Career Analysis without Edgeways, pt. I
Ivar Bjørnson of Enslaved speaks from Milan, Italy in the spring of 2003:
“I’m very proud of all the albums. To me it’s impossible to name favourites—I have favourites, but they change from time to time. If I put one album away for a long time, it’s like, ‘oh, I cannot listen to this any more’. Then I can take it back again and it sounds good again. Like the first album [1994’s Vikinglr veldi]. Personally, I got really tired of it because there was a lot of fuss about it for a long time. Then you kind of put it to rest and take it back again and discover new stuff. All the albums have different stuff. I think the arrangements and the production and everything is special about Frost. We had a bit of luck at the time because we tried something new and it kind of worked out. But then again, you have the trance-like feeling from the first one, Vikinglr veldi. When I listen to it now I sometimes get impressed by the atmosphere creating this album. And then you have Eld, where I’m noticing when I listen to it now that some weird chords are sneaking in and we’re trying to be clever. It’s the first time we try this and it sounds cool, some of it. Then you’ve got Blodhemn, which is just so fucking angry. It’s also a good album, if you’re in that kind of mood. There are Maldraum and Monumension, being, how should I say, like a newer kind of Enslaved. I remember when we decided around Maldraum to try these ideas in the studio and it sounded good. It had a very good, proud feeling and also a very positive one. I think this was a big statement to me, telling that we had a long time ahead of us. It’s like walking along a road for a very long time and when you think you’ve come to the end, you see it’s just a crossroad starting a new road. It was a very good moment for the band.
“Then there’s of course the new one [Below the Lights]. I listen to it every day and I think I must’ve heard it forty times. I still get a little bit surprised because we had all ideas ready and we recorded it and worked day and night to get all the ideas into the album. Sometimes I will follow the vocals and drums and guitars and sometimes try to listen to the whole thing. It’s simply the best thing for me that we’ve done.
“With the concept and everything, it’s a difficult thing to label us anything. It’s metal and it’s at times quite extreme. But now we see that some people call us black metal, some progressive extreme metal, some metal and some extreme metal. If people still want to call it Viking metal, it doesn’t really matter. For us, it’s metal. Always has been. If you want to express the concept, Viking metal is okay. What we mean with Viking metal is just to say it’s metal and the concept and philosophical ideas are derived from this particular period of time; the mythology and the mysticism come from the Viking era. But then, Viking metal has later become more like a role-playing thing. It doesn’t bother me, but what Viking metal has become is a bit like a joke in some ways. But people can call it what they want. I think that when people put on the record and see the lyrics and the pictures, they understand that we’re not to jump around in plastic Viking helmets and scream about bears.
“The first year after we did Frost, with the response and the European tour with Marduk, is a special memory for myself. I think it was the second black metal tour in Europe after the one Immortal, Rotting Christ and Blasphemy did the year before. A lot of people showed up, it was all curious, new and cool. Later that year we went to the US, Canada and Mexico, which was also very exotic and strange, to go to Mexico City and see that people would have the album there. That was something really special for us, to discover that when we’re sitting at home making music it automatically gets spread all around so far.
“We still have lots of stuff to achieve with the production in the studio, with sounds, with live stuff and how to arrange songs. For me it’s kind of good news because if I worked with this every day for the rest of my life I still wouldn’t have come to any conclusion in the end anyway. So I guess the last thing I would do before I die would be to think, ‘fuck, no more time to do this’. But it’s got to happen some time, so it’s just about trying to keep a high tempo up to that moment.”