Interview: Enslaved’s Ivar Bjørnson talks about the band’s first major U.S. tour

Enslaved. Photo by Karoline Bruland Moen

Enslaved. Photo by Karoline Bruland Moen

Norwegian psychedelic Vikings Enslaved have been crossing and recrossing the United States all the month of May, as the main support on Opeth’s latest U.S. tour.

The tour has  been a golden opportunity for Enslaved to play before large audiences. On paper, tour has been hectic, with only four days off between May 1 and the final date on May 27.

Ivar Bjørnson, Enslaved’s chief songwriter, said this U.S. jaunt has actually been rather relaxing, compared to previous tours.

“It’s kind of a nice schedule for us,” Bjørnson said. “We’re used to the worst. The last European tour we did, we did 12 or 13 shows in a row. The maximum (for this tour) is seven shows in a row, so it’s pretty good.”

Opening in the U.S. for Opeth is a major coup for Enslaved, since Opeth’s widespread success guarantees the equally (critically) acclaimed Norwegians will be able to bring their Pink Floyd influenced Viking blackish metal to wider audiences.

“I feel we’re the ones really gaining,” from the Opeth tour, Bjørnson said. “They’re pulling bigger crowds than I imagined. Going on stage and playing before 1,500 to 2,000 people is really amazing. We’ve been wanting to do this for years. It’s exactly what we were hoping for.

“I think it has been good playing for Opeth, because we really get their crowd going before they go on,” Bjørnson said.

Ivar B. (Photo by Karoline Bruland Moen)

Ivar B. (Photo by Karoline Bruland Moen)

The band had to cancel a May headlining tour to join the Opeth tour. But Bjørnson said the band is planning to spend much more time in the U.S. after the Opeth tour wraps up on the 27th.

“We’re probably going to do two more tours in the U.S. after this,” he said. “We’re going to do one more as a special guest or (opening) band and then do a headlining tour,” Bjørnson said.

Enslaved’s live show is stunning – powerful and pummeling, yet surprisingly intimate. The music creates an aura of communal feeling, or ritual, perhaps. At the end of the show – from the front row, at least – there’s a feeling that an important rite has been performed.

Bjørnson said a sense of intimacy with the audience is exactly what Enslaved attempts to create. “It’s communicative – we hope to get a certain connection going with the crowd,” he said. “It’s very personal both ways. We really put ourselves out there.

“It can be a bit stressful, because we try to really express ourselves and get into the music,” Bjørnson said. “Sometimes, you play a small venue and it feels really personal. We try to that on every level at every show.”

That sense of connection with audiences is important, Bjørnson said.

“When we go out and do signings or hang out after the show … there is a certain feeling that we have gone through something together,” he said. “The audience has experienced something and we have experienced something.

“I think the music crowd – especially someone going to an Enslaved show – they’re very perceptive and they recognize a band that’s giving a damn,” Bjørnson said.

You still have a few more chances to see Enslaved and Opeth together on one stage. The last few dates of the tour are:

May 22—Bijou Theater, Knoxville, TN
May 23—Newport Music Hall, Columbus, OH
May 24—Clutch Cargo’s, Detroit, MI
May 26—Grand Ballroom at Manhattan Center, New York, NY

May 27—9:30 Club, Washington, DC

You can hear full tracks from Enslaved’s latest album “Vertebrae,” here. Also, here you can find a previous Noise Pollution interview with Bjørnson and vocalist/bassist Grutle Kjellson.

And, just for fun, here’s the video for “The Watcher,” off “Vertebrae.”



  1. Very cool interview! The show in Tucson was amazing!!!

  2. Yeah, so major that they didn’t come down to south Florida

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