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Friday, March 6, 2015

Album Review: Enslaved - In Times

When it comes to product, the genre-hopping beast that is Enslaved rarely fail to deliver on quality. Over the years, in spite of their evolution from Norwegian extreme metal to blackened progressive rock, they have produced album after album rammed full of jaw-dropping music. In Times will be their 13th studio long-player but this time they have to cope with the effect of following their masterpiece, RIITIIR. Can they live up to the inevitable expectation?

Interestingly, nods to their vitriolic metal roots abound as do the references to Norse legend but there is something else, something more malleable to the vagaries of modern life – or, as guitarist/composer Ivor Bjørnson puts it, “the songs are the resounds of grandiose altered states and mundane tiny micro-events”. Undoubtedly, the fat has been trimmed, making it a far more focused animal than RIITIIR. It is more energetic, more aggressive and gets in and out faster. Although there are plenty of heavy beats employed, making this a drive-dominant album, it is still deeply-layered but less stylised.

Diving in, we get the dark roars and menacing anguish of “Thuriasz Dreaming”. Bursting out of the progressions come quirky, moreish repeater riffs and vocal licks. The incredible “Building With Fire” provides something a little warmer and feels even sleeker with its fast rhythm gifting it a strong battle metal quality. There are chugging gallops, piston-like double kicks and driving, rock structures. Like a wheel, the hub of the chorus with its hooked lick feeds the spokes that inch their way down exploratory passages before returning.

Further in, there are oblique cuts and segues in rhythm, tone and structure and at times you have to check to see if the track hasn’t skipped. Underneath and meshing the tracks together there are additional connective sounds which tend towards either industrial, reverential or organic. To achieve them they even went so far as to set up a mobile recording studio deep in the Norwegian woods of Bergen. Keep an ear out for the sounds of metal being worked by a crackling forge.

The ominous rumbling and scowling vocal of “One Thousand Years Of Rain” feeds into complementary clean harmonies that pick their way around the ominous lyric “their Winter is closing in”. From chanting Viking anthems we are presented with the startlingly bright and enchanting melody of “Nauthir Bleeding” with a mid-section that leaves you standing absolutely miles from where you came in. Time and again, Enslaved achieve this whilst keeping an impeccable sense of flow. The title-track offers up their division of vocal styling as verses are scowled at you, leaving the soft, rounded harmonies to pick up the chorus. There’s full use of minor keys and a crushing example of pinged top-end bass. Closing the album, the heavily-layered majesty of “Daylight” comes with choral builds and strong echoes of Devin Townsend’s epic structuring, tones and textures.

With In Times, it’s easy to imagine the total freedom that the band exercise when it comes to songwriting. It is this unrestricted vision coupled with an enviable ability to invent and explore that has made their music so affecting. Some of you may conclude that this album represents a step forward or backward from RIITIIR, but most will feel it is their prerequisite step to the side. Yes, it may be more of a grower album, but it bears the potential to be yet another Enslaved classic.


Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2015/03/enslaved-in-times-nuclear-blast/

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