BardSpec Post “Bone” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

bardspec-Photo-Christian-Misje

If you’re not sensitive to flashing lights and you’ve got 12 spare minutes to get weird in your day — and I think we all know you do, even if you think you don’t; one has to set priorities for these things sometimes — then Enslaved guitarist Ivar Bjørnson would like to invite you to a droning dance party. And no, that’s not a rave where little robot helicopters fly overhead, though I’m sure that exists somewhere on this planet. It’s a video for the track “Bone” from Bjørnson‘s upcoming BardSpec debut, which trips out in electronic psychedelia even as it pulsates light and beats across an extended runtime atop a bed of longform guitar effects. Drone and dance. Dance and drone.

Whichever order you want to present those two, they serve as the core of “Bone,” and Bjørnson, along with Today is the Day guitarist/weirdo noise legend Steve Austin, gracefully plays to one side or the other of the balance between them throughout. The song, such as it is, is an undertaking to be sure, but in its place serving as the post-intro opener of BardSpec‘s forthcoming debut album, Hydrogen — out June 23 on ByNorse Music — its hypnotic effect proves well suited in drawing the listener in closer and readying them for the true voyage still to come. In other words, yeah, it’s gonna get stranger. That’s the whole idea.

And yet, “Bone” makes its own kind of sense, sets its own context. You can hear the linear build in the midsection, or the fluidity as one part leads into the next. You might need to make your way through it a couple times to get a sense of what is happening, but exploratory as it is in style, there is a sense of direction at work. Bjørnson is by no means flailing as he crafts the movement-filled wash at the apex. He’s poised. Just poised in another dimension. Go ahead and see for yourself. Take a chance on it.

Video is by David Hall, and is followed by more info off the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

BardSpec, “Bone” official video

Hydrogen, is the forthcoming debut from BardSpec, an experimental project featuring Enslaved’s Ivar Bjørnson and Today Is The Day’s Steve Austin.

BardSpec offer up a stunning fusion of stirring, hallucinatory synth-sounds with mercurial guitar effects and hypnotic rhythms that navigate illusory landscapes. Field recordings and other found-sounds also drift and evaporate into the ether. Working intuitively with these elements and with sharpened senses, attuned to inner impulses, this is immersive music, that can exist anywhere, and anytime within the minds of the listener.

BardSpec is inspired by the German masters Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schultze, and Conrad Schnitzler in addition to contemporary ambient music like Norwegian one-man-band Biosphere and abstract modern electronic music like When, as well as the electronic/industrial-driven metal like Godflesh.

BardSpec website

BardSpec on Thee Facebooks

BardSpec on Instagram

ByNorse Music

Tags: , , , , , ,

Enslaved Begin Recording New Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 25th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Pretty funny timing on the news coming in that Norwegian blackened progressives Enslaved have begun the recording process for their next album. Or at least the phrasing of the news release made it so: “Enslaved enter the studio again!” Thing was, I got this update from the PR wire over the weekend at Roadburn in the Netherlands about two minutes after I saw Enslaved bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson walking around at the fest. Looked at my phone, looked up and there he was. I had a chuckle and said to myself, “Well, I guess not all of Enslaved are in the studio at the moment.”

Anyway, fun coincidence there, but the good news is that hopefully before the end of 2017 we’ll get a follow-up to Enslaved‘s excellent 2015 studio offering, In Times (review here), which will make it a double-release year for the band, who also just put out the Roadburn Live live record. The more the merrier.

Here’s the latest:

enslaved

ENSLAVED Enter The Studio Again!

It’s been over two years since the release of critically acclaimed album In Times, and now Norway’s progressive metal legends ENSLAVED have entered the studio again to record their 14th, yet untitled full-length release. Aiming for both wilder and yet more progressive and melodic horizons, the band who celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, never ceases to surprise and challenge their fans; they will once again step up to the plate. The recordings are taking place at Duper & Solslottet Studios in Bergen throughout April, and will be mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios. With its epic touch, the album promises to be original and refreshing – and to contain some surprising new elements.

“It is absolutely fantastic to be in the studio with these new songs”, states mastermind Ivar Bjørnson. “So many doors were opened with In Times and the times (sic) that followed; for us as a band, for me as a composer and I guess for us all on a personal level. I have never worked this hard to put together music for an album before, and that intensity continues into the studio where everybody is giving their everything, every hour of every day. We are a tighter unit than ever before, which is obvious sonically. The concept conjured by myself and old war-brother Grutle is the strongest we have worked with. Finally, I am proud that we have taken more risks than ever before, and one in particular – and it is yielding awesome results. What does that mean? Stay tuned to find out!”

The eye-catching cover and artwork is once again being created by renowned designer and painter Truls Espedal. More info will be revealed soon!

In the meantime, enjoy ENSLAVED’s latest album In Times that was released in March 2015 via Nuclear Blast, which blew away both fans and journalists. Secure your physical copy here: www.nuclearblast.de/238143

http://www.facebook.com/enslaved
https://www.instagram.com/enslavedofficial
https://twitter.com/enslavedband
http://www.enslaved.no/
http://www.facebook.com/nuclearblastusa
http://instagram.com/nuclearblastusa
http://www.twitter.com/nuclearblastusa

Enslaved, “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” official video from Roadburn Live

Tags: , , ,

Enslaved to Release Roadburn Live 2LP for Record Store Day

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

I was at Roadburn 2015 to watch Enslaved play the set captured on the forthcoming Roadburn Live 2LP, set to release on April 22 through By Norse and Roadburn Records. They were fucking incredible. Really. It had been I think weeks since I saw them in the US and they still managed to blow me away. Dudes never fail. Roadburn Live draws on the proggy side of what they do, and yes, that’s awesome. Every year at Roadburn, I tell myself I get to buy one piece of vinyl to go with the usual swath of CDs. I think I know what it’s going to be this year.

