Viking Metal started out by combining the epic energy of Black Metal with the mystical grace of Folk music. Enslaved is a band at the pinnacle of this heavy, Nordic sound. Starting out as teenagers, this Norweigian act has successively enhanced the Scandinavian metal scene for nearly thirty years. Their beginnings were more in the realm of the extreme, but over time Enslaved has not been afraid to dip into other genres like Prog Rock and Jazz. It’s encouraging to witness their ability to be undaunted by their explorations while still being true to their Viking roots. Their new fifteenth full-length album, Utgard (Nuclear Blast) verifies their astute ambition of experimentmentation and expression.
The marvelous warmth of group vocals and acoustic guitar greets you on the opening track, ‘Fires In The Dark’ making it feel like you’re in and among the Vikings. The first moments remove you from this world and place you somewhere more surreal and savage. The theatrics of the voiceovers confront your environment and sweep it away to replace it with the whimsy and marvel of Enslaved’s classic, punchy progressive goodness. The seething screeches of Grutle Kjellson coordinate with the stylish cleans of Ivar Bjørnson, Håkon Vinje and Iver Sandjøy which create a skilled dance of powerful voices. They do Mayhem and Immortal proud on tracks like ‘Jettegryta’ and ‘Flight Of Thought And Memory’. Their use of nature’s cruelty paints a picture of misty melancholy. Their speed and energy among the sorrow produces the classic Scandinavian brooding. Among the pensive gloom, there is an inpatient rage bubbling underneath each song that adds a fierce heat and movement.
Numbers like ‘Sequence’ and ‘Urjotun’ show off the band’s more electronic side which splashes peppiness and proves how versatile they actually are. There is a harshness and gothic vibe that bleats through their colorful tones moving the listener from headbanging to a sway-like action. Some of the experimental feels that are on one of their more iconic records, Isa (Tabu Recordings) is sensed on this new release. These songs are a journey to the mythological region of Utgard. The listener travels through shifting scenes in this wondrous, spiritual place. There are lots of layers with a slight lack of fluidity creating impressive individualism on each track. You particularly feel the untamed wilderness of this magical Norse province on the last two songs, ‘Storms Of Utgard’ and ‘Distant Seasons’. The warmth of the previous pep is now lost to the cool ambient marvel of progressive. The reflective spirit of this album certainly pertains to our current times of uncertainty. Their attentiveness to the mystic allows them to explore scenes of intensity with fragility in atmospheric ease. Huginn and Muninn would caw in approval at Enslaved’s thoughtful and powerful experimenting.
Order the album here:
Enslaved Online Store (Europe) https://enslaved.aisamerch.com/item/91713
Enslaved Online Store (USA) https://enslaved.aisamerch.de/shop-en
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