"Fifteen years ago, people in the media didn't write about [extreme metal] music; just some church burnings and murder and rumors," explains bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson of Enslaved. "But four or five years ago, the media opened their eyes to the actual music of us and other bands. They were pretty surprised when they discovered that the music actually has some quality in it. It's actually the biggest musical export out of Norway—extreme metal."
Enslaved once wore medieval armor onstage and wrote songs about Odin, but evolution led the band on a long, slow path to two Norwegian Grammy Awards for their latest albums, Isa and Ruun. For over a decade, Enslaved earned simmering underground recognition for a debut split release with black metal genre breakouts Emperor, followed by a series of progressive lo-fi albums centered on themes of Norse mythology and rune mysticism. Now their videos play on cable, they keep an international tour schedule, and are one of the most articulate and enlightened extreme metal bands on the planet.
Progressive metal acts like Sweden's Opeth are enjoying a certain level of bottom-feeding success thanks to the popularity of Tool. But Enslaved's progressive ideals extend far beyond their riffing or song arrangements. The band was perhaps the first from the original black metal scene to confront the fact that combating Christianity with a Christian construct like Satan is hypocritical. Guitarist Ivar Bjørnson notes in a blog that "the problem with the monotheistic world religions is the lack of philosophic, moral, ethic flexibility, and the absence of balance."
Simply put, Enslaved are one of the greatest metal bands of all time. Their back catalogue is stellar, and the height they've scaled (with reputation intact) is a credit to their tenacity and brilliance. They've never before appeared anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. Hopefully Kjellson and Bjørnson will appreciate how well the progressive nature of our city reflects the dystopian ideals of their music.