They’ve got “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” streaming now and you can check it out at the bottom of the post if you think my reasoning is suspect. It isn’t.

The PR wire fills in the details where my spinning head can’t:

enslaved roadburn live

ENSLAVED To Release Roadburn Live 2XLP For Record Store Day, April 22nd; “Death In The Eyes Of Dawn” Premiered

Roadburn Live is ENSLAVED’s first official live album, a split release between Roadburn Records and By Norse Music. The album was recorded during one of band’s headlining shows at the renowned Roadburn Festival 2015, an edition curated by ENSLAVED’s guitar player Ivar Bjørnson.

Walter Hoeijmakers, Roadburn’s Artistic Director comments on the release: “It’s no secret that there’s a strong friendship between Roadburn and ENSLAVED. One of the most hard-hitting and progressive bands to come out of Norway, ENSLAVED has played a significant part in the festival’s history – both musically and antically. Not only has ENSLAVED been our artist in residence, bringing side-projects such as The Armageddon Concerto (the ENSLAVED/Shining collaboration), Dream Of An Opium Eater, and Trinacria to Roadburn, Ivar Bjørnson has also been our 2015 co-curator, along with Wardruna’s Einar Kvitrafn Selvik, resulting in Skuggsjá’s first ever performance outside of Norway. ENSLAVED’s 2015 performances were the pinnacle of this enduring and artistic friendship, and showcased the massive influence the band has had on both Roadburn and the (underground) metal scene for the past two decades. To have these shows captured on vinyl is a dream come true for me, and I truly hope it’s the same for anyone who was in attendance, or those who want to indulge themselves in the Northern magic of ENSLAVED.”

Roadburn Live will be available as limited and exclusive Record Store Day color editions and as Roadburn/ENSLAVED-Webshop Gold edition including the original A3 Roadburn poster and color stickers!

To celebrate the release, what better way than to hold a playback session with the members of Enslaved at the Roadburn Festival 2017. Becky Laverty of Roadburn Festival comments: “ENSLAVED and Roadburn share a history that is entwined and their 2015 performance on the main stage was such a fantastic milestone for both parties, that it makes perfect sense for the show to be released as a live album. As the album will be released during Roadburn 2017, it seemed fitting to invite attendees and the band alike to join us for a playback session at the festival as part of our popular side program.”

More information about the playback session to be revealed soon.

Roadburn Live also features a brilliant layout created by highly respected artist and Roadburn’s regular graphic designer Costin Chioreanu. The album was mixed by Iver Sandøy at Solslottet Studio and mastered by Jens Bogren (Kreator, Opeth, Sepultura) in Fascination Studios. It is also the last official release with Herbrand Larsen on keys and vocals.

After celebrating their twenty-five year anniversary in 2016 showcasing a majority of older material, Roadburn Live displays songs mainly from the “newer” and more progressive era of ENSLAVED’s career, with songs from “In Times,” “Riitiir,” “Isa,” “Below The Lights,” and “Monumension.” Featuring guest appearances of Einar Selvik (Wardruna), Aðalbjörn Tryggvason (Sólstafir), Per Wiberg (Opeth, Candlemass), and Menno Gootjes (Focus) on “Immigrant Song,” the first cover song by ENSLAVED to appear on any record ever.

Grutle Kjellson comments on the album: “I’m generally not a huge fan of live albums. I like to be present at a show, to grasp the energy of the band, and to witness the sometimes magical symbiosis that occurs between the band and the audience. I am, however, a huge fan of the Roadburn Festival! I consider this to be my all-time favorite, both as a musician and as a guest. Therefore, if everENSLAVED were to release a live album, it had to be from a Roadburn show! I hope you will enjoy listening to this piece of wax as much as we did recording it!”

Release date and format: April 22nd: Record Store Day limited color editions and Roadburn/ENSLAVED-Webshop gold edition. Standard vinyl, CD, and digital. More information soon!

Roadburn Live Track Listing:
1. Building With Fire
2. Death In The Eyes Of Dawn
3. In Times
4. Daylight
5. Convoys To Nothingness
6. As Fire Swept Clean The Earth
7. Isa
8. Immigrant Song*
* Roadburn Live exclusive song originally by Led Zeppelin

Roadburn Live Lineup:
Ivar Bjørnson – guitars, keys
Grutle Kjellson – vocals, bass
Arve Isdal – guitars
Cato Bekkevold – drums
Herbrand Larsen – keyboard, keys

http://enslaved.no
http://www.bynorse.com
http://www.facebook.com/bynorse
http://www.roadburn.com
http://www.facebook.com/roadburnfestival

Enslaved, “Death in the Eyes of Dawn”

Tags: , , , , ,

Bardspec Announce Debut Album Hydrogen Due June 23

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 21st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

I was lucky enough to see Enslaved guitarist Ivar Bjørnson perform a Bardspec set at Roadburn 2015 (review here), and it was an immersive experience to say the least. With flashlights on the side of his glasses and accompanied by his bandmate Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal, Bjørnson set about building a wash of exploratory drones and noisescapes that filled the darkened Stage01 at the 013 — since subsumed into the larger Green Room space — and gave a resoundingly progressive impression.

