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Beyond Nightmares, Within Nothingness

Enslaved have been known as an integral and important band in the Norwegian metal community, but I have always suspected them of being in a world of their own, creating their music from a primal state of narcissism, which is the only way in my view. Their early split albums with Emperor and Satyricon also served to set them apart as a band that doesn't follow rules. Enslaved has put out powerful material in the past, with such classics as 1994's Frost, and they will continue to reign with their aggressive style of metal as the date of their new album's release draws near. So what are we to expect of Enslaved's next assault? Ivar Bjørnson enthusiastically delved into the matter at hand.

"Mardraum is half of the (album) title. The other half is Beyond The Within, which was originally intended to be a kind of subtitle, but kinda ended up like the other half of the main title. So the complete title is Mardraum: Beyond the Within. Mardraum is a word from the older part of the Norwegian language. The simplest translation would be 'nightmare,' but the word has a deeper meaning. It is a phenomenon from folkloristic traditions. The 'Mare' is a mythic female figurine that comes to torture men and women in their sleep. So a Mardraum is a dream induced by the Mare. This is some of the atmosphere mirrored on Mardraum... We went into the studio with no idea whatsoever concerning the title for the album. As we worked with the recording and lyrics on the album, we discovered patterns of dreamlike and often "psychedelic" (a worn-out word, but in a strange way it still bears some meaning for me) elements in music [and] arrangements. These fragments of dreams most often have a somewhat hostile, dark and strange, yet ambient and surprisingly familiar edge to them -- and that's what nightmares are all about. Scaring yet comforting. Panic and calm at the same time -- absurdity and logic perfectly intertwined. True existence -- existing without truth."

Listening closely and analyzing the hell out of some of Mardraum's songs, I arrived at the conclusion that the melodies on the album appear to be less dramatic than their previous works. I stand to be corrected: "Less melodramatic, yes. Less dramatic, no. Personally I find this album the most dramatic album we have done to date. The melodrama seems to be gone from most of the material. At least I feel that this is somewhat true speaking of the music I myself am responsible for on the album (65-70% of the material). The drama is not so obvious these days. The total absence of keyboards may be a factor. And yes, we are 'flirting' with other genres of music. But this isn't something we do consciously or have any opinions about. I think the whole genre deal is a waste of words and time. It's all music, and I prefer to navigate in the musical world with criteria like 'good' or 'bad' music. If it's 'good,' I like it; if it's not, it's 'bad,' and I despise it, meaning I don't care."


Good and bad music aren't simply defined as nice sounding and atrocious sounding. To Ivar it means more: "This is such a subjective thing that I even find 'good' music bad for reasons of childish annoyances with the artists. Like Dimmu Borgir and those clowns. Music-wise it's 'good' -- I can clearly hear skills and clever arrangements; I even suspect them of being clever musicians, composers and people in general. But the whole deal with blowing the last remains of a scene of extreme music with integrity and actual opinions to pieces for the sake of 'fame' (it's really only 15 minutes in the spotlight -- like people will remember them for being the best choreographed and painted black metal band early in the 21st century), and 'money' (it's not really money, it's nickels and dimes). The only real money in the black metal scene is safely lying in the pockets of label managers and promotion agencies."

As much as a band may change, some elements will remain. Expect some of the chanting and atmosphere of 1997's Eld to reoccur: "I definitely feel that we have progressed a lot from album to album, even though I'm not sure if the Eld-to-Blodhemn (1998) sequence was really a step ahead. Maybe it was more like a step to the side? I know that we are better at playing, but I find it impossible to determine if we have progressed in all areas. I think so; I like most of the new songs on Mardraum... better than all our older stuff, including Eld. I am not totally convinced about the Mardraum-Eld comparison, but you might have a point there. I myself think the Eld album is totally great! The melodic thing is quite dominating on Eld and this new one, so I think I'll just join your conclusion there. On the other hand, you might just be imagining things. Who knows? I am imagining a lot of things. Life.

"We are definitely doing some stuff in the technical area, but I don't know if this is something that will continue, or if it is just something for Mardraum... I enjoy technical stuff, but I have to admit that I am really a fanatic supporter of simplicity. I suspect our next album will be quite different."

With so many changes going on with Enslaved, I wondered about the concept of their new album. With their past work being self-described as Viking Metal, it was refreshing to find out their simple-yet-sharp thesis: "The concept has to do with our views on the worlds -- inner and outer. As most people could guess from our appearance we don't think much of the outer worlds. This album acts as an outlet for our hostility towards stupid mass movements, authorities who don't deserve their authority, stupidity, and a lot of crazy shit that is going on at an enormous rate all around the vermin-infested world -- or 'hive' as I call it. The lyrics on Mardraum: Beyond the Within are in Enslaved's tradition of the 'Viking Way,' meaning that there are a lot of links to the mythology and magic beliefs of our ancestors. But they are much more personal than they have been ever before, and therefore more difficult to logically discuss than ever before. I like them."

