Welcome Back: Enslaved

Another two years (give or take a couple of months), another Enslaved album, and another subtle evolution of sound has taken place. The prodigiously productive Norwegians are now on album 13 since forming in 1991, and are one of the very few bands with that kind of catalogue that have truly never made the same album twice.

Embracing myriad strands of metal, prog, rock and folk, In Times is another distinct entity, with only their trademark ebb and flow (and bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson’s instantly recognisable rasp) uniting all their work. With that in mind, have the band ever begun a song and abandoned it for not fitting their concept of what the band is?/o:p

“Never actually, and that’s the beauty of it,” Grutle tells Hammer. “That’s kind of the driving force because we have no idea how the next album is going to sound when we start working on it. If you try to construct something, it becomes very sterile, and you might as well try to make a pop music album. You have to treat the music, the riffs you make, the songs you make, as if they are their own organisms – to say it in a very pompous way!

“Just make the songs the way they’re supposed to evolve. Make some justice to the actual music, and don’t try to overproduce it or shorten it down. Never ever have in mind that it has to sound catchy or brutal, or whatever. Make the song the way it is supposed to be, and if you want to add bagpipes or violin, if it suits, go for it. You have to dare to step out of the frame. If you think it sounds great, go for it. Too many bands are concerned about: ‘We can’t do that because that wouldn’t be us any more.’”

Enslaved cheerfully embrace certain principles that are becoming less common in the digital age. They find it better to work together as a band in the studio rather than separately, they consider themselves a proper ‘album’ band rather than a ‘song’ band, and they do not seek to polish an album with multiple takes until it sounds perfect.

“To focus on a guitar lead for two days… You might as well just go home and jerk off!” says Grutle. “This is an album, it’s not a hit song on Spotify or YouTube. We’re an album band, an old-school, honest, hard-working, hard rock album band. That sounded pretty old, didn’t it?”