no matter how you hear it, but there are few bands that can rival the intensity of their live performance. Although Gaahl has decided no longer to perform live, the vocals were not lacking in any way. And how could they, when there are up to 9 musicians singing at once! With such a range of percussion, vocals, and traditional instruments on stage, this was an almost otherworldly experience, and the audience, in so far as I was capable of observing it at that point, was completely entranced.
What a contrast, then, was formed by the black metal attack of Enslaved. This is a whole different brand of Viking, but it is no less effective. Despite their heaviness, there was a certain serenity about the music when performed live that I had not anticipated, but that I very much appreciated. During this show I did have a good vantage over the crowd, and the Main Stage was packed with happy music lovers, all the way up to the furthest reaches of the balcony.
Then it was finally time for Skuggsjá, the collaboration of Enslaved and Wardruna, and in this they seem to have found an amazing combination. The balance of which band’s style has the overhand shifts with each song, but the sound always comes together in a meaningful way. The chanting just works so well with the metal. Written by Selvik and Bjørnson for the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian Constitution, this truly is the best reflection of the diversity of Norwegian musical heritage. It was an absolute honour to witness this performed live at the 20th edition of Roadburn.
WORDS BY LORRAINE LYSEN
PHOTOGRAPHY BY SUSANNE A. MAATHUIS