Given Bjørnson‘s ongoing relationship with the fest — he curated that year, along with Wardruna‘s Einar Selvik — it seems fitting that Roadburn should play a role in the release of Hydrogen, the debut recording from Bardspec, as well. Set for issue June 23 on By Norse, the full-length offering will be previewed at a listening session next month at Roadburn 2017.

The details for that, along with the Josh Graham (Neurosis, Kings Destroy) cover art, you can see below, courtesy of the PR wire:

bardspec hydrogen

BARDSPEC: Ambient Project Of Ivar Bjørnson (Enslaved, Skuggsjá) To Release Debut Album, Hydrogen, Via By Norse June 23rd

BARDSPEC is the ambient project/band led by Enslaved composer/guitarist Ivar Bjørnson. This June, By Norse will release the debut album Hydrogen. Having launched at Roadburn in 2015, BARDSPEC has since evolved into a fully-fledged band, with Steve Austin on guitars/effects, David Hall presenting the live visual aspect of the project, with the layout created by Josh Graham (Soundgarden, Neurosis, IIVII, etc.).

BARDSPEC combines stirring, hallucinatory synth-sounds with mercurial guitar effects and hypnotic rhythms that navigate illusory landscapes. Field recordings, and other found-sounds also drift and evaporate into the ether. Working intuitively with these elements and with sharpened senses, attuned to inner impulses, this is immersive music that can exist anywhere and anytime within the minds of the listener.

Whilst BARDSPEC might essentially be the same brain and personality making the music, compared to Enslaved, it is a widely different entity. Thematically and sonically, BARDSPEC is about minimizing, subtracting, and meditating upon the simplest essence of “things;” the single points exemplified through song titles like “Bone,” “Salt,” and so on, the basic elements and foundations that make up the whole. There is an element of “space” in the music and the artwork, as a representation of the inner workings of the mind and the subconscious.

Inspired by the German masters Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schultze, and Conrad Schnitzler in addition to contemporary ambient music like Norwegian one-man-band Biosphere and abstract modern electronic music like When (Norwegian also), as well as the electronic/industrial-driven metal like Godflesh. Ivar describes the appeal and trance-inducing aspects of such music to him, “I remember listening to Richard Burmer and his album Mosaic from 1984. I thought I fell asleep but I was in a semi-lucid state where I still registered music – but not much else. At the end of side A there’s an explosion so violent and extreme that I jumped two feet into the air and was totally shocked. The weird thing is, I couldn’t remember it being there. When I revisited the music again it was just a little ‘thud.’ I was just experiencing a trance so deep into the music that this deviation from the pattern and frequencies in the foregoing half hour of monotony totally shocked me. I loved it!”

Roadburn Festival plays host to a very special public listening session of Hydrogen by BARDSPEC, a chance for people to hear the album from start to finish in advance of the official release date. This event shall take place on April 21st. More information incoming on the Roadburn website.

Hydrogen Track Listing:
1. Intro – Deposition
2. Bone
3. Fire Tongue
4. Gamma
5. Salt
6. Teeth (bonus track)

Hydrogen shall be released on June 23rd across all formats. The six-panel CD digipak is available as limited first press to 1000 including bonus track “Teeth.” The double gatefold LP is limited to 500 black vinyl, and the digital format also including the bonus track.

http://www.bardspec.com
http://www.facebook.com/BardSpec
http://www.instagram.com/bardspec
http://bynorse.com

Bardspec, “Fire – Tongue/Meat” Live in New York

Tags: , , , , , ,

Enslaved Announce The Sleeping Gods – Thorn Due Nov. 11 & Vikingligr Veldi Vinyl Reissue

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 14th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Yeah, I know how it goes posting about Enslaved around here. I put something up about how the long-running Norwegian progressive black metallers are genius and how continuously innovative their sound is and blah blah blah and it falls completely flat. That was certainly the case when I reviewed their latest album, In Times (review here), last year. Well, whatever. I dig the crap out of the band and enjoy writing about them, so I’m not going to stop. They’ll release a compilation of material from 2010-2011 titled The Sleeping Gods – Thorn on Nov. 11 through ByNorse Music.

A few interesting things to note for anyone else who follows the band: ByNorse Music is definitely not Nuclear Blast, which has put out the last several Enslaved records. Whether that deal has ended or if this is a one-off or what, I don’t know, but it’s noteworthy all the same. Also, the title seems to draw from The Sleeping Gods, which was a Scion A/V EP released back in 2011, though whether the two will share any material between them is also unclear. My initial impression is no, since The Sleeping Gods – Thorn doesn’t seem to feature keyboardist/vocalist Herbrand Larsen, who is very much present in the aforementioned EP.

To those noteworthies, add the vinyl reissue of their first album, Vikingligr Veldi and the considerable round of touring Enslaved are about to do starting later this month, covering ground in Australia, Japan, Europe and the US, and yes, I feel completely justified in continuing to herald their brilliance. So there.

From the PR wire:

ENSLAVED To Release The Sleeping Gods – Thorn November 11th; To Issue Vikingligr Veldi On Vinyl For The First Time Ever

Norwegian progressive extreme metal icons ENSLAVED will release The Sleeping Gods – Thorn compilation this November via ByNorse Music. A full-length album comprised of rare material from 2010-2011, The Sleeping Gods – Thorn is a unique collection of experimental material connecting with the band’s early roots.

