Enslaved (band)

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Enslaved in 2021. From left to right: Arve Isdal, Håkon Vinje, Grutle Kjellson, Ivar Bjørnson and Iver Sandøy.
Enslaved in 2021. From left to right: Arve Isdal, Håkon Vinje, Grutle Kjellson, Ivar Bjørnson and Iver Sandøy.
Background information
OriginHaugesund, Norway
Years active1991–present
LabelsDeathlike Silence, Voices of Wonder, SPV, Osmose, Tabu, Relapse, The End, Candlelight, Nuclear Blast
MembersIvar Bjørnson
Grutle Kjellson
Arve Isdal
Håkon Vinje
Iver Sandøy
Past membersTrym Torson
Harald Helgeson
Per Håvarstein
Richard Kronheim
Herbrand Larsen
Cato Bekkevold

Enslaved is a Norwegian extreme metal band formed by Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson in Haugesund in 1991. They are currently based in Bergen.[1] The band's lineup has changed many times over the years, and Bjørnson and Kjellson have been the sole constant members.[2] The current lineup also includes lead guitarist Arve Isdal, keyboardist/singer Håkon Vinje, and drummer Iver Sandøy.

The band's music draws heavily on the Viking cultural and religious heritage of their home country of Norway for inspiration, and most of the band's lyrics relate to Norse mythology.[3][4] Though they began as a traditional black metal band their sound has undergone significant changes over time resulting in a more progressive sound. In 2014, members of Enslaved were commissioned by the Norwegian government to create a musical piece in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian constitution. This was later released as a studio album called Skuggsjá in 2016.[5] To date, the band has released sixteen full-length studio albums; the most recent of which, Heimdal, was released in March 2023.


Formation and early history[edit]

Enslaved was formed in 1991 by Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson (also known as Kjetil Grutle) when they were 13 and 17 years old, respectively. The band name was inspired by an Immortal demo track, "Enslaved in Rot."[6] After many line-up changes throughout their career, Bjørnson and Kjellson are the only remaining original members. By 2004 the line-up solidified with guitarist Arve "Ice Dale" Isdal, drummer Cato Bekkevold, and keyboardist/vocalist Herbrand Larsen.

Prior to forming Enslaved, Bjørnson and Kjellson had been playing in a death metal band called Phobia, but like many in the burgeoning extreme metal movement, they were looking for new sources of inspiration and expression.[6] Though Enslaved began as a prototypical Norwegian black metal band in 1991, by 1993 they were incorporating song structures unusual for the genre; several of their earlier songs reach the ten-minute mark (their debut album, Vikingligr Veldi, has only one song that is under ten minutes). As such, the band has rejected the black metal label and prefers the term "extreme metal".[7] Mardraum (2000) contained several multi-part epics such as "Større enn tid - Tyngre enn natt" and "Entrance – Escape". Several of the band's tracks (most prominently, "As Fire Swept Clean the Earth" from Below the Lights) have used mellotron.[8] Isa (2004) and Ruun (2006) show a marked departure from previous sounds, most notably with the inclusion of sharp dynamic shifts, and Bjørnson considers the former a turning point for the band.[9] Following Ruun, in 2007–2008, Bjørnson, Kjellson, and Isdal collaborated with the Norwegian noise duo Fe-Mail under the name Trinacria.[10][11]

International recognition[edit]

Enslaved released the album Vertebrae in September 2008, their tenth studio album and their first on Nuclear Blast. Terrorizer magazine named it the album of the year in 2008, notably above other metal releases such as Meshuggah's obZen and Opeth's Watershed.[12] After touring Europe extensively, Enslaved embarked on a North American tour with the progressive death metal band Opeth in May 2009.[13] The album is noted for its shift in its approach and its diverse sounds; Sammy O'Hagar from MetalSucks.net even says that "to call [Vertebrae] black metal would be quite a stretch" because "there's an impressive depth to [it] that surpasses the sour misanthropy so often (and rightfully) associated with the genre", and furthermore describing their sound as "heavy and surprisingly soft, focused and curious, true to their roots and longing to forget them".[14] The album's sound has been said to be akin to Pink Floyd's sound on a few occasions,[14][15] as well as other black metal releases in a similar vein.[16]

