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Conor Fynes
1 stars 'Nema' - Enslaved (2/10)

Released at the peak of the Second Wave of Black Metal in Norway, Enslaved's first demo would catch the attention of many of the scene's larger players. Within a few years, Enslaved would be playing with the likes of Satyricon and other giants of black metal. Almost twenty years since the release of this demo, Enslaved have since gone on to becoming one of the premier acts in not only black, but progressive metal as well. By developing their sound beyond the raspy and unpolished haze of typical black metal, the band was able to escape the confines of the scene's relatively small (but dedicated) fanbase and appeal to a much wider range of metalheads. While I may be thankful to this demo for spearheading the career of one of my favourite black metal acts, I can't say in honesty that I found the demo itself to be of much enjoyment. While I am a self-proclaimed fan of the black metal style, there is little that endears 'Nema' from a purely musical perspective. While it does distinguish itself in terms of sound from many of it's contemporary releases, the lack of experience is very evident here, and it leads to a relatively unsatisfying release.

Keeping in mind that the guitarist Grutle Kjellson (listed on the tape simply as Grutle) and the drummer were only 17 and 13 respectively at the time of this recording, it's quite impressive a feat on it's own for a widely-recognized demo to be made by such young musicians. Impartially however, 'Nema' is a mess. Beginning with some fuzzy synthwork and raspy whispering, the cheesy factor of the genre hits the demo early on. During the two actual songs here (the first and last track are best described as an intro and outro) the guitar riffs are boring, and almost indistinguishable from the screeches. While lo-fi, unpolished production is expected from both black metal and demo alike, the sound here is dreadful. Possibly the only saving grace of the music is the more mellow tone of the music and synthwork during the two longer tracks, which give 'Nema' a sound that's almost akin to shoegaze.

'Nema' is best considered as a historical concept to the growth of Enslaved, rather than a work of music. Simply put; even as a fan of both black metal and Enslaved, I found it difficult to find much to appreciate here, besides the apparent passion for the form, from a very young Enslaved.

Report this review (#316444)
Posted Saturday, November 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
2 stars As a lover of both black metal and progressive music I find the combination of the two very exciting and few bands have consistently been as adept at putting those two worlds together than ENSLAVED has done with their vast canon and throughout all these decades they haven't released one uninteresting album. I find it fascinating to dig deep into the vaults of such a band's history to experience the origins of such a unique musical force and one cannot dig any deeper than their first demo NEMA which was released the same year the band officially formed.

On this very first release from ENSLAVED we find the two founding members Ivar Bjřrnson and Grutle Kjellson, then only 13 and 17 years old hooking up with Trym Torson who would go on to join Emperor. This is definitely one for the collector's and hard core fans only, of which I am one. The music on here is very lo-fi and very basic second wave black metal, however despite these tracks being light-years away from albums like "Monumension" and "Riitiir," there are small signs of nascent progressiveness in the mix. Even at this early stage ENSLAVED had a good sense of the dynamics of shifting through different styles to keep it interesting. The opening and closing tracks are even a bit ambient. All in all a display of potential but probably not something most fans will rush to seek out.

Report this review (#1207936)
Posted Thursday, July 10, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars I'll start with the fact that I'm an Enslaved fanatic, because it is relevant. They're one of the bands that I spend the most time listening to. It's the reason that I gave this NEMA demo a chance, despite the predominantly dismal reviews it's received from others. I think PA collaborator siLLy puPPy is right on track with his review. In terms of sound quality, I will rank this one higher than the YGGDRASIL demo. I'm not one who cares much about sound quality, as long as I can hear each instrument.

Sadly, even the re-released version of YGGDRASIL is unlistenable for me. NEMA is clearly a record made by inexperienced young men. I can't single out any song as being significantly better than the others; the two fully developed songs overstay their welcome somewhat. There are occasional hints of Enslaved's future creativity on display in NEMA. I would recommend this record as an occasional diversion for true fans, which is the definition of a 2-star release.

Report this review (#1476765)
Posted Saturday, October 17, 2015 | Review Permalink

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