With a back catalogue more diverse than the coffee options at a café, the legends that are Enslaved are back once again and this time with a new keyboardist and clean vocalist. For those unaware, Herbrand Larsen parted ways with the band late last year after the By Norse events had ended. Whilst at the time I was slightly concerned as to whether the band would be able to find a replacement that would do the older songs justice, it seems they’ve found someone who is somehow even better than Herbrand was.
Kicking off the album in a superb fashion is the colossus that is “Storm Son”. The longest track on the album, there’s no other way of describing it other than the fact it’s 10+ minutes of sheer auditory bliss. And also the fact that you can almost consider it two songs in one. Where most bands would probably split the tracks at the transitions and have a fade out and fade in, Enslaved have instead created a song which not only flows exceptionally well but also feels alive.
Coming onto the second single from the album, the recently released “The Rivers Mouth” doesn’t shy away from making things a little more guitar based. The traditional ‘Enslaved sound’ really shines on this track and new keyboardist and clean vocalist Håkon Vinje practically leads the latter half of the track with his phenomenal pipes and superbly creative keyboard parts. “Sacred Horse” takes things back to the slightly more ‘proggy nature’ experienced in the first track, albeit with a quicker pace. Drawing elements from both In Times and Riitiir, the track would be a sure fire pit starter in a live situation with the barks from Grutle and super-speed drumming of Cato. It even has a keyboard solo as well. They really do spoil us.
Bringing back the sounds of the 70’s, “Axis Of The Worlds” brings out some things I’ve never heard in any other ‘metal’ album before. Rotary organ sounds, “Doctor Who”-esque electronic sounds and heavily distorted synths dominate proceedings with the other instruments providing the glue that sticks the eclectic cake together. “Feathers Of Eolh” continues with this style, though things turn slightly more psychedelic this time around. This track is the probably the most ‘out-there’ track on the album, but at the same time still retains everything that makes up an Enslaved track.
Ending the album “Hiindsiight” once again breaks the mold of the traditional ‘metal song’ by having a song length of 9 minutes and 36 seconds. And just like the first song, it does not feel like a very long track. Add to it the fact that they have not one, but two (and a half) beautiful saxophone solos in there as well and it’s the perfect track to end the album with.
On occasion, when bands decide to break the mold so much with their music, there can be a massive backlash against them. You need only look at Opeth to see how a change of direction can polarise fans so much. Enslaved however seem to have avoided that by sticking true to what they do and crafting some truly breathtaking music. From Vikingligr Veldi and Eld to Below The Lights, Ruun and finally E, the band are as much a force to be reckoned with now as they always have been.
Standout Tracks: “E”