The seven tracks comprising The Sleeping Gods – Thorn originally appeared on extremely limited EPs between ENSLAVED’s Axioma Ethica Odini and Riitiir full-lengths and were recorded both in Solslottet Studio in Bergen, as well as the band members’ own studios and partly in the deep woods of Valevaag on the South Western Coast of Norway. Like the songs themselves, the production is a mix of old and new; high tech and no-tech – a mix of concepts that have been essential in achieving the signature sound ENSLAVED has become notorious for today. Members Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson co-produced the material together with long-time collaborator Iver Sandøy.

The album includes lyrics sung in Norwegian, English, and Old Norse, with themes centered on mythology and the esoteric side of the runes, as well as contrasting the Norse Ways as a polytheistic belief system to the monotheistic plague of the Big World Religions. The music nods respectfully to the wildly varying deities that make up the pantheon of inspiration for ENSLAVED, both “then” and “now.” There are traces of the proto black metal of Bathory, the classic rock and heavy metal of the ’70s and ’80s, the synthesized and sequenced masters of the ’70s, prog-rock, world/Norse folk music, Norwegian black metal of the ’90s, modern classical music, goth rock a la Fields Of The Nephilim, and much more.

Tying he package together are the extensive liner notes Kjellson and a beautiful new layout by Costin Chioreanu of Twilight 13 Media (Roadburn Festival, Opeth, Darkthrone, At The Gates, etc.) whose mesmerizing new illustrations display a unique symbiosis between two of our times’ most exciting visual and sonic artists.

The Sleeping Gods – Thorn will see release on November 11th on limited edition blue vinyl (webshop edition), black vinyl, digipak CD, and digitally via ByNorse Music. Preorders will start on September 30th.

The Sleeping Gods – Thorn Lineup:
Ivar Bjørnson – guitar, synth
Grutle Kjellson – vocals, bass
Cato Bekkevold – drums
Ice Dale – lead guitar

ENSLAVED will issue their debut full-length, the now legendary Vikingligr Veldi, on vinyl for the first time ever. Set for release on September 23rd, 2016 via By Norse Music, the limited 2xLP gatefold edition includes a stunning new layout design by Z. Bielak (Ghost, Mayhem etc.) as well as four brand new illustrations specially made for this groundbreaking offering. Additionally, the record has been respectfully remastered for vinyl by Iver Sandøy preserving every bit of its original dynamics.

ENSLAVED’s Vikingligr Veldi, initially released in 1994, was co-produced with the legendary Pytten (Immortal, Mayhem, Burzum, Emperor et al) in Grieghallen, Bergen, Norway. The album features lyrics in Icelandic, and is a tribute to the Norse landscape, history, and mythology. The songs match these themes with long, horizontal songscapes, dense atmospheres, and winds from the past.

“We have been waiting since the day we recorded it,” comments ENSLAVED’s Ivar Bjørnson, “and at last it is happening! It has been a challenging journey, and it has demanded a lot of patience and understanding from all parts involved. The day we held the finished product in our hands was as sacred a day for us as the day we finished recording it.”

Ivar Bjørnson – guitars, keys
Grutle Kjellson – vocals, bass
Trym Torson – drums

Enslaved tour dates:
Sep 29 Kiff Aarau, Switzerland
Sep 30 Club Cann Stuttgart, Germany
Oct 02 Essigfabrik Köln, Germany
Oct 05 CROWBAR Fortitude Valley, Australia
Oct 06 Prince Bandroom St.Kilda, Australia
Oct 07 Manning Bar Sydney, Australia
Oct 08 Loud Park 2016 Saitama Shi, Japan
Oct 15 Lido Berlin, Germany
Oct 16 Progresja Warsaw, Poland
Oct 17 Firlej Wroclaw, Poland
Oct 18 Nová Chmelnice Praha, Czech Republic
Oct 19 Backstage Munich, Germany
Oct 20 Szene Wien, Austria
Oct 22 Club Rockstadt Brasov, Romania
Oct 23 Dürer Kert Budapest, Hungary
Oct 24 Kino Siska Ljubljana, Slovenia
Oct 26 Bronson Ravenna, Italy
Oct 27 Traffic Rome, Italy
Oct 28 Circolo Colony Brescia, Italy
Oct 29 Jas’rod Pennes Mirabeau, France
Oct 30 Razzmatazz 2 Barcelona, Spain
Oct 31 BUT Madrid, Spain
Nov 02 METRONUM Toulouse, France
Nov 03 Antipode Rennes, France
Nov 04 Divan Du Monde Paris, France
Nov 05 Damnation Festival Leeds, United Kingdom
Nov 07 Neushoorn Leeuwarden, Netherlands
Nov 08 013 Tilburg, Netherlands
Nov 09 Musikzentrum Hannover, Germany
Nov 10 Beatpol Dresden, Germany
Nov 11 Metal Hammer Paradise Wangels, Germany
Dec 10 Gramercy Theatre New York, NY

https://www.facebook.com/enslaved/
http://www.bynorse.com
http://www.facebook.com/bynorse

Enslaved, The Sleeping Gods (2011)

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Skuggsjá Sign to Season of Mist; Album Due Early 2016

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 30th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

skuggsja-Photo-by-JJ-Koczan

It was pretty clear as I stood and watched Skuggsjá‘s second performance ever at this year’s Roadburn back in April that the collaboration between Einar Selvik of Wardruna and Ivar Bjørnson of Enslaved was a genuinely special project. The experience of watching it proved likewise. I said at the time that I hoped the set would be released, as so many are, in the form of a Live at Roadburn offering, but failing that, I’ll take Skuggsjá signing to Season of Mist and releasing what seems to be a studio album instead. I mean, you know, that’s not exactly roughing it.

