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Enslaved - Utgard CD (album) cover

UTGARD

Enslaved

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.88 | 54 ratings

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UMUR
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Utgard" is the 15th full-length studio album by Norwegian progressive black metal act Enslaved. The album was released through Nuclear Blast in October 2020, almost to the day 3 years after the release of "E (2017)". Thereīs been one lineup change since the predecessor as drummer Cato Bekkevold has been replaced by Iver Sandøy.

The material on "Utgard" continue in a similar progressive black metal style as the material on "E (2017)". Itīs majestic, epic, melodic, dreamy, and occasionally a little more raw, but the bandīs black metal roots arenīt heard that often. Itīs predominantly lead vocalist/bassist Grutle Kjellsonīs snarling raspy vocals and the occasional fast-paced tremolo riff and drumming, which point in that direction. Otherwise this is more a heavy and dark type of progressive metal. Kjellsonīs raw vocals are complimented by Håkon Vinjeīs clean vocals and harmonies. In addition to guitars, bass, and drums, the music also features an omnipresence of keyboards.

The tracks feature recognisable hooks, but are still adventurous and unconventionally structured. If youīre familiar with the last couple of releases by Enslaved, the overall sound and style of "Utgard" wonīt come as a surprise, but there are couple of tracks which stand out. "Urjotun" is quite different from the remaining tracks as itīs basically a psychadelic/space rock track, and itīs refreshing to hear Enslaved try something new. Closing track "Distant Seasons" is an epic melodic track. I wouldnīt go as far as to call it a power ballad, but it feautures melodic clean vocal melodies and opens in a mellow fashion.

"Utgard" features a clear, detailed, and professional sounding production job. Itīs a well sounding production, which suits the material perfectly, but personally I could have wished for a slightly less polished sound and a bit more rawness and heaviness. Enslaved are almost too nice these days and the unasuming clean vocals by Vinje arenīt particularly distinct sounding or interesting. He has a very regular sounding voice and therefore some of the clean vocal parts lack power and personality. Enslaved are in many ways the black metal equivalent to (progressive doom/death) Opeth, but regarding the clean vocals they are not up to par with Mikael Åkerfeldtīs powerful vocals and distinct sounding voice.

Other than the clean vocals being a bit bland, "Utgard" is another high quality release by Enslaved, and fans of the last couple of albums wonīt be disappointed by the material featured here or by the high level performances by all involved. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

UMUR | 4/5 |

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