ENSLAVED's 'Heimdal' track by track: Ivar Bjørnson breaks down new album | Revolver

ENSLAVED's 'Heimdal' track by track: Ivar Bjørnson breaks down new album

From accidental Kreator quotes, to tributes to the Second Wave of Black Metal
Enslaved 2022 press 1600x900

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Norwegian extreme-metal juggernaut Enslaved are gearing up to release their 16th full-length, the wide-screen, progressive Heimdal, due out in March via Nuclear Blast Records. The album takes its title from what the band have called "one of the most fascinating characters of [Norse] mythology," a figure who has been "lurking around in our minds like an enigma for three decades now," according to Enslaved.

Heimdal's first appearance in the Enslaved discography was in the song "Heimdallr" on the group's demo 1992 tape, Yggdrasill, and he's popped up multiple times in their "lyrical universe" over the years since. "This time we have decided to dedicate an entire body of work to this most enigmatic of characters and richest of archetypes — we give you Heimdal," Enslaved announced back in November. "We have reached deeper and scouted further ahead than ever before — the past, present and future sound of the band comes together in songs born from sheer inspiration — it is the common force of a close-knit group of friends and musicians," namely, vocalist Grutle Kjellson, guitarists Ivar Bjørnson and Arve "Ice Dale" Isdal, keyboardist and clean vocalist Håkon Vinje and drummer Iver Sandøy.

With the album right around the corner, we caught up with Bjørnson to get the track-by-track breakdown.

"Behind the Mirror"

The opening track — with a massive intro where our friend Eilif, from Wardruna's live band, went with us out on sea, found a rock much like on the cover photo and we recorded him there and then. Heimdal is the god of dawn — is this a warning or an invitation? Fun fact: I realized last week, almost two years after coming up with the title, that one of my favorite bands, Kreator, have a song called exactly the same. Facepalm maybe, but hey. At least it proves my subconscious has a sense of humor.


A tribute to the mid-tempo blast beat of the original Second Wave [of] Black Metal. An atmosphere far from the YouTube-bpm-records and bad-boy sexiness of modern black metal — it was once about bleak impressionism, monumental sonic structures and frightening and, at the same time, sometimes beautiful landscapes. Endurance, focus and craftsmanship. Good idea, Iver!

"Forest Dweller"

A song that feels like a good place to land after the fury of "Congelia" — a walk into the dense, dark forests where solitude is found. Iver is the drummer I know of doing the Led Zeppelin's John Bonham dragging groove best. The vocal performances is grand — Grutle shows a range from later-day Bowie at the end of the song. It is impossible to leave this song without mentioning Håkon's organ lead on the mentioned metal part. If someone wonders what I mean when I say Håkon is a real key player and not one of us guys doing keys but having another main instrument, this should explain it.


This song is built on a thrashing guitar running in tandem with my beloved Moog Mother32 sequencer. I found the sequencer pattern first, then played around with various tempos and riffs, using my own urge to headbang while playing in my studio as measurement for finding the ultimate combination. Which I think I did. The middle section sounded quite ritualistic, so it was appropriate to use recordings of the Icelandic Asatru leader and singer of rimur Sveinbjörn Benteinsson.

"The Eternal Sea"

For me, this song still grows a little every time I listen to it. When Iver sent me his demo for the main theme vocals, I was floored and could not stop listening. This first "metal theme" (where the vocal starts) arrived by mail. What do I mean by that, you ask (yes, you do!)? — I had started the songwriting process at this point. And one day my new Monson guitar arrived — I am very fortunate to be in a collaboration with the Seattle-based Monson Guitars, handmade unique guitars that I discovered through our friend Mike Scheidt of YOB, another Monson endorsee, back in 2015 on tour with YOB in North America. This new guitar was a baryton guitar/6-string bass (depending on the strings you use). I unpacked it and connected it to my rig immediately — the first thing that came out of it was these riffs — and after that the rest of the song came following.

"Caravans to the Outer Worlds"

This song was on the EP with the same title, preceding Heimdal. I did not know it at the time of the EP — but a few songs into Heimdal, it became clear as ink that it should be on the album, also. Grutle and Iver is where I take my questions about the album format itself and its history — I asked if this made sense in the context of album theory and history. It made perfect sense they reported back and so it was. This way it could also be our discrete homage to the album format itself — may it live on forever!


The opening of the song asked to be monumental and heavy as … something really heavy. I imagined the ode to a 300-meter tall Heimdal as he becomes visible on the horizon in the clearing morning fog. And pretty much took it from there. I love Ice Dale's lead at the end of the first part so much I still can't stop listening to just that. Who knew we would be able to sneak in an Alan Holdsworth reference? Certainly not me. Then the song moves on to the part portraying the moment between the end of the Old World and the birth of the New World — seen (or rather, heard) from Heimdal's subconscious. The third and final part lets us see through the mirror, and the Navigator of the New World reveals himself. Where do we go next?