Vera : From extreme metal to progressive brilliance. Many have the intention to do this and they manage to do that quite well, but Enslaved happens to be one of the echelons who tops everything. In 2013 ’In Times’ was one of the highlights of the year. It is no coincidence that guitarist Ivar Bjørnson says that it is the album on which they found their definitive sound. Now a new chapter has begun with the multiple interpretable titled ‘E’. Enslaved’s music is deepened again, with smooth developments within their slightly progressive niche, without neglecting their harsh roots. And we are in good hands with Enslaved for that.
After some retrospective concerts to celebrate their 25th anniversary, ink flew out of the pen of Ivar and the band – after saying farewell to their keyboardist and clean singer Herbrand Larsen - could go all the way with youngster Håkon Vinje, not even as old as the band itself. Fortunately Ivar and Grutle stand proud at the roar and an innocent listener will not mention the difference. At least not with studio recordings. Well, let us take a dive into a wealthy album which is actually impossible to describe, but even more audio brilliance. ‘Storm Son’ (watch the video!) is right away a highlight and the summary of where Enslaved nowadays stands for: sounds of nature, a calm beginning with drawling plucking guitars and then that masterly outburst with tight riffs and serene clean chants. The way that Grutle roars next ‘Open The Gates’ with his eerie gravedigger throat and adds harsh vocals from time to time, is amazing. Soaring mellotron, restless proggy fragments, inventive rhythms… you don’t know what’s happening to you, until the summit is reached with a flagrant part proper blastbeats black metal. Wow! By the way, it reminds me more than once of Opeth with the difference that extreme parts are blackened here and with Opeth death metal.
The rocking ‘The River’s Mouth’ has an adequate balance between rough and clean vocals and towards the end it gets rather spatial. ‘Sacred Horse’ is comprehensive again. A calm intro is followed by a dissonant eruption, one can hear a Hammond organ solo, but more and more it gets sacral and ritualistic. Briljant! ‘Axis Of The World’ starts jingle-jangling and quite chaotic. Although it tends to a smooth rocking track, it has the most experimental parts, with ethnic chants and dominant synthesizer (think of Pink Floyd in ‘On The Run’). ‘Feathers Of Eohl’ begins with frivolous guitar runs, then an Opeth-like outburst with grunts and later it reaches an incredible beauty with peaceful clean chants. There are so many twists and turns in the songs, really too much to mention. Occluding track ‘Hiindsiight’ is captivating as well. The harsh vocals are relished with monumental doom riffs. Just for a moment, it reminds me a bit of Ihsahn, surely when saxophone is heard in the second part. Again they build up a majestic composition with several layers and atmospheres, that’s why aficionados of progressive rock with extreme eruptions can consider this as album of the year. Enslaved stands at a dizzy making high level, only masters in pure art can achieve this. In this case ‘E’ stands for extreme, eclectic, energy, elegance and experiment.