Norwegian progressive extreme metal band ENSLAVED have named their twelfth studio album RIITIIR and have unveiled the album artwork on their official Facebook page. RIITIIR is due out in Europe on September 28th.
From the woods in Sweden, ENSLAVED guitarist/songwriter/founding member Ivar Bjørnson shares the following:
“The album is, as mentioned, entitled ‘Riitiir’ – a self-made ‘Norse-ified’ version of the words ‘Rites’ / ‘Rituals.’ RIITIIR = ‘The Rites of Man,’ to put it in a formulaic and easy way. There is no story with a timeline; again we’ve built structures that lay above the independent lyrics that we feel more comfortable with letting the reader explore, interpret, or simply discard themselves. It is entirely up to them. Meanwhile, we are extremely excited to see what visual artist Truls Espedal has come up with this time. The collaboration between him, myself, and Grutle [Kjellson, vocalist & bassist] was closer, more understanding and powerful this time than ever before in our more than decade-long cooperation. The album concept and our feelings connected to it hit home instantly with Truls, in the same way that his initial ideas resonated intensely with us from the second he shared them with us. We will, of course, discuss some key concepts and potential interpretations in deeper song-by-song analysis – but let’s cross that rainbow when we get there.”
Long-time friend and collaborator Truls Espedal shares the following about his creative process for RIITIIR’s album artwork, his 7th cover for ENSLAVED:
“This process has become a tradition; a tradition that works very well for me, with a lot of artistic freedom.
“First an e-mail or text from the band asking if I’m ready and then a phone conversation with Grutle and Ivar a week prior to us having a meeting. On the phone they give me an album title, some insight into the theme and their ideas, then a brief talk about different visual symbols/elements which will be incorporated. A week later I’m on a plane to meet them. We spend a day where we discuss the visual ideas I’ve come up with, eat good food, drink and listen to some of the new music. Before I leave, we have agreed about the sketches made during the day. Back home, now with a deadline, I get to work and don’t talk to them before the artwork is finished.
“ENSLAVED’s music is constantly evolving and expanding, and we early on decided that the artwork should reflect this. From my first collaboration with the band on [2001’s] Monumension and forward, we have slowly merged different aspects into the work; what we wanted to do now was to further expand and change things up a bit, without losing the connection to earlier work. It still has a strong sense of symbolism, symmetrical compositions and references to Norse art. But there is an even bigger emphasis on realism on RIITIIR, which hopefully adds atmosphere to the finished work.
“This was the first time I had the whole album to listen to from the get-go. So for more or less 90 percent of all the hours spent in my studio, RIITIIR was on constant repeat on the stereo and I truly believe that had a major impact on both the process and the finished result. The music influenced both the whole dynamics in the studio as well as choices made in color palette and atmosphere; it more or less dictated the mood of the paintings.
“Another difference this time was that I switched from acrylic paint to oil painting. So the front and back cover will be my first official ones in oils. This change gave me a challenge when it came to the deadline because of the drying rate and so on, but it felt right for the visual ideas we had decided on.
“The collaboration with Ivar and Grutle feels even more organic and natural than ever. Even though it is something that is a few years in-between, it always seems like we are on the same page. There are a lot of the thoughts and ideas in their work that I feel can be found in my own private paintings.”
ENSLAVED’s RIITIIR is the follow-up to Axioma Ethica Odini, which won the 2010 Spellemann Award (the Norwegian equivalent of a U.S. Grammy Award) in the category “Best Metal Album,” won Terrorizer Magazine’s Reader’s Poll for “Best Album of 2010,” ranked #5 in Decibel Magazine’s “Top 40 Extreme Albums of 2010” list, and appeared on over 65 “Best Albums of 2010” lists in North America, repeatedly ranking in the Top 10. In Germany, Metal Hammer Magazine awarded ENSLAVED the “Album Of The Year” title; Dutch magazine Aardschok ranked Axioma Ethica Odini at #9.