And by that I mean, it’s fantastic news that not only will Skuggsjá continue, but that it will begin an actual evolution as a band. The album — I don’t know how it could be anything but self-titled since it was the work from which the project took its name, but don’t quote me on that — will be out early in 2016, and it’s already jumped considerably toward the top of my most-anticipated list simply by existing.

Heads up on this one. You won’t want to miss it:

skuggsja logo white

SKUGGSJÁ signs to Season of Mist

Season of Mist are proud to announce the signing of Norway’s SKUGGSJÁ. The band, led by Ivar Bjørnson (ENSLAVED) and Einar Selvik (WARDRUNA), will release their debut album worldwide in early 2016.

SKUGGSJÁ was originally conceived as a commissioned musical work written by Bjørnson and Selvik. The arrangement was performed by ENSLAVED and WARDRUNA in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian constitution at the 2014 edition of Norway’s Eidsivablot festival.

The growing desire to present SKUGGSJÁ to a broader audience led Bjørnson and Selvik to headline Roadburn Festival 2015 and record a full album. Details regarding this debut release will be available soon.

Featuring a variety of Norway and Scandinavia’s oldest instruments, as well as poetry in Norse and Norwegian, SKUGGSJÁ tells the history of Norway and it’s people. SKUGGSJÁ is truly a fusion of Norway’s past and present both lyrically and musically.

Regarding the signing, SKUGGSJÁ comment:

“When we were asked to write a joined convert piece by the Eidsivablot festival for the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian constitution, we both immediately saw the outline of something massive and important.

Our performance confirmed that this project should live on, develop and thrive. During 2015 we have performed the piece once more at the Roadburn festival, and have also discreetly slipped in and out of studios around Norway to record what is to become our debut album.

We are extremely proud of what we will present on this album. It has been quite a journey already for the two of us, but this where it really begins. We have created something that is bigger than its individual parts. Now we are excited to see what the world make out of our creation!”

All things good,
Ivar & Einar

SKUGGSJÁ’s official line-up is:
Ivar Bjørnson (ENSLAVED): vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards
Einar Selvik (WARDRUNA): vocals, taglharpa, Kravik-lyre, goat-horn, birch-bark lure, bone-flute, percussion, electronics

The album will also feature contributions from the following musicians:
Grutle Kjellson (ENSLAVED): vocals
Lindy-Fay Hella (WARDRUNA): vocals
Eilif Gundersen: birch bark lure
Olav L. Mjelva: Harding fiddle
Cato Bekkevold (ENSLAVED): drums

https://www.facebook.com/SkuggsjaNO
http://www.skuggsja.no/
http://www.season-of-mist.com/

Skuggsjá, Live at Roadburn 2015

Tags: , , , ,

Enslaved, In Times: Built with Fire

Posted in Reviews on April 23rd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

enslaved in times

I’ll admit to being somewhat late in reviewing In Times, the 13th full-length and fourth through Nuclear Blast from Norwegian progressive black metallers Enslaved, but I ultimately don’t think that’s a bad thing. The album was released in March, following about two and a half years after 2012’s Riitiir (review here), and while it is immediately identifiable as Enslaved, it marks a couple of turns that become more apparent on repeat listens. For one, it is a stripping down of some of the grandiosity of Riitiir, the preceding 2010 outing, Axioma Ethica Odini (review here), and 2008’s Vertebrae. Comprised of six songs totaling a three-sided-LP’s 54 minutes, In Times is still plenty substantial, but clocks in a full 14 minutes shorter than its predecessor, and its songwriting feels less centered on the big-chorus methodology of songs like “Thoughts Like Hammers” or the stunning “Roots of the Mountain” from that offering. The tradeoff? In Times is tighter, more efficient, and carries forward the progression of the Bergen five-piece’s sound that has been ongoing since they made their debut with the Hordanes Land EP in 1993. It is a rare band who continues to offer something new each time out beyond three or four records, let alone 13, but while In Times pares down certain elements of Enslaved‘s sound, it’s also their most progressive outing to date, songs like “Nauthir Bleeding” and the 10-minute title-track directly marrying the extreme metal roots of their early work with the boldness of melody and expansive craftsmanship that has evolved in their sound over the last 14 or 15 years, going back to when 2000’s Mardraum: Beyond the Within and 2001’s Monumension set the genre-defying course they’d continue to follow throughout 2003’s Below the Lights and the two subsequent landmarks, 2004’s Isa and 2006’s Ruun. And much to the credit of In Times, it’s not a case of black metal and melodic prog fighting it out in the band’s sound. Opener “Thurisaz Dreaming” — after a lull-you-into-a-false-sense-of-security couple of quiet seconds — explodes into ripping extremity, bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson‘s phlegmy rasp at the fore, but it’s not long before the gallop takes a turn and keyboardist Herbrand Larsen emerges with the clean vocals that have become a defining signature in Enslaved‘s approach.

