Enslaved was formed in July 1991 by Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson (also known as Kjetil Grutle) when they were 13 and 17 years old, respectively. The band name was inspired by an Immortal demo track, "Enslaved in Rot." After many line-up changes throughout their career, Bjørnson and Kjellson are the only remaining original members. By 2004 the line-up solidified with guitarist Arve "Ice Dale" Isdal, drummer Cato Bekkevold, and keyboardist/vocalist Herbrand Larsen.
Prior to forming Enslaved, Bjørnson and Kjellson had been playing in a death metal band called Phobia, but like many in the burgeoning extreme metal movement, they were looking for new sources of inspiration and expression. Though Enslaved began as a prototypical Norwegian black metal band in 1991, by 1993 they were incorporating song structures unusual for the genre; several of their earlier songs reach the ten-minute mark (their debut album, Vikingligr Veldi, has only one song that is under ten minutes). As such, the band has rejected the black metal label and prefers the term "extreme metal." Mardraum (2000) contained several multi-part epics such as "Større enn tid - Tyngre enn natt" and "Entrance - Escape." Several of the band's tracks (most prominently, "As Fire Swept Clean the Earth" from Below the Lights) bave usedmellotron.
Mardraum, Monumension (2001), and Below the Lights (2003) can be regarded as having somewhat similar styles. Isa (2004) andRuun (2006) show a marked departure from previous sounds, most notably with the inclusion of sharp dynamic shifts.
Although the band has used mainly English lyrics since Monumension, their albums before that were mostly recorded in Norwegian except for three songs with Icelandic lyrics on their first full-length album; while the lyrics of the 1994 track Heimdallr consisted of an Old Norse excerpt from Gylfaginning by Snorri Sturluson. Most of the band's lyrics relate to Norse mythology. Following Ruun, in 2007-2008, Bjørnson, Kjellson, and Isdal collaborated with the Norwegian noise duo Fe-Mail under the name Trinacria.
Enslaved released the album Vertebrae in September 2008, their tenth studio album and their first on Nuclear Blast. Terrorizer Magazine named it the album of the year in 2008, notably above other metal releases such as Meshuggah's obZen and Opeth's Watershed. After touring Europe extensively, Enslaved embarked on a North American tour with the progressive death metal band Opeth in May 2009.
The album is noted for is shift in its approach and its diverse sounds; Sammy O'Hagar from MetalSucks.net even says that "to call Vertebrae black metal would be quite a stretch" because "there’s an impressive depth to that surpasses the sour misanthropy so often (and rightfully) associated with the genre", and furthermore describing their sound as "heavy and surprisingly soft, focused and curious, true to their roots and longing to forget them". The album's sound has been said to be akin to Pink Floyd's sound on a few occasions, as well as other black metal releases in a similar vain. After extensively touring Europe, Enslaved toured North America with Opeth in support of Vertebrae.
Enslaved released their eleventh studio album, Axioma Ethica Odini, on 27 September 2010 in Europe and the following day in North America. In 2011 Enslaved released two new EPs. The first EP, entitled The Sleeping Gods, which was produced in partnership with Scion Audio/Visual, was released on 10 May 2011 and made available as a free download consisting of 5 original tracks. The second EP, entitled Thorn, was released on 27 August 2011 in partnership with Soulseller Records in fulfillment of a decade-old agreement. The Thorn EP, released on seven-inch vinyl, was strictly limited to 1,000 copies and featured a more atmospheric sound than the band is currently known for. Enslaved started their 20th anniversary tour "Circling Above and Within North America Tour Part IV" in September 2011 with Alcest and Junius in the United States and Canada. An official tribute album called Önd - A Tribute was released on Pictonian Records in July 2012. It contains twenty covers from twenty bands (including Dordeduh, Fen, Kraków, Vreid and Wodensthrone) to celebrate the two first decades of Enslaved's career.After having signed to Nuclear Blast in Europe, too, Enslaved released their 12th studio album, RIITIIR, on 28 September 2012 in Europe and 9 October in North America.
Enslaved's next album, In Times, will be released March 10, 2015 through Nuclear Blast Records