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Album Reviews : Enslaved – E

By on September 28, 2017

Enslaved is a Norwegian extreme metal band formed in 1991. The band started their career as a traditional black metal band but over time their sound has undergone significant change.  These days it would be fair to say they have more in common with progressive metal bands in the vein of Opeth than they do with Immortal or Emperor. However unlike Opeth, Enslaved continue to employ the use of harsh vocals alongside cleans, so if you’re looking for diverse, progressive metal with a vast range of dynamics look no further. Despite the band being happy to shift their sound into new territories one constant throughout Enslaved’s career has been their lyrical themes; writing lyrics which draw upon Norwegian history and  Norse mythology for inspiration. This is the case yet again on their 14th album entitled E, due for release next month through Nuclear Blast.

E is only 6 tracks long (without the bonus tracks) but it contains more than enough material for an album and a quality one at that. The album is diverse and varied as you would probably expect and all of the tracks are equally strong. Regardless of your tastes, you’ll find plenty to sink your teeth into on this release – the album has a lot to offer; ranging from uplifting progressive rock interludes, pummelling black metal, to almost Wardruna style Norwegian atmospheric soundscapes.

‘Storm Son’ is a 10+ minute monster and has an incredible range of dynamics and moods. The range of styles is so vast that if it wasn’t for the Viking fog horn and sound effects at the start of the track It might have taken me a few minutes to pick that I was even listening to Enslaved. The various sections in ‘Storm Son’ range from almost Porcupine Tree-style melodic prog rock to melodic black metal, but somehow the band are able to pull it all off to create a relatively cohesive track. Håkon Vinje joined the band recently after the departure of Herbrand Larsen and It’s clear from the get-go that his clean vocals are a great fit for Enslaved. They compliment yet clash with the screams of Grutle Kjellson and create some of the most telling moments on the release.

‘The River’s Mouth’ and ‘Sacred Horse’ are far more focused in comparison to the album opener and have a noticeable Black Metal bias. Not to say they are one dimensional though; these songs still have an impressive range of moods and contain highly memorable clean vocal lines too. The second half of ‘Scared Horse’ builds from a  stripped back,  almost pagan inspired guitar line,  to a thrilling and very heavy conclusion.

‘Axis of The Worlds’ is a really strong track with a prominent  6/8 feel throughout the majority of it, and a heavy chant laden interlude. There are some tasty guitar solos in this one, and a healthy smattering of Synth and keyboards too. ‘Feathers of Eollh’ is one of the more complex tracks on the album. The band certainly cover a lot of ground in the 8+ minutes runtime as they toy with time signature and feel throughout. It has a bit of everything –  a finger twister of the main riff, uplifting clean vocal lines, Flute parts and more of that chant style vocal which really does add tangible atmosphere to the arrangements.

‘Hindsight’ closes out the album in stylish fashion, and is arguably the strongest track on the release. The band manage to achieve a stunning juxtaposition between dark and light moods by contrasting vast soundscapes, built on arpeggiated guitars and a Saxophone, with some of the heaviest moments on the album – the verse instrumentation is particularly dark, almost Doom-like.

In my opinion, Enslaved have been criminally underrated or perhaps even overlooked for many years now (at least in comparison to other bands of a similar ilk). Surely the pure quality of their body of work is ready to be noticed and receive the sort of widespread acclaim that they truly deserve. E is a quality album and I have no doubt that fans of Enslaved will really enjoy the direction that the band has taken with this release. More importantly, I’d hope that people who aren’t overly familiar with Enslaved give this album a listen and get to know one of the most dynamic extreme metal bands around. E is a diverse and enthralling release and is destined to be up the top half of many top album lists at the end of 2017.

Band: Enslaved
Album: E
Year: 2017
Genre: Extreme Metal
Label:  Nuclear Blast Records
Origin: Norway

About

Chris is a long time metal enthusiast and advocate for Australian heavy music scene. Chris grew up in Perth, Western Australia and is a past member of modern melodeath act Let's Kill Uncle. Currently residing in London, UK.