The key? It works. It flows. I’ve said on multiple occasions before that Larsen‘s growth as a vocalist is among the pivotal elements — if not the pivotal element — in Enslaved‘s progression since he joined the band in 2004. That’s not to take anything away from the songwriting of the group as a whole, KjellsonLarsen, guitarists Ivar Bjørnson and Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal, and drummer Cato Bekkevold, but in hindsight, Larsen‘s first parts offsetting Kjellson‘s raw-throated cackle and Bjørnson‘s periodic roars seem tentative compared to the confident mastery he shows throughout In Times, not just a backing presence, but a leader in the band, if one situated at the rear of the stage. He leads off second cut “Building with Fire,” nails the later chorus hook of the title-track as a defining moment of the album — Bekkevold‘s precision kick work and the tightness of the five of them in general certainly don’t hurt there, either — and there’s no sense of conflict between his and Kjellson‘s vocals. Each serves a purpose in the song and both make the other seem stronger. “Building with Fire” is one of several particularly triumphant moments throughout In TimesIsdal‘s solo as they push toward the midsection a reminder of just how many weapons they have in their arsenal, but one of the key aspects of the record is that it’s best taken as a whole, rather than as individual pieces. One doesn’t necessarily have to hear it front to back to appreciate the dynamic, but more than most of their other output, it feels geared toward an LP flow, and accordingly is tighter in its expressiveness in a way that meshes well with the crisp production. To look at the tracklist, with all but “In Times” itself hovering between eight and nine minutes long, one might expect a sort of staid process, the band pushing through routine execution of an established sound, but the truth is more complex and even within and between the first and second halves there are palpable differences in structure, “One Thousand Years of Rain” once again pushing the more blackened core forward while keeping a melodic underpinning in the keys and guitar of its verse and the vocals topping its chorus and post-midsection slowdown, a Viking-style chant arriving before the pickup of the song’s finale.

enslaved

While on vinyl it requires a flip not only of sides but of actual platters, the transition between “One Thousand Years of Rain” and “Nauthir Bleeding” in a linear format — digital or CD — is one of the most telling moments of In Times‘ as-a-whole intent, the latter track something of a comedown that flows directly from the preceding extremity, gentle guitar noodling interspersed with miniature fits of aggression that gradually take hold after some sparse lines of vocals from Larsen and themselves prove hypnotic before Kjellson swirls in atop a signature gallop. It’s not as big a chorus as “In Times,” which follows, but the arrangement of the two vocalists, the progression of the guitars and keys, and the solid rhythmic foundation on which the melody plays out make “Nauthir Bleeding” an even more archetypal example of In Times‘ varied strengths. When it does arrive, “In Times” feels enough like a landing to earn its position as the title-track. An initial two minutes hypnotize with a repeated riff and some psychedelic-style swirling lead guitar, but a sudden cut to double-kick and Kjellson‘s screams snap the listener back to reality with the first verse. They cycle through twice and break into a melodic vocal highlight break that moves farther and farther out into finally deconstructing to drum thud, far-off guitar and whispered vocals, then, like the beginning of the song, it snaps back to a raging tumult, the band essentially toying with a sonic mismatch. “In Times” ends crashing and chanting rather than ripping, and while that might leave closer “Daylight” to feel like something of an afterthought, the chanted vocals and multifaceted shifts back and forth provide an underline to the point of the album as a whole, which seems to be that Enslaved aren’t a band that can be easily tagged by genre anymore, and that the creative pursuit at their center remains intact even as they approach a quarter-century’s duration. In Times ends by booking “Daylight” with the chants and stomping riff from its beginning following more twists and turns, and for a record as densely packed, pummeling and forward-thinking, its final reinforcement of structure only adds another layer by which one might appreciate its composition. I’ve said many times I’m a fan of the band I remain one, but I think even behind the sturdiest artiface of objectivity, it would be hard to call Enslaved‘s achievement here anything but significant. It’s been worth taking a little extra time to appreciate.

Enslaved, “Thurisaz Dreaming” lyric video

Enslaved on Thee Facebooks

In Times at Nuclear Blast

Tags: , , , , ,

ROADBURN 2015 DAY THREE: Return to the Lake of Madness

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 12th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

roadburn 2015 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

04.11.15 — 04.00 — Late Sat./Early Sun. — Hotel

It was a misguided attempt at sleep that led me to bed after watching Coltsblood to round out my night. Didn’t work beyond the apparently standard three hours, which is what I’ve gotten give or take each night since Wednesday. When I lie down, my head hears parts of songs, David Eugene Edwards saying, “You don’t know me from Adam, down here in the lamp light,” or Sæþór Sæþórsson of Sólstafir‘s banjo in the back half of “Ótta,” among others. One day bleeds into the next. I dragged ass most of the afternoon and evening, to be perfectly honest, and given the tossing and turning I’ve just done and the fact that I’m up two hours before I set the alarm, I expect the trend to continue. weirdo canyon dispatch sat coverStill, when you’re here, you have to keep going. There’s more to see and more to hear.

We finished the third issue of this year’s Weirdo Canyon Dispatch on schedule, folding and all. It’s online here if you get the chance to check it out.