The Haunted

It's tiresome to deal with the flood of mediocre neo-pagan bands who suddenly think they are Viking Metal and run around spouting stupidity, and this irritation is certainly shared by Ivar. "A lot of the meaning and 'messages' in our lyrics are nested in the tradition of the ancient Northern beliefs, and the way of the Viking is our way. Not meaning that we spend a lot of time dressing up like they did in the year 790 -- like most other Viking Metal bands do. We try to connect with our ancestors on a non-material level -- thoughts, dreams, runes, and the inner worlds. The term 'Viking Metal' has been turned into a bad joke today by dozens of worthless 'musicians' running around in potato sacks grunting about "Hey! Ho! Give me mug of ale! I am Viking and want to fight. Hey! Ho! I am Oden's son, and give me a mug of ale!" So I guess they can keep the Viking Metal title to themselves. We'll settle with 'extreme metal' or just 'metal.' Even 'good music' would do it for me.

It's a bit of a hassle for a band to have lineup changes, but Enslaved have kept their membership consistent for this new album. They also returned to the scene of Blodhemn's creation, Peter Tagtgren's Abyss Studio, having worked with Pytten at Grieghallen for Frost and Eld. Says Ivar, "The lineup is the same: myself, guitars and electric blasts; Grutle Kjellson, bass and war cries; R. Kronheim, guitars and backing voice; Dirge Rep, drums and violence. This is the collective. I honestly don't think the change from Pytten to Abyss has had any effect on the musical approach. Maybe the way we record stuff, and maybe the musical approach is slightly coloured by the soundscape, which is very different from Pytten's Grieghallen and Abyss, but there's no direct connection. The song remains the same."

Ivar reminisces a bit about Enslaved's past releases: "We'll do a split album again if a good enough band shows up. I like our old albums a lot, but I prefer the latest. I'm not a heavy nostalgic, which seems to be a common defect in the music scene today. I love the Yggdrasill demo, but the split CD with Satyricon wasn't the best idea. It should have been released as a demo of its own, or maybe along with another band. Enslaved and Satyricon are worlds apart. Different style, different lyrics, different views, different appearance. I would consider basically everything; nothing is dismissed without consideration."

A lot of the BM musicians of the early '90s have matured, exploring different genres and interests, and have few remaining ties to their earlier beliefs. "I agree, and I think we have a fairly interesting music scene. People like Garm, Fenriz, M-Eternal (formerly Malignant Eternal), and Mayhem -- the album is crazy and very good -- have all gone 'new ways,' and have contributed heavily to the evolution of Norwegian metal. The interests have definitely turned back to the music (with some exceptions, who seem to prefer the role of the circus artist). Excellent music is still popping out of the dark Norwegian forests, both new innovative and experimental music as mentioned above, and more traditional extremely high-quality black metal like Immortal, Darkthrone, Gorgoroth, Aeternus (dark metal), Hades Almighty and so on. It is positive for us, yes. There is still a metal community here; the Bergen scene is stronger than ever!"


"There is a strong sense of community among a lot of bands. There is a particular stronghold here in Bergen: Enslaved, Immortal, Gorgoroth, Hades Almighty, Cult of Katharsis, Obtained Enslavement, Taake, Aeternus, M-Eternal. We are also proud to share the flag with other Norwegian acts like Emperor, Zyklon, Mayhem, Darkthrone, Aura Noir, Keeper of Kalessin, Perished and so on."

I watched Enslaved's performance at Wacken Open Air '99 and found it ultra-intense, as if they sped their material up three-fold. "We used to 'up the notch' a lot, but these days we're going back to playing them more as they were. It is a circular kind of thing, and we've reached some kind of point where we take the old songs for what they are. We want to re-animate them more than to reinvent or improve them. We really enjoy playing live. It is of the highest importance for us to go out there and ravage. We enjoy playing, getting feedback, meeting old and new fans, and can even enjoy criticism from time to time -- not very often, of course. I don't believe in the misanthropic mumbo-jumbo. We're in the process of planning tours for the new album, but nothing is ready yet. We're going to the US to do a one-week tour as co-headliners with Destruction from the 27th of July to the 6th of August (hail Schmier!)."

I do not know very much about the ideology of the members of Enslaved. Though it's not a question that's directly related to the music, what are the important things to the members of Enslaved? "What is important to us is everything and nothing, especially the latter. We believe in chaos, laughter, creation, alcohol, metal, music, extremity. We believe in no absolute truths, but live by the honour codes of our ancestors. We believe in free will and the destruction of all illusions, especially the illusion of normality, which has infested a formerly healthy it Christianity, mainstream, authorities or fucking chart-dance music. We also believe in the god-state of the individual and the abandonment of the guilt, suppression and stupidity the religious/political world has to offer its citizens. We believe in nothingness, where true existence can be spawned."


Review of Enslaved 'Mardraum'







c/o Adam Wasylyk
3150 Spring Creek Crescent
Mississauga, Ontario


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