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Enslaved - Vikingligr Veldi CD (album) cover

VIKINGLIGR VELDI

Enslaved

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal


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UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Enslavedīs debut album Vikingligr Veldi has classic status in the black metal world. The prog tendencies that Enslaved incorporated into their sound on later albums are not found here. At least itīs only heard sporadically. Enslaved plays black metal in the vein of Satyricon and Burzum which means that it is very dark and pretty repetitive. Krautrock lovers might get something out of this even though itīs another genre alltogether. The hypnotic effect you get when listening to krautrock is also present here though.

The sound is very amaturish but better than the sound on many other black metal albums from that time. As it is normal in this type of black metal you canīt hear the bass, the sound is extremely thin and with lots and lots of treble.

The musicians are nothing special really even though I have to be impressed with Ivar Bjørnson who is only 16 or 17 years old on this release.

The music is as mentioned very repetitive black metal. Itīs very melodic and there are even some keyboard effects that can sound seventies prog like, but donīt expect too much of that kind, itīs only occasionally. Grutle Kjellson has an extreme black metal rasp and itīs very much an aquired taste if you like these kind of vocals. Even for death metal fans this might be too extreme. Favorite songs for me are the opener Lifandi Lif Undir Hamri which I find very powerful and even very melodic, and Midgards Eldar where Grutle Kjellson sounds really pissed off. Nice brutal stuff. Vetrarnуtt is a bit of a let down really. Itīs way too repetitive for me.

Even though I have enjoyed listening to Vikingligr Veldi and on first listen wanted to give it 3 stars, I have come to my senses now and I will only rate it 2 stars. Itīs not that innovative really and it gets a bit trivial when you reach the middle of the album. Iīll say this is only for fans of the early norwegian black metal scene. I donīt see the average prog head enjoying this much.

Report this review (#162809)
Posted Wednesday, February 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars This brings back memories.......... I actually interviewed Grutle and Ivar for a major Norwegian music magazine at the time of this release. They were very intelligent guys with a vision. Some months later, hell broke loose with the slaying of their record lable manager and the media circus called Burzum. Throughout the whole period, Enslaved kept a distance to the scene - officially - and did their own stuff. Their drummer joined Emperor (and countless other bands). This, their second album (I regard Hordanes Land as their debut) was not Black Metal as it was known as back in 1993. This is pure Viking Metal and they were the pioneers of this scene. Bathory released a couple of Viking Metal albums too, but I think Vikingr Veldr is a more hardcore Viking Metal album. The sound is pretty primitive and the drummer is not up to the task. I loved the album when it was released and I had hopes of Enslaved continuing down this path. The Frost album crushed my hopes, though...... This album is pretty much an oddity in Enslaved's discography. It has some epic songs with the typical Black Metal sound. Added is the keyboards which gives it the Viking Metal sound. There are some good songs here and most of them has a Van Der Graaf Generator feeling to them. Then you also have the Burzum influences in the sound. I think this is a good album, with it's flaws. They are the bad sound and a pretty much one-dimensional song structure. The ten minutes long songs tends to become boring after some minutes. Not enough is happening in the songs to keep them interesting. The final song, Norvegr, is the best song. I can understand why Enslaved changed back to a more basic Black Metal sound on the follow up album Frost because this album is a kind of an overkill. I do not think they would had been the band they are today if they had stuck to this formula. Overall, this is a good album worth checking out. This is probably the only Black/Viking Metal album I still listen to from the early incarnation of the Norwegian Black Metal scene.

3 stars.

Report this review (#186966)
Posted Sunday, October 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars It's true that this first release from Enslaved, the now Extreme Progressive Metal band is not very progressive at all. You only get a few hints of what's to come from the acoustic passages and keyboards in between the tremolo-picked black metal riffs. It does get repetitive at times, but that's one of the traits of the early black metal scene. The vocals are screamed and there are no clean vocals like their later releases, but this early and sometimes raw release is still one of my all time favorite albums for its excellent dark atmosphere and hidden melodies. I am aware that not many people will be able to enjoy this, but for me it's undeniably an absolute classic.
Report this review (#200443)
Posted Saturday, January 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
4 stars Vikingligr Veldi is a black metal milestone and Enslaved's most symphonic styled black metal album, closer to Emperor and Immortal then to their later prog rock and an obvious inspiration for both the more commercial symphonic black metal bands like Dimmu Borgir and the atmospheric tendencies of early Katatonia and Agalloch.

The opening track Lifandi Lif Undir Hamri is very gripping and sums up everything that is on offer on this album, a fast, repetitive and entrancing pace, tremolo-picked guitar riffs, vicious black metal shrieks, haunting keyboards and folksy overtones. As Umur pointed out this might appeal to kraut fans. Me being one, I can only confirm that claim. The track has only minimal melody but appeals greatly because of its rhythm and entrancing effect.