The weather, which had been gorgeous enough to boast some restorative effect of its own, has turned. I could just as easily call it “yesterday,” but for the purposes of review, I hope you’ll allow the editorial decision to keep current: “Today.” The weather turned today. As though it knew UndersmileUrfaust, and Fields of the Nephilim were all on the bill and decided “enough of this sunny shit, let’s get down to business for real.” It cleared up later, but was still colder than it had been, and early in the afternoon, I looked outside at one point and saw waves of rain coming down. That was right after Coma Wall, which, you know, fair enough.

Playing as a five-piece with their usual two couples plus a cellist, the mostly-acoustic alter-ego of Undersmile started my day off at Stage01. I got there early, which you have to do, and I wasn’t the only one. Taz Corona-Brown, Olly Corona-Brown, Hel Sterne and Tom McKibbin, plus Tom Greenway on the cello spread out over the stage, McKibbin behind, pulling double-dutyComa Wall (Photo by JJ Koczan) on drums and banjo. With Taz and Hel in dresses and quickly sliding into the sort of drawling dual vocals that are a trademark of both Coma Wall and Undersmile, there was a theatrical element to it, but the thickness of the atmosphere spoke for itself as they hit into “Summer” from their 2013 Wood & Wire split with, who else?, their other band. Off to the side of the stage, Olly sat on bass facing the others, kind of overseeing the whole thing with one leg crossed over the other. He looked managerial, but the low end filled the room well, and Coma Wall eased my way into the Roadburn Saturday better than I could’ve asked.

I’d still like to hear them take on “Rotten Apple” or “Don’t Follow” — something off Jar of Flies — which I think they’d nail in the vocals and really be able to darken the mood on, but wouldn’t you know they weren’t taking requests. Couldn’t argue, anyway. Over in the main hall, Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin were well into a live soundtrack to 1978’s Dawn of the Dead, which played on the big screen behind them, audio and all. I saw them here for a bit last year, and sure enough parts of the score were recognizable from that set as well as the movie. Like with Sólstafir‘s live soundtrack on Thursday, there were spaces without any music at all, but of course the difference is that Goblin also wrote the score originally, so to see them do it live to the film was something extra special.

Claudio Simonetti's Goblin (Photo by JJ Koczan)Perhaps most impressive about it was the timing, which they nailed. Keeping pace to scene changes and the film’s quick cuts, they ran through various pieces and themes, the quick bursts for tension as everything goes to crap with all the zombies at the mall, the biker gang showing up and bringing Tom Savini, and so on. It’s been a while since I saw it, and I’d forgotten how many classic lines there are in the film, about Hell being full and the dead walking the earth, and “Operator dead, post abandoned.” There were some times where the balance of audio was lopsided one way or another — hard to match up a film and a live band on stage — but it smoothed out, and I can’t imagine it was many attendees’ first time seeing the movie. That said, I’ve never watched Suspiria, which Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin are scoring as part of the Afterburner, so who knows? When they were done, the four-piece came to the middle of the stage from their spread-out positions, two on one side, two on the other, the middle open to allow the eye to watch the movie, and took a bow. A few seconds before, the credits rolled past with their name listed as The Goblins. So be it.

Enslaved (Photo by JJ Koczan)Next up on the Main Stage was a second go for Enslaved. I tried before they went on to calculate in my head how many Enslaved-related sets there were this year in comparison to 2010, when they were the official artist-in-residence and did sets with offshoot projects like Trinacria and their collaboration with Shining. Between their set last night, the Skuggsjá collaboration with Wardruna that followed, guitarist Ivar Bjørnson ‘s BardSpec set and today, I think they might have 2010 beat. I’m not sure if Bjørnson curating with Wardruna‘s Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik counts for double or anything — you’d have to get into percentages and it proved too much for my feeble brain to take. In any case, today’s Enslaved set focused much more on newer material. Fair after last night. The recently-issued In Times (review pending) featured heavily with “Thurisaz Dreaming,” “Building with Fire,” “In Times” and “Daylight,” but there was still room to dip back to 2001’s Monumension for “Convoys to Nothingness,” or 2003’s progressive turning point Below the Lights for “As Fire Swept Clean the Earth,” and a balance was struck between the older and newer.

Further distinguishing today from yesterday, though, were the guests. When they got to “Daylight,” bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson announced they’d be joined by SelvikAðalbjörn Tryggvason from Sólstafir and Per Wiberg, now in CandlemassEnslaved (Photo by JJ Koczan) but known also for his work in Opeth and Spiritual Beggars. The three contributed on vocals at the beginning and end of the song, and Selvik came back out for a longer, soulful guest spot on “Convoys to Nothingness,” while Enslaved proper delivered again the kind of set that brought the crowd back from last night, “Isa” tossed in as a bonus and a cover of Led Zeppelin‘s “Immigrant Song” with more guest guitar included to add even more intrigue. It was not as intense as Friday had been, their newer material offering a more intricate but decidedly less raging style, but they handled it professionally, and seemed to be having as much fun as the audience while they ran through their second of the weekend’s two full sets. The Heads, who followed, are the official artists-in-residence this year, but Enslaved always seem to find welcome at Roadburn.

