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Enslaved - Monumension CD (album) cover

MONUMENSION

Enslaved

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.06 | 81 ratings

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lukretio
4 stars Exciting. This is, in a word, how I would describe Monumension, the 6th album of Norwegian Viking metal heavyweights Enslaved. Marking their 10th anniversary as a band, the album was the fruit of 1 month spent in the recording studio experimenting with song structures and arrangements, as the Norse were determined to stretch the boundaries of their sound beyond their black/death origins, continuing and amplifying the metamorphosis that they had started on previous records. And although Monumension is not yet a beautiful butterfly that has completely left the chrysalis, it shows flashes of Enslaved's immense potential that the band will fully bring to fruition in later records.

The core idea at the heart of the album is simple: genre-bending experimentation. The roots of Enslaved's sound are firmly set in extreme black/death metal, with fast-paced, aggressive riffs, brutal drumming, and lacerating growls. From early on, the band had started incorporating into their sound Nordic folk music influences, drawing heavily from Viking cultural and religious heritage. On Monumension, Enslaved further weave into their music influences from thrash and classic metal, as well as marked 1970s progressive rock aesthetics. The legacy of bands like Pink Floyd and King Crimson is apparent throughout the record and especially on tracks like "Convoys to Nothingness", "Hollow Inside" (whose first half is almost an homage to Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd), "The Sleep: Floating Diversity - A Monument Part III" and "Outro: Self-Zero". Elongated and meandering song structures, psychedelic vibes, Hammond organs, vocoders and other strange sonic experiments clash with double-bass drumming, growls and razor-sharp guitar tremolos, conjuring up a world within a world, disorientating the listeners and leaving them breathless.

It's an alluring voyage the one that Enslaved invite the listeners to embark on. It's not a voyage that everyone will enjoy. And there's plenty of bumps and bruises along the road, as the Norwegians are still trying to find their feet and the sonic experiments are not always successful and occasionally backfire, like on the chaotic "Enemy I" or the unmemorable "Smirr". But when the genius strikes, the music turns to gold and I am left in awe of the sheer brilliance of the ideas Enslaved put together on tracks like "Convoys to Nothingness", "The Voices", "Hollow Inside", "The Cromlech Gate" and "The Sleep".

But it's the raw sense of fearless experimentation that is truly astonishing here. Other bands, with a similar musical heritage as Enslaved, were treading similar waters in those years, like Borknagar or Arcturus. With this album Enslaved outclasses the competition, not because Monumension is necessarily a superior product, but because of its boldness and audacity that leave me breathless and excited about this band still today, more than 20 years after the album's initial release.

lukretio | 4/5 |

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