The remaining tracks have a similar approach, Vetranott is another 11 minute slab of up-tempo dark energy. Especially the blast beat section in the middle is wild and furious. Enslaved add just enough melody to make it digestible and alluring. Of course Grutle's shrieks are an acquired taste and by the time the next 11 minutes of Midgards Eldar I get quite weary of them as well, so I rarely sit through this album in one go.

Heilmdallr is an Enslaved classic that still features in their live set. More concise and decidedly more black and aggressive it's a welcome change after the 3 epics that preceded. Also the instrumental Norvegr offers some variation in tempo and instrumentation, featuring even some (under-produced) acoustic guitars and prominent melodious bass guitar that gives it a kind of new wave feel (think of a badly produced the Cure jam with fuzzed out guitars).

The production is really good for black metal standards of that era, of course it's murky and trebly but all instruments are clearly audible, even the bass (at least if you have big woofers). The performance is inspired and energetic and the compositions are very big, symphonic and - seen from a broad perspective that includes kraut and space-rock - certainly progressive, though not Prog Rock of the kind Enslaved would start playing in the ensuing decade. Not perfect but an impressive album. Essential for black metal fans and still excellent within the Tech/Extreme sub. Maybe we need an extreme kraut metal sub for this album! 3.5 stars

Report this review (#259018)
Posted Sunday, January 3, 2010 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'Vikingligr veldi' - Enslaved (75/100)

Considering where the band has been, it is no small feat that Enslaved have managed to be so consistent throughout such a long and diverse career. I have met progressive rock fans who, despite not standing black metal in any other form, swear by the latter-era material. By contrast, there are black metal purists for whom the interest stops around Isa, if not sooner. For many more fans though, Enslaved's career can be taken as a major testament to quality in numerous forms. There will always be tired debates as to which era is "better" (as fans are wont to do) but there have been few exceptions to the band's streak of excellence since their beginnings at the height of the Norwegian Second Wave.

For Enslaved, greatness had its start on the Hordanes Land EP. The way they fleshed out that potential on Vikingligr veldi however proved that there was something really special about this band. They were a few years younger than the scene heavyweights in Norway, and the album's dedication to Euronymous is symbolic proof that Enslaved paid respect to the local influences they owed part of their sound to. Vikingligr veldi didn't become a classic on the grounds of doing what had already been done however, and even with Hordanes Land Enslaved had made it clear they weren't like the rest. Not just strong Viking-era Bathory influence, but a deceptively strong draw from 70s progressive rock was already a major part of Enslaved at this point. with their debut, they already foreshadowed the places they would go at later stages of their career.

Vikingligr veldi is a slightly bloated album, but it's hard to believe teenagers were capable of arranging music at this level. Emperor gave me a similar impression with In the Nightside Eclipse, but where that album gave that feeling by blowing up the sound with as many layers as possible, Enslaved do so by taking a line from Bathory. Adding "soft" instrumentation (like acoustics) to back up your black metal gives it a feeling of much greater depth. This plays well into Enslaved's Viking fascination very well, but unlike Bathory, they did so without losing the raw edge in black metal. Enslaved have always been a restrained-sounding band in whatever they've done, but there are times where they take the sound close to ravenous Mayhem territory. "Lifandi lif undir hamri" has riffs that sound like they were written by Euronymous himself. Being influenced by one of the most influential bands in black metal is no big deal, but considering the otherwise highbrow palette they were working with here, it's an impressive touch.

Vikingligr veldi is easily the strongest of Enslaved's predominantly "Viking metal" albums. To me, Eld and Blodhemn always felt vaguely underwhelming. Vikingligr veldi stood out because it sounded like the Viking aesthetic was more or less a springboard for Enslaved to do whatever they want. The debut's biggest surprise comes at the end, with "Norvegr". An 11 minute instrumental is a prospect better suited for prog than metal, and in thinking that you wouldn't be wrong. "Norvegr" sounds like a black metal band playing 70s progressive rock. For those who think Enslaved eventually evolved into a progressive band, "Norvegr" proves the ingredients were there all along. Enslaved were progressive from the start, and a lot more progressive for the first months of '94 than contemporary listeners would probably care to think. They weren't doing Mayhem as well as Mayhem, nor Bathory as well as Bathory, but they were bringing a shade of something new altogether. No matter which era of Enslaved you prefer, most of the best things about them began with this album.

