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Enslaved on their reinvention with new album E

Extreme Takeover: one of metal’s most fearless modern bands have reinvented themselves yet again. We find out exactly what Enslaved saw in the runes to create masterful new album E

In April 2016, Enslaved were still on a high from celebrating their 25th anniversary. there was much to be proud of – in their earlier days they had helped to define Norwegian black metal, before gradually reinventing themselves as a unique progressive entity that broadened the horizons of extreme music. Continuing this process, guitarist Ivar Bjørnson booked a studio and began work on Sacred Horse, a song that would become the centrepiece of forthcoming album E. But not everyone in the band was happy.

Keyboard player and backing vocalist Herbrand larsen suddenly announced his departure after 13 years, throwing them into crisis. “I think Herbrand was expecting a move in a rock-oriented direction, because the band had been going more melodic,” explains Ivar. “[then] he realised that Enslaved at any time could implode in total musical craziness! He wasn’t as motivated as the rest of us, which had the opposite effect – we became more enthusiastic. Around the 25th anniversary, there was a realisation for us that success would be to realise our artistic vision; if it ends up on this or that commercial level, it doesn’t really matter.”

there was no bad blood in their parting, but the strong friendship in the band – completed by lead vocalist/bassist Grutle Kjellson, guitarist Arve Isdal and drummer Cato Bekkevold – made Herbrand’s decision all the more agonising. “It was very painful,” Ivar confesses. “It’s so much fun touring; I guess he made the decision way back, but the social aspect kept him there for a long while.”

So began the hunt for a replacement, with studio time fast approaching. “Finding a guy who can tour 200 days a year, committing social and relationship suicide, playing 70s-style keyboard and organ and singing clean vocals…” Ivar sighs heavily before continuing. “to find that in three months, preferably in our hometown of Bergen, with only 350,000 people living there, seemed like a long shot. But good art depends on luck and craziness!”

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