author EW date 29/05/11 venue Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Oslo, NOR

What do you do when your company sends you on a 2-day business trip to Oslo, Norway, yet your work concerns barely top half an hour? If you're like me, you head off immediately (read: before eating or checking in at the hotel) to the 20th anniversary show of one the country's most celebrated bands, performing in the west of the city at a salubrious and frankly divine location outside an upmarket art gallery.

Knowing the concert was scheduled to start at 2pm and we were arriving in town not more than an hour prior, with no knowledge of quite where to head or how to get there, nor the size of the venue or its likelihood of selling out, nor the possibility of it being at a price I am not accustomed to (this was Oslo, after all) it was with some trepidation we hailed a taxi and before long found ourselves in a queue. At an art centre. To see one of our favourite bands. It was like being a 6 year old on Christmas morning all over again...

The rest they say is history.

On the small stage infront of us and in clear sunshine, set up before a mini amphitheatre of seats and a grass verge teeming with families apparently on a social Sunday afternoon out, casually bestrode Enslaved, one of the gods of the metal genre today and a key act in the genre's initial infamous phase, to raise the metaphorical curtain on the most surreal concert of this writer's life. Perhaps sensing this, the crowd, who numbered a few hundred for the occasion, were not exactly confident in rushing forward to greet the band, the majority staying put on the seated amphitheatre, at least for the time being...

By way of this being a special show it had been prior announced that the set would be punctuated by covers of a number acts prescribed by Enslaved as major influences on their career, a selection of artists which it turns out can be thanked for the creative goldmine our favoured Norse sons have tapped seamlessly for two decades. Alternating between own songs and covers, Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" was the first cover to appear, suggesting that not only do they have the skill to pull off such consummate legends as Led Zep, but that the breadth of Enslaved's sound circa 2011 is truly wondrous in its ability to acclaim the feel and warmth that marks out the different generations through which they have lived.

"Ruun", the first Enslaved track to be aired heralded the onset of not just a classic of the band but a particularly heavy rainstorm, which sent the majority present running for cover in a position virtually behind the stage, no doubt drier but less musically pleased than I who stayed rooted to the spot enjoying Norway for what it was really worth. The subsequent airings, in brighter weather, of "Giants", "Lightening", "Allfáðr Oðinn" and "Ground" appeared as an artefact of evidence to Enslaved's progression and absorption of varying sounds, beautifully crafted to their own desires and testimony to genuine stylistic progression.

The following cover versions merely improved on the standard set during Led Zeppelin, with my particular highlights coming from King Crimson's "Rush" and a brilliant rendition of "One of These Days" from the incomparable Pink Floyd, not forgetting besides these "Jizzlobber" (Faith No More) and "Earthshine" (Rush). Given the event was taking place at a venue not recognised for it's metal live performances and subject to the finest of mixed Norwegian weather the sound was admirably solid in all respects, with even the commonly uttered complaints of under-heard vocals and keyboards not being an issue I can report. Herbrand Larsson on keys and vocals in particular made the most of this, his presence seeming more vital to the Enslaved soundscape with every passing performance, as his serene vocals complimented the harsher tones Grutle Kjellson is known for.

Played in an atmosphere of confident relaxation, exemplified by Kjellson's inter-song banter which evidently tickled the delights of all those fluent in Norwegian, Enslaved's performance seemed a long way from the numerous previous occasions I have caught them at summer festival and dingy London shows. This was a celebration of Norway, its music, its culture and heavy metal in general; a chance to step outside the genre's normally restricted boundaries and invest in it's life-affirming moral side. That I got to attend it less than an hour into my first ever visit to Scandinavian shores guarantees this, as a fully subjective view of an overly-excited metal tourist, was a magical afternoon.


All photos and video shoddily taken by yours truly.

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