Enslaved is one of the rarest birds in the metal world. Not only because they put out some of the most prominent and well-remembered black metal releases during the glory days of the 90s, but also because every album is different to the one before it. You’d think that there’s no way the band will release anything that tops this or that and a couple of years later, you get a punch in the stomach (in a good, Norwegian, friendly kind of way) with a new release that pushes the boundaries even more.
The shift that started with “Mardraum,” from 2000, saw the development of the band in directions that have not really been explored up until then by an extreme metal act – although it was still in its early days, before exploding with “RIITIIR” and “In Times” to name but two – rock, progressive rock, and slowly even its psychedelic side.
Thus, everything that came after has been building itself on that same foundation of aggressive, cold black metal tunes garnished with genius progressive rock passages and sometimes whole structures that seems to have been taken from the seventies. Great stuff.
“Heimdal” is Enslaved’s 16th (!!) full length release and I am pretty sure if there’s some kind of a contest somewhere Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson would surely have won it . Jokes aside, the new Rainbow-Bridge guardian (as in, Heimdal) of an album opens with a blow of the horn, as “Behind the Mirror” attacks with an all-encompassing wall of ever-twisting riffs and changing of speeds and a sophisticated structure, without tiring the listener as it sometimes happens.
An almost total change in atmosphere between “Congelia” and “Forest Dweller,” for example, begs the thought of these being from two different time periods in the band’s career, yet they bear enough similarities to be put together.
The usage of keys in the album here is pretty smart, as it gives each song its own psychedelic component to put forward, thus embossing that certain 70s-80s influence that is so prominent in the band’s music these days.
Throughout the nearly 50-minutes long album, the different vocal abilities are supplying the music with a layer of different musical “attitudes,” thus making each song intertwine with the general idea(s) of the album, all the while keeping the level of interest and difference high enough.
Shot from the sky directly at the listener are the riffs that brace “Kingdom,” which are there to make you not forget that in between all those other-worldly influences, the band’s base always was and probably will always be, aggressive music that makes the listener bang his head and at the same time wonder where this will further develop. It does develop, straight into “Caravans to the Outer Worlds” where basically everything that the album provided us with up until now, happens at once. In a way, it’s mirroring the album in its entirety on all its sides, every little effect, every component gets a place in the spotlight.
Three years after the band’s previous album and many years since they embarked on their journey, “Heimdal” seems like indeed, another culmination of Enslaved‘s legacy.
That is, until the next one will tip it just enough to take its place.
Release Date: 3rd March, 2023
Label: Nuclear Blast
- Behind the Mirror
- Forest Dweller
- The Eternal Sea
- Caravans to the Outer Worlds