Enslaved released their eleventh studio album, Axioma Ethica Odini, on 27 September 2010 in Europe and the following day in North America.[17] In 2011 Enslaved released two new EPs. The first EP, entitled The Sleeping Gods, which was produced in partnership with Scion Audio/Visual, was released on 10 May 2011 and made available as a free download consisting of 5 original tracks.[18] The second EP, entitled Thorn, was released on 27 August 2011 in partnership with Soulseller Records in fulfillment of a decade-old agreement. The Thorn EP, released on seven-inch vinyl, was strictly limited to 1,000 copies and featured a more atmospheric sound than the band is currently known for.[19] Enslaved started their 20th anniversary tour "Circling Above and Within North America Tour Part IV" in September 2011 with Alcest and Junius in the United States and Canada.[20] An official tribute album called Önd – A Tribute was released on Pictonian Records in July 2012. It contains covers from twenty bands (including Dordeduh, Fen, Kraków, Vreid and Wodensthrone) to celebrate the two first decades of Enslaved's career.[21]

Singer Grutle Kjellson at the Wave-Gotik-Treffen 2016 in Germany

After having signed to Nuclear Blast in Europe, too, Enslaved released their 12th studio album, RIITIIR, on 28 September 2012 in Europe and 9 October in North America. The album received positive reviews from music critics.[22] In 2013 they contributed to the book Tenk som en rockestjerne (Think Like a Rockstar),[23] written by Ståle Økland.

Enslaved released their 13th full-length studio album, In Times, on 10 March 2015 through Nuclear Blast.[24][25] The album received positive reviews from music critics, with AllMusic's Thom Jurek noting that the band are "still pushing at the boundaries of the music that inspired them back in 1991 when guitarist Ivar Bjørnson and vocalist/bassist Grutle Kjellson (13 and 17 years old at the time) first formed the band."[26] In 2016 the band celebrated their 25th anniversary with a series of exclusive shows and merchandise designs.[27] Their Spinning Wheel Ritual tour across Europe with Ne Obliviscaris and Oceans of Slumber will take place from late September to early November.[28] They also announced their plans to release a new compilation album on 11 November 2016, titled The Sleeping Gods – Thorn. The album compiles rare and experimental material from 2010 to 2011 which were previously available as two separate EPs released in 2011: The Sleeping Gods and Thorn.[29]

Recent history[edit]

In December 2016, keyboardist Herbrand Larsen left the band amicably after 12 years.[30] The band then recruited Håkon Vinje of Seven Impale, a Norwegian band that previously opened for them at a concert in Bergen.[31] In May 2017, Enslaved released their first live album, Roadburn Live, recorded during their performance at Roadburn Festival in 2015.[32] Enslaved's 14th studio album E was released on 13 October 2017.[33] In June 2018, drummer Cato Bekkevold retired from the band amicably, and was replaced by Iver Sandøy, who had previously played in the side project Trinacria and co-produced several recent Enslaved albums.[34] The band's 15th album Utgard was initially announced for Spring 2020, but was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic; it was finally released in October 2020.[35] The four-song EP Caravans to the Outer Worlds was released in October 2021; the EP was described by the band as a bridge between Utgard and their next full-length album in the future.[36] Their sixteenth studio album Heimdal was released on March 3, 2023.[37][38]

Musical style and influence[edit]

The band's early music was rooted in traditional black metal and Viking metal, however the band moved away from this sound with 2001's Monumension and 2003's Below the Lights. It was at this point that the band was reduced to its two founding members, Bjørnson and Kjellson. They began to incorporate elements of progressive rock, jazz, and other distinct influences into their sound, and over time have continued this progression.[39] Kjellson has named Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Rush, Genesis, Darkthrone, early Mayhem, and Bathory as important influences on the band's sound.[4]




