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Enslaved – Heimdal Award winner

by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 08 March 2023, 3:45 PM

Progressive Black Metal band ENSLAVED are one of Norway’s most seasoned bands. They formed in 1991, and have released 15 full-length albums. “Heimdal” is their 16th, and it has seven songs. “Behind the Mirror” is the first track. Low fog horns sound, followed by somewhat dissonant rhythms. Harmonized vocals pierce the veil, bringing a little melody to the table. A key change brightens things up a bit, but the overall sound is fairly cloudy. Harsh vocals bring darker elements with them. The sound segues to heavier, choppier accents. Not being familiar with the band, this is some uniquely pleasing music so far.

“Congelia” begins with darker storm clouds, and something wicket this way comes. The guitars are more traditional Black Metal in terms of their high presence in the music, and the drums keep a steady, pulsing beat. Progressive elements are also noticeable, mainly in the smooth but dissonant sound. The harmonized clean vocals at the end are downright haunting. “Forest Dweller” begins with a more linear sound, but there are subtle background elements that support the music so well. A depressing folky feeling is present here. The sound is mellow and smooth, until the drums come barreling in with a bevy of harsh vocals and ominous, Progressive rhythms. I am beginning to seriously think about handing in my Metal card, because I am embarrassed that I haven’t heard this band before today, and they are incredible. “Kingdom” swings with an odd groove that you can’t quite put your finger on, but your head instinctively knows what to do with the rhythms. It chugs in almost inauspiciously, but after rears up and makes its presence known. The real feat here is how this song suspends you sense of doom for as long as it does.

“The Eternal Sea” features some complex rhythms that wax and wane with sonority in the beginning. Like a body of water, it is ever active, ever moving, and with its own weather. The harmonized clean vocals are chilling, but the harsh vocals under in a new phase of vile filth. One of the more amazing things about the album is how well they transition from one style to the next. “Caravans to the Outer Worlds” begins with howling winds, and thick, meaty bass notes. The rhythm guitars have a tense quality to them, and like the coming of a storm, you can smell it in the air. The tones that follow burn with an intensity not realized. But the cleans are sort of calming, in a stay of execution sort of manner. The lengthy “Heimdal” closes the album. Vile, raging vocals open the song with a riff that moves stealthily to and from the shadows. The various sections of the songs are held together by a very small string, which is as hard as titanium. A more animated riff appears after the half-way mark, and the song ends with smooth tones.

In the vein of IHSAHN and OPETH, with equal part exclusivity, ENSLAVED have created a masterpiece of Extreme Metal that flawlessly combined the ardent and harrowing nature of Black Metal with the complex curiosities and idiosyncrasies of Progressive music. The album has an unnatural flow to it that simply demands your attention at all times, yet after multiple listens, clicks into that place in your brain that can more easily comprehend the music. As some larger and well-known acts have faltered a bit in 2023, ENSLAVED is one seasoned band that still knows how to create a masterpiece. godt gjort!

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 9

5 Star Rating

1. Behind the Mirror
2. Congelia
3. Forest Dweller
4. Kingdom
5. The Eternal Sea
6. Caravans to the Outer Worlds
7. Heimdal
Ivar Bjørnson – Guitars, Keyboards, Piano, Electronics, Effects, Percussion, Vocals
Grutle Kjellson – Vocals, Bass, Mouth Harp, Electronics, Effects
Arve Isdal – Guitars, Vocals
Håkon Vinje – Keyboards, Vocals
Iver Sandøy – Drums, Vocals
Record Label: Nuclear Blast Records


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