Josh Rundquist of That Drummer Guy recently conducted an interview with guitarist and primary songwriter Ivar Bjørnson of Norwegian progressive black avantgardists ENSLAVED. You can listen to the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On the reception to the band's most recent studio album, "E":
Ivar: "It's been crazy, man. The touring, we started touring quite immediately after the release. The reception from the audience has been fantastic. We're pretty sure that we have not had a reception to new songs like we've had on the European and Russian and Norwegian tours, the dates we managed to do before the end of the year, so that's been fantastic. The reviews have been crazy. Lots of end-of-year lists, but it's just impressive to us that we are in magazines that are primarily into black and death metal seem to be enjoying it. We've been listed in magazines, media, that primarily engage with prog rock, which is kinda crazy to be behind the guy with a soul album from VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR [Peter Hammill]. It's a bit of a dream come true, to be honest, that the album has reached such a wide selection of people. It seems to be people have the same primary focus as ourselves. That focus is that we want to listen to great music. It doesn't really matter what to call it or where it's coming from or which year it's made, as long as it's genuine content and has atmosphere, we get into it and that's what we're trying to do with ENSLAVED. It seems to be reaching people who feel the same and that's just fantastic."
On incorporating new styles while retaining ENSLAVED's signature sound:
Ivar: "We think that's the challenge…I don't know why, but I'm thinking what we're trying to do, it's like blending, I guess, different materials together, only you have to find the right temperatures or whatever to make the different materials really fuse together. What we don't want to do is just have a thing with stuff piled on top of it, which is easily, I guess, easily happens when you're a young musician and you're doing one thing but then you're really inspired by something completely different. That's the key. That's the challenge of being a band that wants to mix different musical styles and also to have some humility. That's the worst when you hear; it's like when actors who try to become rock stars overnight. They think that because they are able to make people get a cry in and laugh and everything as an actor, they can do the same with the band. They release these horrible albums. The only one I really respect is Steven Seagal because he's equally bad as an actor and as a songwriter, he's awesome, but that's at least honest. It's the same with musicians sometimes. You can hear a black metal band trying to be a rock band or whatever and sometimes, they get it right, but a lot of the time, people don't have that humility or the realization that a good rock band doing four-by-four AC/DC style, the really good ones, they have been around, it takes decades and decades to hone that sound to perfection. If you want to go out and acquire music from other genres, be it prog rock or Kraut rock or '80s metal or whatever, you really have to get under the skin of that style and really work with it as if you were a new band. You can't take your experience as a black metal band, just take it for granted that you can handle any other musical style as easily. That's been a challenge. Now it feels like we're starting to get it right properly after 14 albums. I guess that's an indication of what we'll continue to do is try and work with those temperatures and create an environment where we can seamlessly blend together all kinds of wonderful stuff."
On when he knew "E" was starting to go in the right direction:
Ivar: "When 'E' started, it almost became one of those movies where you go directly into the plot in the first scene. It was the very strong ideas for a song that ended up as the song 'Sacred Horse'. It came out of nowhere, both the lyrical content and the song. It presented itself as the song was written. That was pretty much the vibe of the album. It came from that. It also felt like it was a song that was in the middle of the album and the rest of the process was pretty much writing the songs before it and after it. It was one of those, I would say, I'm pretty sure that in many years, we will remember this album as the one that was very easy to write in a sense that it was like a line that had formed. The riffs were lining up outside of whatever you want to call it, the writing office. But they each took an excruciating amount of time to get right. It's probably the opposite of having writer's block, but there was this urgency, a little bit of this constant, not fear, that's the wrong word, but you know you have to cultivate, you have to work with the songs. It feels like you have an entire album ready, but if you stop and give yourself a week off to read comic books instead, then the next week, the ideas might not be there. You just have to follow up and follow up and annoy your family by staying up all night and don't get up in the morning to take your kids to Kindergarten. You have to stay in it and write the album. It was a very intense process that also, I'd rather be a guy where there's not enough time to write all of my ideas than to have all the time in the world and not have ideas."
"E" was released on October 13 via Nuclear Blast. The follow-up to 2015's "In Times" was recorded at Duper & Solslottet Studios in Bergen and was once again mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios in Örebro, Sweden.
ENSLAVED will headline the 2018 edition of the Decibel Magazine Tour with WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM, MYRKUR and KHEMMIS in support. The tour kicks off February 15 in Philadelphia and concludes March 10 in Santa Ana.