Particularly having missed The Heads when they played at Het Patronaat last night — Roadburn means hard choices — I knew I wanted to see them today. They were supposed to be here last year, and played in 2008, but with Walter doing live visuals The Heads (Photo by JJ Koczan)and the four-piece of lead guitarist Paul Allen, guitarist/vocalist Simon Price, bassist Hugo Morgan and drummer Wayne Maskell (the latter three who played as Kandodo on Thursday and joined forces with Loop‘s Robert Hampson at Het Patronaat), it was unmissable. A righteous set boasted jam-laden takes on “Gnu,” “Legavaan Satellite,” “U33” and “Spliff Riff,” the effect positively molten as they enacted space rock supremacy and handed Roadburn its ass over the course of 75 minutes. For me, they were the day’s hypnotic highlight, and I don’t think I was the only one. The crowd cheered as they went into and out of jams, builds paying off and starting anew. As I stood in the back and watched, next two me, two dudes were arguing in German and a third turned around and told them, in accented English, “Please, no politics while The Heads are on.” All laughed. Peace on Earth and goodwill to all Roadburners.

As with Kandodo the other night, The Heads‘ set made me want to The Heads (Photo by JJ Koczan)head over to the merch area and go, “Just give me everything,” though they have enough live albums over there that to try it and I’d be broke(r) in no time flat. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from them, knowing records like Everybody Knows We Got Nowhere, which was just recently reissued, At Last and their 1995 debut, Relaxing With…, but they were molten on stage, one song bleeding into the next in a consuming entirety that, even after they’d long since gone, kept the crowd howling. It was fucking awesome. I don’t know how many times I’ll get to see The Heads in my life, but I’m not likely to forget the first, in any case, and if I take nothing else away from Roadburn this year, I’ll take a new touchstone for heavy psych live performance. “It’s good, but is it The Heads good?” will prove a hard standard for most to meet.

Over in the Green Room, Black Anvil were finishing up a punishing set and I watched for a minute through the door as they pummeled away. Undersmile were on next in there, and I’ve been following them since their split with Caretaker in 2011 (review here), undersmile 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)so I didn’t want to miss it. They have a new full-length out called Anhedonia, and while I’m a little heartbroken at not having heard it — I loved 2012’s lung-filling debut LP, Narwhal (review here), and thought I had a pretty good relationship with the band — it still seemed prudent to show up early for a dose of their grueling, claustrophobic-but-melodically-brilliant doom, especially as a crushing companion piece to Coma Wall earlier in the day, a sort of bookend with the same lineup minus Greenway‘s cello. They were heavy enough to feel the sound in your chest. I give McKibbin credit for being able to push the tones of HelTaz and Olly along, even at such a lumbering pace. By the sound alone, it seems like a task more suited to the crane outside working on the addition to the 013, but the drums do drive Undersmile‘s material forward, and they packed out the Green Room to the point where even the space to watch through the door was full. I felt equal parts lucky to see them, bummed I haven’t heard the new album, and glad I showed up early while they were setting up. It was quite an emotional rollercoaster. Maybe that’s why I had to come back to the hotel and go to sleep afterwards.

Or maybe I was just rendered unconscious by fucking Coltsblood who — holy shit — took Stage01, removed all its fillings and performed a root canal with a safety pin. It was fucking ridiculous. Hyperbole-worthy madness that even H.P. Lovecraft himself would stare at and be like, “Damn, that’s horrifying.” I watched the final few minutes of synth-heavy proggers Zoltan before the UK trio of bassist/vocalist John McNulty, guitarist Jemma McNulty and drummer Jay Plested (also of Black Magician, who played Het Patronaat at Roadburn 2013) went on, Coltsblood (Photo by JJ Koczan)but god damn. Even before they started, as Jemma checked her guitar and John ran the line on his bass, you knew it was going to be filthy. Their 2014 full-length debut, Into the Unfathomable Abyss (review here), seemed all the more aptly named as they got underway, and even though John had some technical trouble early on, they shared a bottle of mead on stage and absolutely laid waste to the smaller of the rooms at the 013. I say in full knowledge of John‘s prior association with the band that they were the heaviest thing I’ve seen in that space since Conan made their Roadburn debut there in 2012. They were unbelievable.

And it became quite clear that they’ve earned some loyalty of fanbase as well. The front of Stage01 was crowded with UK types, one of whom took on the solemn duty of making sure that Coltsblood‘s incense (of which I was markedly downwind) stayed lit. Another dude next to me alerted John when the sound guy called for him Coltsblood (Photo by JJ Koczan)to start checking his bass. This is a band that people are obviously taking very seriously. The deathly rumble of their extreme, dark, sludgy doom made earplugs a futile exercise, and especially in a one-two with Undersmile, they justified that reaction. With John shouting and growling into the mic while Plested slammed away behind and Jemma, entranced, riffed out a viscous, oil-thick morass, it made sense. I’d want to keep the incense lit too.

By the time I split out from Stage01, the air had more or less been driven out of the room. It was hot, sweaty, smelly — Roadburn means fart clouds — and suitably oppressive. Outside smelled like french fry grease from the food tent, but even that seemed like fresh air. I made my way back to the hotel and started to sort pictures out and get everything ready to review, but noticed after a few minutes that my head was down on the table and I couldn’t seem to pick it back up. I stared up at the laptop monitor for a little bit and decided to crawl into bed.

Wasn’t a crawl. More of a lurch. Either way, about three and a half hours later, I gave up the ghost and decided the middle of the night would be a perfect time to recount the day’s varying destructive encounters. Tomorrow — Sunday, which now that it’s after 06.00, I’m about ready to call the new “today” — is the Afterburner, also plenty busy with Lo-Pan and Abrahma and Argus and BongripperAnathema and The Golden Grass. Work on the final issue of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch starts in about four hours and it will be here and gone before I know it. At least that’s how it usually seems to go.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

Read more »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,