A quarter of a century has passed since the formation of Enslaved and 22 ½ years since their first recorded assault that established them in the musical map. Since their dawn of time, the youngsters from Norway (Ivar Bjørnson was only 15 years old when the first album was recorded – he was born on 27.11.1977) managed to offer a monumental work, and album that Time itself cannot lower its magnitude and magic. Yet, it’s the first time this record is printed in vinyl; 22 years later! Enslaved’s debut is dedicated to Euronymous, the man who made this record a reality (of course Burzum did not allow him to see it released…) and actually realized what he wanted the releases of his label (Deathlike Silence Productions) to sound like. Epic / Viking sound with ambient elements (as the element of repetition is in abundance and without many changes in the orchestration of each track); a music that’s based on simple melodies, atmospheric riffs and the Black Metal’s blistering speed and brute force. A characteristic feature of the album is the labyrinthine compositions – let us not forget that the album consists of 5 tracks in total, four of which last for 10 minutes per track and the fifth track lasts for more than 5 minutes (!).
Raw, dry, frosted sound is the perfect soundtrack for snowy soundscapes, traveling in the Nordic fjords but those of you who have already listened to the album, you know that this album is essentially an ode to Nature and Man. Violent and melodic, with a variety of folk elements, it combines the chaos of darkness with the power of light brilliantly. The lyrics are written in Icelandic (with the exception of “Heimdallr” that’s written in ancient Norwegian), with pagan archetypes, ignoring Satanism, even as an invention of the Christians and do not resemble adolescent impulses or meaningless pseudo – revolutionary instincts but mature questions. Northern mythology and Viking stories seem a bit quite dark as they are… And without having to sacrifice an inch of cruelty or some black metal element, I should note, as opposed to Bathory, for example, without this detail changing the semiotics. As a fact, this shows that Enslaved were unique, devoted to their interests and actually able to birth new music. The tracks’ structures aren’t one-dimensional despite the ambient elements I mentioned before and is flirting heavily with the progressive genre, an idiom that the band managed to incorporate perfectly to its Viking / Black Metal music. It doesn’t fall far from the truth the fact that without “Vikingligr Veldi” we wouldn’t have the experimental “Monumension” or the pompous “In Times”. At the same time “Vikingligr Veldi” sounds so close to 1992’s Yggdrasill demo, which is actually a rough adolescent / amateurish recording. The use of keyboards is essential. The intro is one of the most easily recognized ones in this genre and reminds at some moments Burzum, while the acoustic guitar adds depth and a 70’s colour that lingers throughout the whole album. The last track of the album, “Norvegr”, is a pagan feast of music with the guitar riff a few seconds before the epilogue of the musical journey to restore you into reality.
At this point I should clarify that “Vikingligr Veldi” translates in Icelandic roughly into “Viking Warrior Aristocracy” and upon the album’s cover we can see depicted the helmet that was discovered in a grave at Sutton Hoo in England and which used to be a possession of a leader – king named bretwalda or brytenwalda or even bretenanwealda – it is possible to refer to Raedwald of East England. A photo / sketch of the same helmet was used later in Saxon’s “Killing Ground” cover in 2001, but foremost, to be exact, it was used by the heroes of Newcastle, the exceptional and under-recognized Warrior, on their 12” release “For Europe Only” (1983).
For the celebratory release of the album in vinyl format, the band asked artist Zbigniew M. Bielak (Ghost, Mayhem++) to design four portraits, creations specifically for this release of “Vikingligr Veldi”. The artist commented the following:
First of the four songs on the album – ‘Lifandi Liv Undir Hamri’ – roughly translates to ‘living beneath the hammer’. Much like its accompanying illustration, it paints a solemn picture of a belligerent and brave nation, setting out sails to divide and conquer under the watchful eye of their Pantheon – here impersonated as a silent Giant following in the distance. Bearing semblance to the mid-era Bathory vibe, this piece is to me Enslaved’s early aesthetics in a nutshell. Overwhelming forces of nature embodied as the conquering Majesty.”
“Illustration to the second song on the album – ‘Vetrarnott’, shows a ghastly parade of spirits trapped in an aurora above the sacrificial stone circle. The lyric derived, diversified cast of nine – from a mad peasant to the Bergman nicked Death – as honed by Ivar to an extent of having it as painting on the studio wall – symbolizes unconditional allegiance and submission of all Life’s cycles to the providence of higher power. An all-encompassing ritual of being and nothing.”
‘”Midgards Eldar’ is the third, and to my ears most majestic and memorable song on ‘Vikingligr Veldi’. It evokes images of epic mountain range lit by signal fires warning of danger. Presented against the massive archipelago, sentry’s protective effort makes the faint beacons seem to be merely a fanciful spectacle in the arena of northern nature and it’s legendary hospitality.”
“As mentioned before, the illustration series for this definitive vinyl release of Vikingligr Veldi ends prematurely with the fourth song on the album – ‘Heimdallr’. Heimdall is the dualistic deity that bridges both stormy and calm ends of the rainbow at the gates of Aasgard. Both peaceful watcher and wrathful harbringer of battle, he permeates the very fabric of nordic life, assuring peace until Gjallahorn is raised from its resting position, in an inevitable turn of the cycle.”