Bergen’s Enslaved advance towards a more frostbitten and pagan black metal dirge with new album Utgard.
I immediately had to check that I hadn’t put on a Corvus Corax album to begin with as the opening track “Fires In The Dark” starts off with medical-style chants twinned with acoustic melodies. These then slowly start to weave into to a slightly harsher side, melding into almost prog undertones but the follow up “Jettegyrta” has that northern magic that instantly makes me sit up and take note – welcome back Enslaved, you have been missed.
Second Opinion (James):
Enslaved have always been a favourite band of mine since they released Below The Lights. I’ve long appreciated their ability to weave different musical traits together and their boldness to keep changing their soundscape. Utgard is no different in that regard, and continues to showcase their ability to create songs that will stick in your head for many days after hearing them. New drummer Iver fits into the band perfectly and his higher-pitched clean vocals complement this album well, the highlight being the sections in “Homebound” where he really opens the taps.
As with any Enslaved album, I find it incredibly difficult to fault and in this case can’t find anything wrong with it. Every song is incredible and I highly look forward to when live shows return and we can hear some of these tracks in a live setting.
A band that has been together nearly 30 years taking a chance with some new soundscapes is refreshing and apparent with “Sequence”. There’s all kind of Opeth vibes here which I can personally get on board with, in particular I loved how Vinje’s clean vocals compliment Kjellson’s effortlessly, and “Homebound” left me with a lump in my throat, easily the most anthemic track on the album with some wonderful solos from Bjornson. The latter part of the track is where Isdal’s guitar and Sandoy’s drums come into their own. Hands down my highlight track of the album.
The spoken word “Utgardr” with its swirling space vibes feels like the introduction for “Urjotun” which has some wonderful space rock vibes and took me by surprise (in a good way) as the band still somehow manage to inject just enough bleak heaviness into it…
No-nonsense “Flight of Thought and Memory” is a fierce reminder of the band’s early roots and so to is the penultimate “Storms of Utgard” galloping riffs and all. Finally highly atmospheric “Distant Seasons” is a great final send-off for an album which felt like a fantastically told story.
Even after 30 years, Enslaved still refuse to lower their standards.
Utgard is released 2nd October