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Ivar Bjørnson Talks 'Totally New' ENSLAVED Record in New Studio Interview

Has there been a more consistently awesome extreme metal band than Enslaved? We're not sure, but we know these Norwegian powerhouses aren't to be fucked with!

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Three years removed from their acclaimed 14th studio album E, and much has changed for the band, though much remains the same.

Gone is drummer Cato Bekkevold, replaced by longtime collaborator and producer Iver Sandøy on the kit.

As with E, the band took to Duper Studio and Iver's Solslottet Studio in their hometown of Bergen, Norway, with mixing to take place in Örebro's Fascination Street Studio.

Founding member and guitarist Ivar Bjørnson caught up with Metal Injection in a rare studio interview for an update on Enslaved's first album in three years, and one that marks an evolution for one of extreme metals pillar forces.

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On Mixing Fun and Seriousness in the Studio

We take the music so seriously that sometimes it feels good to release a little bit of that tension through, in our case, having a laugh at ourselves. But when we're in the studio, it's very serious. We do use a lot of self-made terminology. We've worked in music for such a long time that we've developed sort of a vocabulary so we can discuss all these abstract things, the movement of the songs, the kind of atmosphere and vibe, sound expression and so on. And after a year of songwriting, arranging, rehearsing and then finally getting in the studio, sometimes you just get that little change of perspective.

On the Addition of Iver on Drums

With Cato leaving it was really a substantial part that the mid era Enslaved lineup was over in a sense. We felt that was very significant, but also significant as an event that we as a band should really respect.

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What we did is instead of looking for a drummer, very shortly after Cato talked about the departure, it was very clear to us that the only option was to have Iver join the band. We've worked with him in the studio for many, many years. He'd been substituting for Cato at shows. We knew this guy would have to be part of the band. So it was not so much an audition, but more of a threatening situation where he was just told you have to join the band (laughs). He didn't have a choice and finally understood that. That really made the feeling of the band's persistence, that there's a will and a real power and real urge to continue and develop and live within the entity of Enslaved that was really, really inspiring. And everybody just felt that.

On Inspired Songwriting

As the songwriting was developing I think the other guys felt from the demos that I was really inspired by them, which is what it was. It's really inspiring and I would say privileged to be able to write music that you know the musician performing this is going to really understand what you're trying to do and they were just gonna elevate it up to that level you were dreaming of. The whole thing was a sort of a self-reinforcing positive spiral movement with music.

On Chemistry in the Studio
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With the comfort zone, with all this happening in almost 30 years in the band, that's still exactly the same. You know, when we were 15 and 18 back in the early 90s and discussing what Blodhemn or Eld or Frost should be about, those processes are still identical. And that really anchors the whole thing and sort of makes us feel confident. You always know where home is and that makes you more willing to explore, I guess.

On Living Up to Past Success

That (pressure) is totally gone now, because I think going into this album with the last two years, 2016 being the 25th anniversary, doing the Frost album last year, we've come to a point where there's so many layers and paradoxes that in that hole of unexpected things, it's all just total freedom. There's never been a mission statement in itself to explore for the sake of exploration. And I think we've come to the point where things also consolidated to a certain extent. Those things from the very first year of Enslaved that we want to keep alive. Keep the roots, so to speak, that inspires us heavily also today. There's things that we've developed that we want to continue to do and so on.

The only people that can really, I guess, have an opinion that makes sense to us about our music… is the people following the band. And I guess people have different opinions on that. It's just gone through so many layers that it doesn't seem rational to make heads or tails of it from our point of view, at least.

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On New Era Enslaved

It's a totally new Enslaved record and it's a new Enslaved. I guess you could say the lineup change was the ignition for it, but that it would become such a different building that just developed.

I would say the reason why we chose to use the same infrastructure with the studios wasn't a conscious thing, but I'm suspecting that we might have wanted to keep some things the same because we were feeling that that we were entering a new phase. We want to preserve roots and we want to make sure that Enslaved, the backbone and the vertebrate is still intact. That grounding and anchoring in sort of certain well-known patterns like where to record is a good way to ensure that connection.

On Nearing the 30th Anniversary of Enslaved
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I certainly don't spend a lot of time pondering about those things because it still feels like it's in the moment. It's still in flight, so to speak, or in the air. If the whole thing can be described as a leap, it's still in the air and I have no idea when it's going to land.

On Inspiring Listeners

My hope for it, people listening to this, is that it would be an inspiring album. What it inspires in people doesn't really matter to me, but if it could spark some kind of process, that would be amazing. That would be the dream here. That's what I care about.

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