Studio albums


  1. ^ "Enslaved Encyclopaedia Metallum entry". Metal-archives.com. 17 July 2002. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
  2. ^ "Enslaved | Biography & History | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  3. ^ "10 of the best metal bands from Norway". Metal Hammer. 8 August 2016. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  4. ^ a b "ENSLAVED'S GRUTTLE KJELLSON: THE METALSUCKS INTERVIEW". MetalSucks. 4 November 2008. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  5. ^ "Skuggsjá News: SKUGGSJA | Season of Mist, Metal Label". season-of-mist.com. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Enslaved". Tartarean Desire. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
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  9. ^ "Enslaved Feature Interview at Blistering.com". blistering.com. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  10. ^ "Trinacria". Myspace. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
  11. ^ "Trinacria". Encyclopaedia Metallum. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
  12. ^ "ENSLAVED's 'Vertebrae' Crowned TERRORIZER Magazine's 'Album of the Year'". Blabbermouth.net. 31 December 2008. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
  13. ^ "Enslaved Events". Enslaved.no. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
  14. ^ a b O'Hagar, Sammy (17 September 2008). "Enslaved's Vertebrae: The Sound of a Band at the Top of Their Game". MetalSucks.net. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
  15. ^ "Enslaved - Vertebrae: A Momentary Lapse in Norwegian?". Encyclopaedia Metallum. marktheviktor. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
  16. ^ Metzengerstein, Frederick. "Nachtmysium's Assassins: Black Meddle Part 1 is a Solid Link between Psychedelia and Black Metal". Sputnik Music. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
  17. ^ "Enslaved: New Album Title, Release Date Revealed". Blabbermouth.net. 15 July 2010. Archived from the original on 30 June 2012. Retrieved 15 July 2010.
  18. ^ "ENSLAVED to Release 'The Sleeping Gods' EP". Blabbermouth.net. 9 May 2011. Archived from the original on 9 September 2012. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  19. ^ "ENSLAVED To Release Seven-Inch EP on SOULSELLER RECORDS". Blabbermouth.net. 24 July 2011. Archived from the original on 1 February 2013. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  20. ^ "Enslaved: 2011 American tour announced, Release Date Revealed". facebook.com. 1 July 2011. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
  21. ^ "Tributes to Enslaved and Emperor". nrk.no. 8 July 2012. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
  22. ^ Riitiir by Enslaved, retrieved 6 November 2016
  23. ^ "Katzenjammer | LivingByCamera". Cameratravel.wordpress.com. 25 April 2013. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  24. ^ "In Times". Encyclopaedia Metallum. 15 December 2014. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  25. ^ Axl Rosenberg (15 December 2014). "Enslaved Announce New Album, In Times". MetalSucks. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  26. ^ Jurek, Thom. "In Times - Enslaved - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  28. ^ "ENSLAVED - 25th anniversary European tour!". Nuclear Blast. 7 September 2016. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  29. ^ "ENSLAVED To Release The Sleeping Gods/Thorn Compilation in November - Metal Injection". Metal Injection. 7 September 2016. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  30. ^ Blabbermouth (15 December 2016). "ENSLAVED Parts Ways With Keyboardist HERBRAND LARSEN". BLABBERMOUTH.NET. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  31. ^ Dome, Malcolm (12 October 2017). "Theory of Evolution". Prog #81. UK: Future.
  32. ^ Kennelty, Greg (11 May 2017). "ENSLAVED Shares "Isa" From Its Roadburn Live Album". Metal Injection. Retrieved 4 November 2023.
  33. ^ "ENSLAVED - album details & pre-order!". nuclearblast.de. 7 August 2017. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  34. ^ Prog, Scott Munro2018-06-21T15:51:48 171Z (21 June 2018). "Drummer Cato Bekkevold parts ways with Enslaved". Prog Magazine. Retrieved 14 July 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  35. ^ Blabbermouth (24 March 2020). "ENSLAVED To Release 'Utgard' Album in the Fall; Cover Artwork Unveiled". BLABBERMOUTH.NET. Retrieved 25 March 2020.
  36. ^ DiVita, Joe. "Enslaved Unveil Ultra Dynamic 'Caravans to the Outer Worlds' EP Title Track". Loudwire. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  37. ^ "Enslaved Announce 2023 North American Co-Headlining Tour With Insomnium". Revolver. 14 December 2022. Retrieved 3 January 2023.
  38. ^ "ENSLAVED's 'Heimdal' track by track: Ivar Bjørnson breaks down new album". Revolver. 2 March 2023. Retrieved 3 March 2023.
  39. ^ "Interview – Grutle Kjellson of Enslaved". Retrieved 6 November 2016.

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