Report this review (#409558)
Posted Monday, February 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
J-Man
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Even back in 1994, Enslaved was a bit of an 'odd duck' in the Norwegian black metal scene. Whereas many of the genre's forerunners were busy writing Satanic lyrics, burning down churches, or (in the case of Varg Vikernes and Euronymous) killing each other, Enslaved instead focused on creating a - for the time period, at least - very strange blend of ice cold black metal, symphonic keyboards, viking themed lyrics, and seventies' progressive rock. Although the progressive tendencies are hardly as noticeable as they would soon become, they were prominent enough to allow Vikingligr Veldi to stand out from the hordes of Mayhem and Burzum clones on the scene. I wouldn't venture to say this is one of the best Enslaved albums, but Vikingligr Veldi is a very highly recommended purchase for those who enjoy raw old school black metal with a few unique twists.

At its core, Vikingligr Veldi is very firmly rooted in Norwegian black metal. Lots of fast blast-beats, tremolo picked guitar riffs, and throaty vocals are found here, but Enslaved also throw some symphonic keyboards and ambient influences into the mix for good measure. I do hear a very strong Burzum influence here - like many of Varg's masterworks, the tracks are very long and repetitive, thus creating a rather hypnotic effect on the listener. Enslaved has an additional progressive edge that sets them apart, though, and I absolutely love when the synthesizers come into play. They really help flesh out the overall experience and give some melodic hooks for the listener to grab onto.

Later works from Enslaved are known for their crystal-clear production and tight musicianship, but that wasn't at all the case on Vikingligr Veldi. Like almost all black metal albums from this era, the musicianship is a bit sloppy and the production is just about as raw and unpolished as they come. That hopefully shouldn't scare away any potential listeners, though - the raw production suits the chilling atmosphere of Vikingligr Veldi perfectly, and the unpolished musicianship never gets in the way of my enjoyment.

Looking back on Vikingligr Veldi over fifteen years since its initial release, it's pretty clear that this promising Norwegian black metal act would go on to do much greater things over the span of their career. Enslaved has since released plenty of genre-defining progressive black metal albums, and even though this debut is damn good in my eyes, it's not one of their most essential purchases if you're looking to get into them. Still, Vikingligr Veldi is very much worth a look from any fan of Enslaved as well as old school Norwegian black metal in general. This is one of the better black metal albums from the early ninties', and as such deserves at least 3.5 stars. Though not an essential purchase, Vikingligr Veldi is a very promising start for these extreme metal behemoths.

Report this review (#561535)
Posted Wednesday, November 2, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Unlike most of their contemporaries in the early Norwegian black metal scene, Enslaved did not seek to express pure aggression and anger, or spit bile at Christianity, or roar forth the praises of Satan, or express a depressive sort of misanthropy. Instead, their lyrical foundation on this album was based around their appreciation of ancient Viking myths - and not in a "we're going to smash the Judeo-Christians and take back our land sort of way" or a "we are deeply sad that our pagan heritage is gone" way, as with Bathory's early Viking metal pieces. Instead, they simply present the myths and say "Here, these are the stories of our people, enjoy them"; the lyrics express a mood of quiet confidence and peace with the world, with what violence there is emerging not from people but from the wild and untamed forces of nature as expressed by the gods.

This lyrical foundation is supported by their musical approach. Though Grutle bellows forth the lyrics in a wild black metal shriek, to my ears his approach is more declarative and proclamatory than aggressive and brutal, and underpinning the wall of noise established by the guitars is some truly unexpectedly gentle, melodic, and peaceful synthesiser lines from Ivar. Whereas Emperor and their successors used synthesisers to create a grand sense of symphonic pomp and ceremony surrounding their music, and Varg Vikernes used them for dark ambient experimentation, Emperor of all the black metal bands seem to want us to chill out, relax, and let their synthesiser melodies sooth us in the midst of the chaotic guitar squalls which evoke the storms of long-ago Scandinavian winters.

In short, this debut album takes a unique approach to black metal and sets Enslaved on their own highly individual trajectory, and as such I think it's one of the most genuinely innovative and experimental works in the early genre.

Report this review (#617267)
Posted Monday, January 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
Prog Sothoth
COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars This album works as more of a droning experience than a fist pumping headbanging adventure. It's like watching paint dry, but with the paint being an exceptionally interesting and alluring color. The album title also sounds like some sort of hard liquor beverage, which I personally consider another plus.

With five songs and a total length of over fifty minutes, one of them being a reasonably long instrumental, the proggish ambition is certainly there and Enslaved hit the Norwegian scene immediately with long epics draped with atmosphere that was chilly though not necessarily morbid or evil (although their prior EP Hordanes Land felt pretty dark). The aura for this album is more of a majestic statement, particularly concerning tracks like "Midgards Eldar", which entice me to climb up high mountains and stare across the vast landscape in sheer glory as the sun sets beyond the horizon. Then I get chilly and hungry and wonder what the hell I was thinking. Vikingligr Veldi doesn't cause that unfortunate after-effect, but there are times, particularly during the first few listens, that the droning repetitive nature of some of these songs can get tiresome. I acknowledge that Enslaved were going for establishing an atmosphere that takes one back to Nordic times when mead was drunk from a large animal horn, but stretching a song to twice its length to establish a mood is a tricky venture if what is being stretched is not engaging enough to warrant such a monumental extension.

