(Andy Synn wrote this Sunday’s edition of our regular look-back at metal’s earlier days.)
2016 marks Enslaved’s 25th anniversary as a band, and 22 years since they released their first album, Vikingligr Veldi, which is the subject of today’s post.
Originally released on the now-defunct Deathlike Silence Productions (which was founded by original, and now deceased, Mayhem vocalist Øystein Aarseth, a.k.a. Euronymous, to whom the album is also dedicated), Vikingligr Veldi has recently been given a fresh coat of paint and a spiffy new remaster for its long-awaited release on vinyl.
And although the original version still sounds pretty damn good for its age (yes, it’s a little buzzy in places, and occasionally the keys can get a little overbearing, but there’s a pleasing amount of clarity and depth to the overall sound, and each instrument, including the oft-neglected bass guitar, is given a good amount of room and space to breathe), the remaster just gives the album that extra bit of polish and shine, without detracting from the raw energy or rough and ready sensibilities of the album as a whole.
(Our man in the UK, Andy Synn, attended Damnation Festival 2016 in Leeds on November 5, and provides this report along with videos he made.)
Oh Damnation Festival how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
Whereas too many other events seem content to book the same big-name crowd-pleasers, year in and year out, buttressed by an interchangeable selection of generic sound-alikes and contrived gimmicks – all carefully selected purely for their mundane mass-appeal – the Damnation team seem to operate on an unwavering ethos of only booking the bands they truly like, bands (big and small) that they truly believe in, who have something unique or special to offer.
This is how every edition of the festival features an array of bands from multiple different styles, from Death to Prog to Doom to Hardcore to Sludge (and beyond), from across the length and breadth of the underground Metal scene coexisting under one roof and why, over the years, Damnation has seen everyone from Ahab to Asphyx, Carcass to Katatonia, Mono to My Dying Bride, playing to the sort of packed crowds that are a regular occurrence in Europe, but which only rarely seem to be achievable here in the UK.
This helps make Damnation Festival’s line-up a much more interesting affair than many of their peers, as the organisers seem to operate on the principal of “if you build it, they will come”, putting their faith in the belief that the UK scene doesn’t just want to be fed the same old bands and the same old performances, time and time again. And this year was no different, with a wide variety of different acts, of different styles, on display, coupled with a bunch of exclusive performances which practically justified the ticket price on their own!
Just as yesterday’s Seen and Heard round-up was much shorter than usual, so too is this Sunday’s edition of Shades of Black. I got back to Seattle last night from that four-day wedding festivity in Vegas I’ve mentioned before, but between the two premieres I’ve posted since then and a backlog of personal stuff to deal with, I haven’t had time to write about everything I wanted to include in this post. I’m hoping to supplement it during the coming week before going off to Migration Fest on Thursday, when our site’s content will probably diminish again.
With so many songs and full releases on my list of Shades to choose from, I picked the following four items to recommend, without much rhyme or reason. The bands are less obscure than usual for these posts, until you get to the end.
I suspect I will always consider Alcest to be a shade of black even if Neige and Winterhalter decide to start playing bluegrass — though that hasn’t happened yet. The fifth Alcest album is named Kodama, which we’re told is the Japanese word for “tree spirit” and also refers to the process of sounds reverberating across mountains, valleys, and forests that’s often attributed to these spirits.
On May 17, 1814, the Norwegian Constituent Assembly at Eidsvoll signed the Constitution of Norway, which remains one of the oldest in the world. Inspired by the 200th anniversary of that event, Ivar Bjørnson of Enslaved and Einar Selvik of Wardruna joined forces to compose and perform a concert piece called Skuggsjá, which means “mirror” or “reflection” in the Norse language. Skuggsjá was first performed at the Eidsivablot festival in Eidsvoll on September 13, 2014, to commemorate the anniversary. But Bjørnson and Selvik decided that the Skuggsjá project should live on and be expanded.
Last fall the duo signed with Season of Mist, taking Skuggsjá as the project’s name. On March 11, 2016, Season of Mist will release their debut album, entitled A Piece For Mind and Mirror. Today we bring you the premiere of a song from the album named “Vitkispá“.
It’s cold, gray, and depressing here in Anchorage, Alaska, where I’m toiling away for my fucking day job. I worry what the loris horde are doing to the NCS compound in my absence. I miss my daily swoop through the interhole in search of new music. I’m going to be even more ridiculously late writing reviews. I’m basically just a miserable shit.
In an effort to cheer myself up, I did pull my nose from the grindstone long enough to check out a trio of new things that I spied on Facebook. All three were winners. Here they are.
