Norway's Enslaved initially comprised Trym Torson (drums), Grutle Kjellson (bass, vocals), and Ivar Bjørnson (guitar, keyboards). They are best known for their take on Viking Metal. Grutle and Ivar at the time resided in Haugesund on the west coast of Norway between Stavanger and Bergen. Some day back in 1990 the two met up at a local rehearsal room. They were both already involved in making music. Ivar was tearing guitar strings to shreds in the trash-metal Obnoxious where his friend Trym Torson was beating the skins. Grutle was just getting started with a Death Metal project along with Hein Frode Hansen. The three of them decided to team up, they recruited two more musicians and spawned Phobia. They played very low-key and depressing Doom/Death Metal. (the perils of living in near darkness all the time) Autopsy and early Darkthrone served as the main influences for the Viking trio. Phobia produced one rehearsal-demo entitled The Last Settlement of Ragnarok and a demo tape entitled Feverish Convulsions.
Phobia lasted for only about a year and soon Grutle Kjellson and Ivar Bjørnson were searching good ideas for their new project. They asked Trym, Ivar's childhood friend, to join them and a new band was formed. Demonaz of Immortal suggested the name Enslaved, which incidentally was inspired by the Immortal song 'Enslaved in Rot'. After about 6 months of rehearsal a demo, Nema was recorded. No label was interested and the members realized that the promo was to low quality to be useful. Only about 50 copies of this demo exist, if I am to believe the rumours however this really was not a worthwhile recording. However its successor, Yggdrasil, impressed Mayhem singer Euronymous so much that he immediately offered them a deal with his Oslo label, Deathlike Silence. The demo is extremely hard to get your hands on, however it has later been re-released on a split-CD together with Satyricon. I believe Moonfog Productions still carries it.
Due to the band's Wotanist beliefs - a credo based on the old Norse gods and the Valhalla system - they named their album Vikingligr Veldi, releasing it in March of 1994. The album was recorded in the legendary Grieghallen studios. An interesting side note is the involvement of Mayhem's Hellhammer assisting the drum production. Unfortunately the murder of Euronymous by Burzum's Count Grishnackh proved problematic for the release of the album. Euronymous had sent the final contracts to Bjørnson on the very day of his murder, and one or two legal issues had yet to be resolved. An argument arose through the band's involvement with Voices of Wonder, a label also connected with Euronymous, but the situation was resolved when the French label Osmose stepped in with a new contract and a sharp legal team.
The Osmose cooperation proved to work out well and continues to this day. The first Osmose album, Frost, was recorded in 1994. The albmu features a very powerful yet unmistakably black metal sound and once more delves into the depths of Norse Mythology. As of this album Enslaved have become closely associated with the genre Viking Metal. They are not credited with creating it mind you, that would be Bathory. They're however one of the bands most closely associated with the genre. Today Viking Metal is a legitimate sub-genre of heavy metal music spawning a number of very creative and original bands. Its successor, Eld (1997) continued the black and pagan themes even further. Unfortunately the powerful drumming of Trym was lacking; he had moved to Emperor after some friction between the band members. Eld introduced a more complex approach to the music. The band now truly focused on creating music which even to the uninitiated would conjure up images of the Norwegian wastelands. This Enslaved record is the first to feature "clean" vocals.
In 1998, the line up changed again, with a new guitarist, Kronheim and a drummer, Dirge Rep; this version of Enslaved recorded Blodhemn, an epic record containing various spoken-word passages. The increased production and release budgets meant that Blodhemn was a very crisp sounding record with interesting artwork and packaging (unsurprisingly the Viking elements are still continued on this one). This album despite its epic sound and atmospheric sections includes some of the more violent and aggressive riffs produced by the band. Enslaved have referred to Blodhemn as "the blow-out of the ages". After Blodhemn three more records were released by the grandfathers of Viking Metal: Mardraum - Beyond the Within (2000), Monumension (2001), Below The Lights (2003). The first two continued the brutal mysterious themes steeped in Norse mythology while at the same time they introduced a number of psychedelic and experimental effects to their music. The latest record Below The Lights I have not heard yet, judging by the reputation that Enslaved have built up till now I have no worries as to the quality of the material.