Musically it doesn't stray far from Norwegian black metal, with some cool riffs here and there, a few oddly interesting keyboards and an enthusiastic drummer who probably spends a lot of time panting when he's away from the kit. It does stand out from the more satanic stuff Norway was pumping out in droves at the time by avoiding most of the non music based clichés (corpsepaint, killing each other, etc.) and focusing on soundscapes that actually work in establishing a unique tone to their work that few of their peers could touch. It's a landmark album, and a classic concerning Norway's black metal scene, but Enslaved would eventually evolve into something even greater, while many other black metal bands had hit their peak in the early 90s and were about to slide into also-rans.

Report this review (#756050)
Posted Monday, May 21, 2012 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars ENSLAVED set themselves apart from the rest of the black metal pack right from the getgo and continued to do so with their debut full-length release VIKINGLIGR VELDI. As the title suggests this is Viking metal in lyrical content while existing in the black metal realm musically. The lyrics are mostly in Icelandic (very closely related to Old Norse) and the lyrics of "Heimdalir" are actually in ancient Norwegian, however this IS black metal and even if you speak the languages I would be surprised if you could discern any intelligible meaning from the shrieks and grunts and tortured utterings if you spent the rest of your life trying to do so.

As with their EP "Hordanes Land" the album kicks off with a catchy little keyboard riff that remains the backbone of a massive fury of black metal madness. Although this debut is not totally in the progressive black metal realms that would fully unfold on "Monumension" it is clear by the track times here that the band were carving out a path where they could follow allowing them to unfold their ideas into a more progressive atmosphere. The first track clocks in at 11:31 and despite the band's progressive desires failing to fully measure up to the potential of the time-lengths, there is something of a satisfying result in that despite the ideas becoming repetitive, the keyboards are somewhat hypnotic and lull you into the groove which I find is good enough to keep me entertained. After becoming fully engrossed in it after a while, they suddenly change it up a bit and take you for another hypnotic spin. There are changes but they are subtle despite the aggressive fury occupying every measure and note.

With only five tracks that add up to almost 51 minutes of music, it is clear that ENSLAVED were interested in more sophisticated music than many of the second wave black metal artists. There is however much in common with those acts. The keyboard tracks remind me a lot of Emperor (in fact Tym Torson who plays drums here was in both bands), while the most aggressive ones of Darkthrone. Their sound, although somewhat unique, still sounds very much rooted in the black metal of the early 90s. It would take a few albums for them to really blossom into the totally unique act that they would become. I actually didn't like this album a whole lot upon first listen but after many listens it grew on me and it allowed me to pick up on the subtleties that don't really slap you in the face at first. The music satisfies all those primeval black metal needs but also has a bit more to it. I have grown to like this album more than I thought I ever would and there is a true feel of potential present here even though it hasn't been fully unleashed at this point.

Report this review (#1325574)
Posted Wednesday, December 17, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars I've started getting to know Enslaved with this release and it remain one of my favourite ones and certainly the most atmospheric one by Enslaved. The album pales out a bit when comparing to more mature and diverse debut albums by Ulver and Borknagar, but these came later, the band members were older. Nevertheless, Vikingligr Veldi contains something that no other progressive black metal debut album has: an epic instrumental 10-minute depressing "Norvegr" whose chords could well be also played by a post-rock band. Due to its rawness, the record will please most black metal fans, due to its repeativness, it should be more accessible to progressive minds, too. This is black metal, not meant to be technically proficient, it has interesting wintery dark chord structures, progressive keyboards, raw guitars and classic black metal drums/vocals. All songs are quite long, some a bit too long but it allows to full focus in the magic atmosphere. My favourite tracks are brutal and dark "Vetrarnуtt / A Winter's Night" but also the last instrumental song that is captivating from its first mischievous chord until the piano accompaniment. This album is best enjoyed not at home when drinking beer/wine/coffee; go out in a snowed forest with hilly landscapes, alone or with a dog, with few people around, put on headphones and observe the trees and white clouds. This will pay off and add the emotional depth to listening. Why only 2 stars? Because I want to be objective and think that 80% of the progarchives listeners, especially the conventional ones, won't be pleased by the sound and distance from progressive metal.
Report this review (#2438116)
Posted Monday, August 17, 2020 | Review Permalink

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