As the very first band to bring Norwegian black/extreme metal live to the US back in 95 Enslaved enjoy a status as some of the foremost ambassadors of this cold-marrowed expression. It is acknowledged as a distinct sub-category of metal and it is enduringly regarded the most uncompromising, uninhibited and pure of metal’s spawn.
With metal fans all around the world, numbering millions, there is a special reverence for Norwegian black/extreme metal and the bands and personae that fall under this denomination. For foreigners the entity seems to appear as inapproachable and monolithic; and it represents an introvert and malevolent member of the metal brotherhood, one not to be stirred or interrogated; the one who has truly opened the cataract to hell which all metal bands strive to incant.
Metal in general is of course deeply embedded in perceptions of Nordic history and Norse mythology, and extreme metal most of all. Still, it is not obvious why Norway has become the epitomic place for an expression invoking the mind’s utmost night and depicting winter landscapes where no refuge is found. Why not Iceland, which in fact is a lot bleaker and more extreme and a lot more unequivocally “Norse”?
The Icelandic response to darkness and winter and remote barrenness is warm, shimmering magical music; intimate and enchanting and transcending reality towards light rather than darkness. Why has Norway become the global locus –in metal circles at least- of the opposite?
Perhaps it is because while Iceland is manifestly extreme in terms nature and fully alive in terms of Norse heritage –meaning that the past is not a memory but something coexisting with 21st century global society- Norway is fairly benign and “domesticated” and relates to the old Norse “ways” only as a bygone past; an adventuresome and glorious “true fantasy.”
Metal is, in all its hues, preoccupied with imagination; and in Norway the self evident fantasy for young metal heads is the one of the historic past. -Nothing more so that the war-like Norse saga-ethos and the pre-Christian visions of doomsday and hell. Interestingly these seem all the more potent by pre-dating Christianity, since they cannot be thought of as contrived as part of the mono-theistic edifice.
This other darkness rings darker and truer in way, and that is what Norwegian Black Metal has caught on to. Why Norway should differ from e.g. Sweden in this respect remains unanswered, but the point is that Norwegian bands have blazed a trail into musical darkness, and stand unchallenged as metal’s elusive visionaries.
Enslaved is one of these bands and their latest record “Ruun” was received with frosty and angst-ridden jubilation by metal heads all over the world. And due acknowledgment has been expressed in Norway too; in the way of a Grammy Award (equivalent) nomination.
The “Candlelight II: Phoenix rising” tour will take the band across the North American continent, performing in twenty different cities. After this gargantuan effort the band heads off to India, where metal heads are hungering for some of that Nordic glacial doom. -Because the Indians' own visions of hell, horrid as eternal rebirth may be, does not give itself to the imagery of metal in the same way as the malevolent dropouts of Valhalla.
Most imminent US show is in Orangevale, while the American tour is rounded off in Bedford on Feb. 5th. The band plays in India on Feb. 23rd and 25th.
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