ENSLAVD Perfect Ballance

They have started to build a new dimension of sound with Isa and Ruun and with their new album Vertebrae, Enslaved reach the culmination, giving the metal scene something refreshing. Their music is a mix of different styles, from prog rock waters from the 70s to the 90s black metal, so the final product is amazing, but it seems also that there are other bands too having discovered the same form of music expression, such as the solo-project of Ihsahn, for example. A few days ago I have spoken a little with Grutle (vocals, bass) so you can find our conversation below.

Musically, Enslaved have searched and found a new sound. It’s actually a mix between prog rock from the 70s and black metal from the 90s. How do you feel about it?
Well, thank you, thank you very much. I think we have still black metal roots but we have tried to incorporate different styles of music and as you have just mentioned prog rock from 70s, bands like Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Rush; they are a great inspiration for us. And I think that you can easily discover that on our new album.

During the observation of the latest efforts from Norwegian scene I found that there are few artists who have published indeed similar works. For example Ihsahn and you, from Enslaved. These albums are slow, or shoud I say more relaxing. Do you have any comments about this conclusion of mine?
What we tried to achieve is the balance in the music, the sort of vocation in the music. My favourite music in general is the sort where you have more melody, melancholic maybe, it has balance, it makes you moody, and that makes it interesting for both performers and the listener too, I hope.

So far I’ve read some notes from fans and reviewers and you are mainly compared with the masters Pink Floyd or even Tool? Is it ok for you?
Yeah, I mean, it’s good, I like the mentioned bands, but I think that we have much more variation than Pink Floyd…I mean we are coming from extreme metal scene so we try to make the best from both styles. We are doing this mainly to entrapment ourselves, to be interesting to us, and the music is reflection of we are listening both prog rock and metal.

What about lyrics this time? I also noticed a short name of the tracks (one or two words)? By the way, why did you leave Norwegian and start to sing in English?
Yeah, that’s something that we have done from 2001 from album Monumension. We wanted to try it because we thought that English will suit better the music we made, so we stepped in with this decision very well. I mean we are an international band, ties better with English anyway.

Where did you record Vertebrae? Who was the producer and, if I am correct, was somebody from Tool involved in production?
No, he wasn’t producing the album, he was mixing. It was Joe Barresi who works with Tool, Queens of the Stone Age and lots of other bands, too. It was produced by Ivar and me from the band. Bass and guitars were recorded in one studio in Oslo, drums were recorded in pro-colors studio in Oslo and it was mixed in studio S also in Oslo and later it was mastered by George Marino in the States.

You’ve just signed for the Norwegian record company Indie Records. Also, Borknagar, Keep of Kallesin, Satyricon (to name a few) are on the same label. Any comments about your still fresh partnership?
We were working with the owners of this record label quite earlier, in 2004. We were really satisfied what they have done with Isa; that’s why we have chosen them as our new company for the recordings.

In which country have you received the best response? I usually have the chance to read some German and English magazines such as Terrorizer and I found out that you are doing there pretty well.
We do quite good in America, for the last few releases and we do great in Canada, also in UK, France, Italy, not so good in Germany – it seems that they are into power metal or stuff like this but we are doing in Germany good too, because it’s a big market. We are still good in Norway and starting in Sweden which is not so easy as in Norway. So it seems that we are increasing our fan base all over the world actually and that’s great.

Borknagar, Primordial, Enslaved, Helheim and so on are on one side of the coin, but on the other there are lots of these so called pagan battle metal bands as Turisas and Finntroll. Although you are dealing with more serious topics, it’s noticeable that battle metal is also popular.
Yeah, but I’ve never been so interested in genres or the metal scene. I mean we just play our own thing. People called it pagan metal, black metal, or whatever, I mean we would like to entertain ourselves and develop in a musical way. We do not care which genre we are belonging to, we belong to the metal scene.

Your latest three efforts were more peaceful issues and it seems clear that you discovered a new musical expression. However, I am quite interested in your album Blodhemn. It’s totally atypical for Enslaved, fast and aggressive.
Ah, it just happened in the end like that. We had several songs that were having melodic elements and progressive parts. I think that it was a result of what we did live, we played really fast and very aggressive back then. So, it kind of ended up like that. Not intentionally, but we stood like a live act back then: drums, aggressive songs and progressive parts and also the production which is typical extreme black metal production.

As a matter of fact, you are very active when it comes to performing live. Where did you have the best show(s)?
I remember the worst show that we have had so far. It was Dynamo in 1998J. That was the worst show, I mean, it was completely terrible, because we were tired, we woke up early in the morning and not sleep at all, just pulling down the beer. And we arrived in Holland without any sleep and we entered the stage like in a really bad shape. Actually the monitors were turned up so we didn’t hear ourselves playing, so we actually had to stop in the middle of the first song and we asked: ”Can you please turn off the monitors so we can hear ourselves playing”. And there was a better side of that show because there was a lot of people. That is the worst show ever by numbers.

I would also like to ask you something about this accident with the sheep. Well, many of us saw it on Youtube, but what actually happened? You were protesting against something or…?
We were protesting against a political party in Norway that wanted to legalize piracy of music and that party was always considered as protecting small industry, small companies and now they want to take away money from small bands by legalizing illegal downloading. We thought that was a really silly suggestion. That party’s leader is also a farmer, so we wanted to make a slightly humorous answer to that so we say: ”this sheep doesn’t have a name on it, we do not know to whom it belongs, so we will take it and eat it”. So it was the point to tell people to download or not, so we just wanted to tell the people what happened if you steal the music.

Correct me if I am wrong but Enslaved has won so far one or two Grammy awards in Norway, and you have been nominated several times for the mentioned award. Are you proud of this?
Yes, sure, I mean it’s a nice achievement. We are not dependent of winning awards – we won a Grammy for both Isa and Ruun, it’s a great thing as acknowledgment and we gain more popularity in Norway, so we got more press in Norway and we get the chance to play bigger festivals over here. So, it’s really good for us to get these awards, but it’s not something what we think the goal of the new album is, not to get one of these awards that would be completely wrong. It’s just a good thing when it happens.

In last couple of days I have noticed on various metal forums that your newest album is very well-received amongst many fans, not only black metal fans, but I would say more widely this time.
Well, I think it’s great that we get more fans, more listeners. It doesn’t matter if I don’t listen to metal before, I mean I am not only listening to metal, I listen to all kinds of music, the main thing is quality. It’s a sign of quality when people out of metal scene seem to enjoy it, too. It’s actually great I think.

Several times, I’ve read or watched you and your companions from Enslaved together with guys from Darkthrone going on fishing, walking through the woods and practising similar sports…
Yeah, we have been doing some fishing with both Fenriz and Nocturno Culto, we are outdoor, in the nature; we really appreciate that and that’s both our interest and influence. That’s a completely natural thing to do, to go fishing or walking or whatever. I mean they are great persons and among my best friends.

And the last question: it’s indeed an interesting one. Is it true that on the day when Euronymous was killed you had just signed a contract for his label Deathlike Silence Productions?
Yes, that’s true.

Do you have any last words for the fans of your music here is Serbia?
Hm, lako noc Srbija!

Interview done by Marko Miranovic