Editors’ Notes On their 15th album, Norwegian prog-metal warriors Enslaved explore a landscape from Norse mythology known as Utgard. “It's where the giants dwell,” bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson tells Apple Music. “The giants are a metaphor for the more uncontrollable forces in nature and in your own mind, so it’s a realm of chaos, of dreams, of the more frightful fantasies you have. It’s something you can’t control, but also something you are deeply in need of, because it’s the realm where creativity, humor, and your wild side dwell.” Utgard also marks the official debut of Enslaved’s not-so-secret weapon, new drummer/vocalist Iver Sandøy, who has worked with the band as an engineer and coproducer as far back as 2010’s Axioma Ethica Odini. “He also did some backing vocals on E and In Times, so this was like a continuation of the collaboration, but this time we have some lead vocals and drumming from him as well,” Kjellson explains. Below, the bassist guides us on a journey through Utgard.

Fires in the Dark
“This begins with some chanting in Old Norse, and it deals with the creation of the world according to the Norse mythology. It is also very much touching on the concept of Utgard, because it's kind of, ‘In the beginning, there was nothing—only fire and ice.’ And it's really connected to the lyrics, with the fires in the dark, something in the making, something both wonderful and hostile at the same time, really uncontrollable. Interestingly enough, it was the first song that was written for the album and ended up as a natural opener. I think that’s the first time that’s ever happened.”

Jettegryta
“In English, ‘Jettegryta’ can be translated into ‘the giant's cauldron.’ There are these holes all over the world called ‘giant’s cauldrons’—they were made by waterfalls after the Ice Age. In folklore, it’s said that they were made by the giants because they’re really big and look like big pots or cauldrons for the giants to cook food in. It connects back to Utgard as well, and it’s easy to picture the people that lived thousands of years ago—they obviously didn't have the kind of science to explain phenomenon like we have. So to them, that was a totally logical explanation. Musically, we always end up making a song that sounds like Bathory, without being conscious about it. And this ended up being that song on this album. [Departed Bathory mastermind] Quorthon is still there, fucking with our lives—in a good way.”

Sequence
“I think that was the second song we wrote for the album. It’s a surprisingly catchy song, but then we kind of tore everything apart with the inclusion of a session performer at the end of the song—a musician called Martin Horntveth. He is playing some electronics, some bells and xylophones and stuff like that. So he takes this mellow, esoteric part and turns it into kind of a sonic nightmare in the background there. You feel you are listening to something really beautiful, but don’t be tricked, because there’s always a dark side to things. There’s something disturbing in the beauty there.”

Homebound
“This one has lead vocals by our new drummer, Iver. Such a nightmare, right? A combination of a drummer and a singer, like the worst of both worlds. You have the nutcase and the diva in one. No, seriously—he is a fantastic drummer and a great vocalist, a great musician. He’s been in the background ever since Axioma in 2010, working with us as a coproducer and engineer for many albums. So he was the natural choice when [former Enslaved drummer] Cato [Bekkevold] decided to leave. We’re really, really satisfied with him.”

Utgarđr
“In the song ‘Utgarđr,’ we have a spoken thing in an archaic dialect that used to be spoken in our area. It’s a sort of concentrated narrative of the whole album. It really somehow tells you everything. It’s both an epilogue for the first songs and an introduction for the remaining songs. And it was actually recorded in my living room. It was probably the last recording we did for the whole album, and all the guys in the band were present and it was late at night. We had many drinks. It somehow concludes and introduces the album.”

Urjotun
“Many people look upon this opening as a dance beat or like a modern electronica thing, but it’s actually the most old-school part of the whole album, because it’s an analog Moog sequencer like they used in the late ’60s with bands like Silver Apples and the Krautrock scene later. And then comes this distorted bass, so we like to explain this song as a fusion between Kraftwerk and Hawkwind, with a little Scott Walker/David Bowie influence on vocals. So that’s really perhaps the most old-school song we’ve ever done, and it might be my favorite song on the album.”

Flight of Thought and Memory
“This is the story of Odin’s ravens, basically. The ravens are called Huginn and Muninn, and they represent thought and mind. So it's basically a dream about a flight into the realm of Utgard and all the things that are. It’s about accepting something you cannot conquer, but also a thing that you have to remain trying to conquer—otherwise you will pretty much cease to exist. You have to be a seeker or you will die. It also has the longest guitar solo we have ever done—it’s like one and a half minutes. It’s like I can almost hear the chest hair growing on [guitarist] Ice [Dale], because it’s a really cool rock ’n’ roll solo.”

Storms of Utgard
“I remember me and Iver, our new drummer/vocalist, arranged that song and did the demo recordings in a hotel room when he was on tour with one of his other bands—he plays drums for this woman that records children’s music. This song is really like hard rock, so I thought maybe Iver finally has been listening to classic hard rock albums. I’m a really big fan of early Scorpions and UFO, but I don’t think Iver has ever picked up a UFO album. So I think it sounds like this by accident, but I really love the vibe in this song. It’s another one of my favorites.”

Distant Seasons
“This is the really mellow closer, and [guitarist] Ivar [Bjørnson] wrote this song to his daughters. They are even participating in the last chorus, singing on the album. I really love this song. It’s sort of like an airy Pink Floyd-ish tune. And it’s a perfect song to conclude such an album. It really connects with the other songs, and it was the last song we made for the album as well. So the opener is the first song we wrote, and ‘Distant Seasons’ is the last one. So it was really, really logical.”

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More by Enslaved

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  • Vertebrae
  • Frost
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  • Below the Lights
  • In Times
  • Isa
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  • E
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    2017

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