Artist Zbigniew M. Bielak (Ghost, Mayhem++) is the author of the illustrations for the release of “Vikingligr Veldi” for the first time on vinyl.
“Back in the early 90’s – regardless of how in fact infantile and superfluous – Black Metal was a gateway to many cultural references, prior unheard of in the metal millieu. For many, myself included, the eerie art of Theodor Kittelsen was among top tier mindblowing revelations of the time. It became synonymous with the emotional landscape of Norewgian Black Metal, thus complementing the much abused grandeur of classic Bathory album art with a whiff of pestilent cold. The new ill-spirited menace needed a face, and all kinds of historic, mythological and romantic illustrations flourished across the scene – often glitzy and out of context. Compared to their esoterically satanic contemporaries, Enslaved however were always way ahead of the pack in substantively painting their Viking kingdom.
I see ‘Vikingligr Veldi’ album as a landmark of its time, inseparably tied to the era’s opulently imaginative yet sparsely presented aesthetics – with booklet images from ‘Transilvanian Hunger’ or ‘Hvis Lyset Tar Oss’ coming to mind instantly. When we set out to work on this reissue, I suggested preparing four song illustrations to enchance narrative of the lyrics. It was a welcome non-surprise to learn that Ivar and Grutle had much of the detailed imagery in mind when working on the album already, so it was a pleasure to have own hand guided by a well outlined concept. To keep things symmetrical and not invasive to the original would-be DSP layout, we decided to leave the instrumental song ‘Norvegr’ out, and focus on illustrating four songs only. This way the new artwork could be used exclusively on the innersleeves, while the inside of the gatefold remained reserved for the original CD content.
First of the four songs on the album – ‘Lifandi Liv Undir Hamri’ – roughly translates to ‘living beneath the hammer’. Much like its accompanying illustration, it paints a solemn picture of a belligerent and brave nation, setting out sails to divide and conquer under the watchful eye of their Pantheon – here impersonated as a silent Giant following in the distance. Bearing semblance to the mid-era Bathory vibe, this piece is to me Enslaved’s early aesthetics in a nutshell. Overwhelming forces of nature embodied as the conquering Majesty.”
“Illustration to the second song on the album – ‘Vetrarnott’, shows a ghastly parade of spirits trapped in an aurora above the sacrificial stone circle. The lyric derived, diversified cast of nine – from a mad peasant to the Bergman nicked Death – as honed by Ivar to an extent of having it as painting on the studio wall – symbolizes unconditional allegiance and submission of all Life’s cycles to the providence of higher power. An all-encompassing ritual of being and nothing.”
“Midgards Eldar’ is the third, and to my ears most majestic and memorable song on ‘Vikingligr Veldi’. It evokes images of epic mountainrange lit by signal fires warning of danger. Presented against the massive archipelago, sentry’s protective effort makes the faint beacons seem to be merely a fanciful spectacle in the arena of northern nature and it’s legendary hospitality.”
“As mentioned before, the illustration series for this definitive vinyl release of Vikingligr Veldi ends prematurely with the fourth song on the album – ‘Heimdallr’. Heimdall is the dualistic deity that bridges both stormy and calm ends of the rainbow at the gates of Aasgard. Both peaceful watcher and wrathful harbringer of battle, he permeates the very fabric of nordic life, assuring peace until Gjallahorn is raised from its resting position, in an inevitable turn of the cycle. An album as densely textured with senses and ideas as this one, calls for a diligent, immersive listening experience. I believe the four song illustrations helped enchance the release with that extra bit of narrative, it would have probably had, should the turmoil around Deathlike Silence Productions’ abrupt demise not happen.”