ENSLAVED “E”, Nuclear Blast 2017 (Review)

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.

Enslaved - E

Enslaved – E

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.

Enslaved

Enslaved

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
06. Hiindsiight
07. Djupet (bonus track)
08. What Else Is There? (RÖYKSOPP cover; bonus track)

Diana Chavdarova (9/10)

SAMAEL “Hegemony”, Napalm Records 2017 (Review)

Caring little whether or not SAMAEL have a political message, their “Hegemony” is one of “pleasure and delight, extended in souvenirs”.

It seems these French Swiss (and Spanish) charmers have arrived at one coherent blend to consolidate their sound throughout the years. The album could have well been self-titled, presenting the ultimate formula for our aesthetic satisfaction. This isn’t to undermine the artistic produce, but to emphasise it isn’t just interesting or challenging like many of the contemplative post-metal acts; that it doesn’t demand from the listener, but lavishly caters for him.

Samael - Hegemony

Samael – Hegemony

SAMAEL have a staunch yet not a huge fan base, which can be ascribed to the fact they are an exquisite pallette of rigor and splendour, which is rare in metal. The symphonic score enters into a racy relationship with the gutturally alluring vocal, both intricately nuanced and precisely accentuated. There are of course lovers of the darker, stickier SAMAEL side, as well as those enjoying their uplifting electronic rhythms; and while their previous album, Lux Mundi, was closer to the former (in The Truth Is Marching On in particular), Hegemony displays the brand of the Reign Of Light/Solar Soul era a little more obviously. Echoes can be heard from beautifully adorned songs like Heliopolis and Western Ground; and while the anthemic side (as in On Earth for example) is here, it is well counterbalanced with other elements as to not sound overly accessible. Black Supremacy is an example of older and newer era SAMAEL in one, and while Red Planet works as the compelling hymn of the album, anthemic nature is inherent in all tracks in its former half. While happy with the frenetic synth and copious melody, I begin to miss the enticing obscurity of songs like Born Under Saturn from Passage – and then we arrive at the second part of this thirteen-course plate, gradually catering for our darker, more decadent urges.

Samael

Samael

While I see SAMAEL as a lushly crafted Swiss clock counting intervals of delight, their social and philosophical appeal is never to be underestimated: conscience and autonomy of thought, in order to arrive at the appreciation that “our quest for harmony is the pinnacle of humanity”.

Samael

Samael; Photo Credit: Aline Fournier

What makes SAMAEL a great band, in the end, is the fact their poignant offerings serve only as a reminder what awaits us live.

1.Hegemony
2.Samael
3.Angel of Wrath
4.Rite of Renewal
5.Red Planet
6.Black Supremacy
7.Murder or Suicide
8.This World
9.Against All Enemies
10.Land of the Living
11.Dictate of Transparency
12.Helter Skelter
13.Storm of Fire (bonus track)

Diana Chavdarova (9/10)