Career Analysis without Edgeways, pt. II
Grutle Kjellson of Enslaved speaks from Bergen, Norway in the fall of 2004:
“One of my favourites is Vikinglr veldi, the first full length we just re-released through Candlelight. The reason is that there are five songs on it and it is fifty-five minutes long. The arrangements are very arrogant. We got a lot of people saying, ‘Those songs are too long’. We just didn’t give a fuck. We said, ‘Okay, this riff is running sixteen times and it is supposed to be like that because it is so great,’ heh. We were so young and we just gave the world a finger. Fuck off, this is our thing. We don’t care. So I really like the guts on that album. It sounds like an early 90s black metal album and it also has the massive moods from the progressive music of the 70s. I love that album. It’s a very special album.
“Frost totally convinced people in 1994. It was a great release for us. It got a lot of good attention and reviews. Frost was a milestone, perhaps the biggest milestone for the band this far. We got to tour both the US and Europe and it was very important to have such an album out to spread the name. But it’s not my favourite Enslaved album. I haven’t listened to it in years, actually. We do a couple of songs from that album live and they sound better now than they did ever before. It’s not my favourite album musically but perhaps the most important.
“Eld is—how should I put it—the dope album. The drug album. We were way out and drunk and potted and pissed all the time. Ivar doesn’t remember much of the recording, with all the smoking and acid and speed and so on. The drummer was an alcoholic and I was kind of far out myself. What I remember is that it was only me and Pytten mixing it. I was sitting there almost falling asleep and going ‘aaaarghh’. I don’t remember that much of the recording. It sounds very interesting. The sound is odd and the tracks are weird. It’s the most progressive of the early albums and I still like it a lot. I like it a lot better than Frost actually.
“On Blodhemn there are some mellow, progressive elements but mostly it’s just raging fury and hyperblast. That’s Enslaved’s black metal album, really. The black metal people constantly ask for songs from Blodhemn, and every once in a while we play a song from that album. It’s a good album but not my favourite Enslaved album, no.
“Mardraum was also one of the milestones. It was when we started to have a bigger way of thinking with the arrangements. It’s very atmospheric, with clean vocal parts. So it was a very important album for the so-called new Enslaved. I still like that album, there are some really good songs on it, especially the first one. It’s also a fine mix between the old Enslaved and the new Enslaved. There are some black metal influences, some thrash metal influences and some progressive rock influences. We had a very good time when we recorded it in Sweden. It was excellent. I think Mardraum sounds pretty good whereas Blodhemn sounds perhaps a bit too much like Abyss. It wasn’t maybe the right solution soundwise to record two albums in the Abyss, but it was right back then. We could never have recorded Monumension in Abyss, Mardraum was the last album we could do there.
“Monumension is a very strange album. I remember that we were all busy in the recording process, we all worked and stuff like that. There was never more than one of us in the studio at the same time. That’s why I think it sounds too strange. It doesn’t sounds finished to me. The arrangements are floating in too many different directions. There are some very good songs on it. Apart from that, I really don’t know. I don’t think it’s one of the best Enslaved albums. I’m far more satisfied with Mardraum and Below the Lights for instance.
“Below the Lights was a very dark album, a little mellow, atmospheric and psychedelic. This time [on Isa] we take it a little further, it feels a little more aggressive and a lot rawer. But still, there are these long progressive parts. It’s like a step further. It’s a natural development, and the fans kind of expect the unexpected anyway. We try to keep this interesting to ourselves and that’s why we change all the time.
“The sound is far better on this one. We got a lot better guitar sound and especially the drum sound is ten thousand times better. I’m very satisfied with the songs on Below the Lights, but we could have had some fresh air in the arrangements, if you understand what I mean. We could’ve had more people in the studio who could have come up with some ideas. On the production side, I’m not that satisfied with it.
“I wish Below the Lights was released on another label… So that we actually sold some copies of it. It received great critiques and we took a huge step from Monumension. We kind of collected all the loose ends with Below the Lights, made it more structured.
“Osmose were always honest, they always gave us what they owed us. They always paid the studio. Good guys. In the beginning it was very good for us, especially with the Frost album. But I don’t know what happened. It somehow felt that they were very satisfied with just releasing the albums. They didn’t bother to promote or distribute them. I was telling them, ‘C’mon, c’mon, you gotta advertise in big magazines, you gotta do this and that’. And they we’re always like ‘No no no’. Always complaining about those magazines. And they couldn’t cooperate with American companies. I really don’t know what happened. I mean, why? They had a lot of great bands, they had Samael, they had Immortal, they had Marduk, they had us and Impaled Nazarene. There’s no one left. Herve releases thousands of records that sell two thousand copies. And the bands have shitty contracts. They don’t get money, he gets all the money. That’s not the way I will do business anymore. If he’s satisfied, it’s okay.
“I guess the puritanists hate the new album, I guess they rather listen to the first album. Okay, then let them listen to the first album. I don’t care, I really don’t. There’s nothing wrong with old school metal, I like old school metal, but I really want to develop. If they don’t want to develop, that’s fine by me. Listen to old stuff like that. Just don’t bother me with the bullshit about this being commercial. I’ve heard it a thousand times before. They don’t even have a new statement, it’s always the same.
“We had some good memories with Kronheim, the guitarist. He had some experiences of smoking a bit too much. I think one of the most funny moments might have been when we had just recorded Mardraum and we had some joints at Dirge Rep’s place and were listening to the result of the recording. We were very satisfied and just listened to the album on repeat for one and a half or two hours. Suddenly Kronheim told me, after two hours of silence, ‘Grutle, what you need right now is a huge marzipan dwarf’. I was like, ‘What?’ He said, ‘I wasn’t about to say that, it just came out’. I think that has to be the single funniest comment ever made in the Enslaved history.”