Norway’s mighty Enslaved released a new music video a couple of days ago. It’s for the song “Convoys To Nothingness” from 2001’s Monumension. It was recorded live earlier this year in a mobile studio provided by the music streaming service TIDAL at the Øya Festival in Oslo.
(Andy Synn reports on the second day of Oslo’s Inferno Festival 2015 and provides photos. For Andy’s report on the pre-fest show last Wednesday, go here, and his report on Day One is at this location.)
If there’s a better way to kick off another day at one of the world’s best metal festivals than by seeing Goatwhore, I’d like to hear it. Big riffs, big spikes, big attitude, the band positively ooze confidence and bleed metal, smashing through their set with almost reckless abandon.
Bassist James Harvey had a bit of a rough night, truth be told, early songs rendering his bass-lines as little more than a barely audible rumble, while snapping a string part way through the set forced the band to play a few songs without him entirely. Still, they persevered like the stalwart soldiers of Satan that they are, and on his eventual return Harvey’s lurching low-end was much more prominent.
(BadWolf brings us this review of a live performance in Seattle by Enslaved, YOB, Ecstatic Vision, and Bell Witch, with photos by Madison Leiren.)
My Wednesday evening at El Corazon on March the 11th was, in many ways, a redemption shot. I was there to see local Seattle funeral doom merchants Bell Witch, as well as Philadelphia’s uncategorizable Ecstatic Vision, Eugene Oregon’s doom wunderkinds YOB, and Norway’s progressive black metal institution Enslaved.
To begin, here is my list of grievances to be resolved that evening:
First, grievances with myself:
Tuomas Saukkonen (Wolfheart)
It’s the same old story. Metal is such an over-boiling cauldron of creativity that if you have to wait a few days to go exploring for new things, you find yourself up to your neck in hot water. Or at least that’s what happened to me yesterday.
Having failed to compile a round-up of new music since last Sunday, I felt overwhelmed when confronting how much I wanted to write about today. I had to make some hard choices about what to recommend, and even then I had to stifle my usual verbosity — time is a harsh mistress, and not in a good way. So, with a regrettable (to me) minimum of introductory comments, here’s a selection of what lit me up over the last 24 hours, presented in the order in which I saw and heard them. I’ll have a few more new items to share with you on Saturday.
Earlier this month Spinefarm Records re-released Winterborn, the fantastic album by Wolfheart that we praised to the skies (repeatedly) when it was first self-released by the band in 2013. The re-issue comes with two bonus tracks (“Isolation” and “Into the Wild”). Two days ago Wolfheart premiered a music video for the album’s first track, “The Hunt”, which shows scenes from the recording of the track. It’s a wonderful song (it was on our list of 2013’s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs), and any excuse to hear it again is welcome.
(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Norway’s Enslaved — now with a full-album stream at the end.)
The phrase “The more things change, the more they stay the same” is almost beyond cliché at this point, yet I feel that it still retains some value… as long as you use it in the right place, and at the right time.
Case in point: It seems to apply to Enslaved more than to most bands I can think of, as few other artists seem to have perfected the almost zen-like balance between progress and preservation as the Norwegian natives.
If you see the band live these days you’re likely to hear material from across the length and breadth of their career, from Frost to Monumension to Axioma… all seamlessly integrated and interwoven together… and it’s truly amazing to be able to hear songs like “Allfǫðr Oðinn” and “Death In The Eyes of Dawn” next to one another in the same setlist, forcing you to realise that no matter how far they’ve come or how much they’ve progressed over the years, Enslaved are still very much the same band they always were at heart, and that there’s no era or element of their sound that doesn’t represent who they are.
I’m finally finished with the project for my fucking day job that has kept me on the U.S. east coast for the last three weeks. Tomorrow I return to Seattle and some semblance of normalcy, both for life in general and for NCS.
I still feel like I’ve been put through a goddamn meat-grinder, and it will take some time to get over being exhausted (and to finish posting what other writers sent me over the last week), but I did spend an hour this morning trying to figure out what I missed in the way of new music over the last couple of days. As usual, given the persistent flood of new metal that’s been coming our way since this new year began, I found A LOT. I’m going to include three new videos in this post. I hope I can get another round-up done tomorrow before heading to the airport.
Enslaved’s new album In Times is one of my “most anticipated” 2015 releases, so it’s been frustrating that I haven’t had time to listen to it since our advance copy arrived about a week ago. But this morning I did listen to the first advance track, “Thurisaz Dreaming”, which began streaming as a lyric video at Noisey yesterday along with an excellent interview of Ivar Bjørnson.