On their 16th album, progressive black-metal masters Enslaved have fashioned a concept record about Heimdal, the Norse god who guards a bridge that leads to the heavens. But as guitarist Ivar Bjørnson points out, the Norwegian band has a long history with this deity—they had a song called “Heimdallr” on their first demo back in 1992. “It’s not like he came back into the fold,” Bjørnson tells Apple Music. “It’s more like he came into focus. I compare it to how we have people in our lives that we just have a connection with. We might move across the globe or not see them for years, but when you do, you continue the conversation from wherever you left off.” Sonically speaking, Heimdal is the first extreme metal album mixed for Spatial Audio rather than remixed for it after the fact. “It was such a revelation being in the studio, hearing all these sounds traveling like I had imagined in my own head while writing the album,” Bjørnson enthuses. “I felt really privileged that we had this chance to use these dimensions of space. There are always new places to go.” Below, he comments on each track. “Behind the Mirror” “There’s this dilemma hinted at in mythology about the relationship between Odin and Heimdal—that one might be the son of the other. But it’s not really cleared up. First, you read that Heimdal might be the son of Odin, the biggest god. And then, the next sentence is the other way around. The myth of Heimdal is even hinting at the possibility of Odin not necessarily being an actual humanoid creature but being a state of mind. The bonus was me discovering, two weeks ago, that the song title was done before by one of my favorite bands, Kreator.” “Congelia” “A lot of the time, we end up exploring all the different styles we use—be it prog rock or occult rock or ’70s sequencer ambient—and then we mix our root elements of experimental black metal into it. But I played the sketch of this song for a friend of mine who was seriously worried that I’d gone off and lost my mind for a little while there. He was like, ‘Do you know how this sounds to a functioning human?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s why I’m playing it.’ I just wanted it to be extreme, but I also wanted it to be possible to listen to for eight minutes. So, I went in and made some adjustments.” “Forest Dweller” “That song is a bit outside of the interaction between Odin and Heimdal. Odin has a lot of interesting aspects to him. He was a magician, for example, but also the father of war. More recently, there were some very right-wing people here in the Nordic countries who took to the streets doing these vigilante things, saying they were protecting women and children. They called themselves the Soldiers of Odin. But Odin is not the god that I would put next to any children or women. Odin would do anything for the hell of it.” “Kingdom” “A human being running is a very basic and important symbol for me. It’s an important symbol in modern culture and history. Think about the marathon or the bringing of the Olympic torch into the stadium. It’s more of a sport thing these days but running used to be for survival or for delivering messages. You had runners as part of societies—they would deliver messages over long distances. If the message was really important, they would send more than one runner. I also think about Iron Maiden’s ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner.’ That title was sprinkled with gold. The song was great before I even heard it.” “The Eternal Sea” “The starting point for ‘The Eternal Sea’ is a very central part of our identities as people in the band. We are all Western Norwegians, and we all come from small places directly on the coast. When we were teenagers, our first drummer, his mother’s partner went out to sea for work and didn’t come home. He died on the sea. It was a very traumatic episode, but what I realized when I got older is that these small societies on the coast are prepared for this, in a sense. His mother, she knew who to call, and they knew how to take care of her and her family. It was a chilling but almost comforting experience in that way.” “Caravans to the Outer Worlds” “This was the title track of our last EP, but later I realized it was also the starting point for this album, so we had to include it here. We’re part of the human race who won the evolutionary battles because of the ability to bring along people who don’t have, let’s say, a victory ability, but they have maybe an ability to foresee outcomes of situations. Maybe they have a special relation to nature. But nowadays, we’re in the stage of evolution where we step on the weaker people and take whatever they have. I went from being a frustrated young man about that to going, ‘It looks like a good day to take off into space. You guys stay here, and we’ll inhabit somewhere else.’” “Heimdal” “I knew this song was going to be called ‘Heimdal’ before we wrote it, so I knew it had to have a certain power to live up to the title. It’s a bit like arriving at the house and seeing that the front door is several hundred meters tall. You realize, ‘Oh, shit—it’s Heimdal himself.’ We knew we had to deliver a lot to associate with this deity. And I was pleasantly surprised that we got that close to what we were trying to do.”

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