ENSLAVED – E: Kjellson rules, dark metal lives
ENSLAVED‘s E is an enthralling experience. It is disturbing and uneasy to assess after spinning a few times. Criticisms which one tags seem to evaporate, with one’s head left ringing. “Progression” aside, ENSLAVED is and will by all accounts remain an extreme metal band.
Storm Son is “classic” ENSLAVED off the Ruun and Vertebrae era, rather pleasingly adorned with a solo which seems to come out of Maiden’s Alexander The Great.
The River’s Mouth bears a strong resemblance on OPETH, dominated by the band’s new clean vocalist. The prominent part in Sacred Horse is yet another Oriental motif one would connect with MELECHESH rather than vikings, and the song drags on after Grutle stops commanding the team.
With Axis Of The World, it becomes clear he commands the whole parade. The song starts a simple and straightforward heavy metal (Run To The Hills this time?), and evolves into an infatuation of the keyboardist with (let’s say) Weather Report – which will also mark the beginning of the next song, Feathers Of Eolh, however in a way less interesting than 70s jazz-fusion and jazz-rock (which this album seems to pay some tribute to, rather than being infused with Floyd this time). The songs seem to meander or drone on, perhaps intentionally, emphasised by the slumberous (whenever it’s not too cheery) clean vocal, and the psychedelic effect of hypnotic incantations. These vocals, however, seem squeaky-clean, in stark contract with Grutle’s grim command. His cooperation with the previous, more melancholic vocalist felt somehow symbiotic, while with E, I have the feeling Grutle and Hakon have recorded separately and unaware of each other. Nevertheless, the songs have interesting progressions, which don’t leave one bored. Indeed, the masterpieces of Isa and Ruun might have felt too compact, too cohesive, while we’re often thrown off-board here, which may or may not be a good thing. The epitome of that sensation is Hiindsiight, featuring light jazzy quitar and sax out of Spyro Gyra, and uber-heavy vocals.
This is a record which cannot be adequately “told”. It’s a hotchpotch one should warm up (to) for oneself.
Warming up is not good enough for me – I need to be smashed and melted – and this is exactly what Djupet did. The latter half of the song is part proper black metal ENSLAVED, part tribute to Celtic Frost, with the sheer aim to outdo them. It ends on a doomy recitative spell, so I don’t even bother to find What Else Is There. I can only bow down to this black metal master, who – however bad taste it is to mention – renders overly hyped SATYRICON into non-existence.
Without Grutle Kjellson, this record may be interpreted as aesthetically-pleasing psychedelic-toned display of musical literacy; with him, it is dreadful – a high-order compliment in terms of dark aesthetic.
ENSLAVED might well steer clear of territories already walked by geniuses in the 70s, and go back “to their roots”, which seems to be the wish of the majority of their listeners. Then, I will go back with them and learn all about black metal – which I’ve never so far bothered to do.
Ideally and wishfully, I’d see them do more doom.
P.S. Ignore this review. The album evolves with each listen, fluent and nearly flawless. It demands immersion and repels discourse; once crushed, one is elated. Transcending its parts, it becomes an unitary wholeness. As someone wrote: “The Vikings moved from the drake to the shuttles and flew to the stars. This happened a long time ago. But on this album, it’s somehow especially felt. I’m waiting for the elk.”
01. Storm Son
02. The River’s Mouth
03. Sacred Horse
04. Axis Of The Worlds
05. Feathers Of Eolh
07. Djupet (bonus track)
08. What Else Is There? (RÖYKSOPP cover; bonus track)
Diana Chavdarova (9/10)