These two Nordic Titans continue to explore the history, culture and landscape of Norway that they successfully transformed into a musical landscape on their previous album Skuggsjá.
Their latest album, Hugsjá (meaning to see with, or within, the mind), is the recorded culmination of a commission by the Bergen International Festival in 2017. There was a series of concerts entitled The Northern Road (Nordvegen), the remit being to explore the local traditions and history in each of the places visited.
If you are not familiar with these other guys main bands work you should check out Einar Selvik’s Wardruna, their trilogy of albums is a masterful deep dive into the meanings and mysticism of the Norse Runes. Bjørnson’s Enslaved is one of the most respected and loved metal bands to come from the legendary Norwegian black metal scene – now probably better described as avant-gard metal as they develop and pull in many eclectic influences.
That blend of backgrounds was more obvious on Skuggsjá; heavy riffs, sombre vocals and ominous harmonies offset with ambient accents certainly conjured the brooding majesty of the Nordic fjords and mountains. This new album dispenses with such easily recognised styles, rather than pushing that particular envelope, they just tore up the envelope. Hugsjá is just as atmospheric, but it’s far more acoustic and melodic with some wonderfully cinematic arrangements. It’s a richly layered blend of light and dark – let’s face it, these guys are never going to take the simple or superficial route. Bjørnson and Selvik set about, in Selvik’s words ‘working alongside great musicians, language experts, archeologists and local experts; seeking to unfold and shed light on relevant, yet near forgotten deities and myths as well as local history and traditions’.
Bjørnson sums it up wonderfully by describing it as ‘historically anchored art’. You can listen to some of their approach to it in the promo below. There are tracks like the title song which feel like the wouldn’t be out of place being sung to you in a scandinavian mead house, surrounded by big armed warriors. Then they change tack completely on a song like the penultimate track Oska and it feels like Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are in the house.
It is a gorgeous and absorbing album and a testament to these guys creative partnership. It will feel like home to fans of Wardruna (and Led Zep!) but is totally accessible to a new audience.