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UTGARD

Enslaved

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal


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Enslaved Utgard album cover
3.91 | 41 ratings | 5 reviews | 22% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2020

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Fires in the Dark (5:59)
2. Jettegryta (4:56)
3. Sequence (6:39)
4. Homebound (5:29)
5. Utgarđr (1:51)
6. Urjotun (4:21)
7. Flight of Thought and Memory (6:22)
8. Storms of Utgard (4:38)
9. Distant Seasons (4:31)

Total Time 44:46

Line-up / Musicians

- Grutle Kjellson / vocals, basses, Fx
- Ivar Bjørnson / guitar, synth, Fx, backing vocals
- Arve Isdal / lead guitar
- Håkon Vinje / keyboards, vocals
- Iver Sandøy / percussion, Fx, backing vocals, drums

Releases information

Label: Nuclear Blast
Format: Vinyl, CD, Cassette, Digital
October 2, 2020

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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ENSLAVED Utgard ratings distribution


3.91
(41 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(22%)
22%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(41%)
41%
Good, but non-essential (27%)
27%
Collectors/fans only (10%)
10%
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)
0%

ENSLAVED Utgard reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars Few metal bands keep me interested over the long haul so that i eagerly await their next release more than Norway's ENSLAVED. This extreme metal band from Bergen has been slaying the metal world like a band of restless Vikings for almost 30 years now after having formed in Haugesund, Norway and having delivered 17 albums to date with an uncanny ability to maintain a high quality of product with only a a very few hiccoughs such as the somewhat generic "Blodhemn" or the stuck in a rut "In Times" but even those albums weren't bad at all and simply paled in comparison to the stronger albums that surrounded them. Debuting with the first release "Vikingligr Veldi," ENSLAVED has been instrumental in straddling the world of black metal, Viking metal and folk metal while adding increasing elements of progressive rock all the while finding innovative ways of changing things up just enough to keep their music fresh yet familiar.

Following the strong 2017 release "E," the band returns with its 17th full-length studio album UTGARD which continues the never-ending themes and stories mined from Norse mythology. This anglicized term from the original Útgarðar refers to a formidable giant featured in the myths where Thor and Loki compete in rigged competitions held in the Outyards. It seems ENSLAVED are in no danger of running out of inspiration from these ancient tales and musically speaking sound as strong as ever. With a stronger focus on traditional folk melodic developments and a more egalitarian mix of clean and growly vocals, UTGARD is perhaps ENSLAVED's most successful attempt at fusing the black, Viking and folk sounds with classic elements of 70s prog which includes beautiful atmospheric sweeps, keyboard drenched melodic scaffolding and occasional symphonic orchestrated lushness. While time signature complexities seem to have been tamped down, a few unorthodox angularities find their way into the mix. UTGARD in many ways focuses more on the melodic stampede of sound rather than sprawling prog behemoths and looks back to ideas gestated from the 90s along with more modern musical developments.

The opening "Fires In The Dark" wastes no time setting the tone of UTGARD with folk melodies, ritualistic chants and classic folk metal accoutrements before unleashing the black metal bombast which has been a staple of ENSLAVED's signature sound since day one. "Jettegryta" showcases a much stronger sense of battle call backings in the form of keyboard excesses that create a perfect counterpoint to the extreme heavy metal riffing which at times such as in "Sequence" harken to the classic metal years of grooves mined from Judas Priest and Iron Maiden only teased into splendiferous Viking epic tales that include lush atmospheric extras and the call and response vocal efforts of the legendary growls of Grutle Kjellson with the suave clean contrast of Håkon Vinje. With the prog workouts are less and the metal gallops turned up a few notches, UTGARD is noticeable different than prior efforts from the start and remain that way til the very last notes of the spooky melodic touches of "Distant Seasons" and with a classic LP album running time of only shy of 45 minutes doesn't outstay its welcome.

While prog has been a prominent feature of ENSLAVED's agenda dating back to 2001's "Monumension" when it became the dominant feature, on UTGARD this team of musical Vikings tends to look past the mere cliche constructs of the past and forges ahead into different prog related territories most noticeably on the the Krautrock inspired "Urjotun" which follows the even stranger two-minute "Utgardr" which teases out a Norse poetic prose accompanied by a creepy summoning of spectral sounds that emerge from places you'd probably best avoid. On "Urjotun" however ENSLAVED delves into the world of Neu! inspired motorik and adapts it nicely to UTGARD's already established folk / prog / black metal touches. Songs also excel in brevity with only two exceeding six minutes.

With so many long established metal acts falling into the expected traps of burning out, ENSLAVED never fails to surprise me with yet another excellent release that sounds like no other even within their own canon. While few ENSLAVED albums reach the height of perfection, almost all race past the excellence mark with ease. UTGARD is absolutely no exception at all and changes things up in unexpected ways once again as this band sallies forth into its 30 year mark of Teutonic rage wrapped up in musical sui generis. With this 17th album ENSLAVED proves once again why they remain firmly perched near the top of the metal hierarchy as they inch closer to status of patron sainthood in metal circles as they seem utterly incapable of substandard musical deliveries for even a scant moment of time. It's really hard for me to pick a favorite album by this great band since each one excels on its own merits and never wimps out despite its members getting on with their years and the greatest gift of all is that the flame of creativity only grows brighter with each release. Perhaps UTGARD will not entice new blood into the clan but it is guaranteed to please long time followers who relish the crafty balance of what came before with new innovation. ENSLAVED has another winner on its hands.

Review by 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)". There´s 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)". It´s majestic, epic, melodic, dreamy, and occasionally a little more raw, but the band´s black metal roots aren´t heard that often. It´s predominantly lead vocalist/bassist Grutle Kjellson´s 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. Kjellson´s raw vocals are complimented by Håkon Vinje´s 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 you´re familiar with the last couple of releases by Enslaved, the overall sound and style of "Utgard" won´t come as a surprise, but there are couple of tracks which stand out. "Urjotun" is quite different from the remaining tracks as it´s basically a psychadelic/space rock track, and it´s refreshing to hear Enslaved try something new. Closing track "Distant Seasons" is an epic melodic track. I wouldn´t 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. It´s 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 aren´t 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 Åkerfeldt´s 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 won´t 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)

Review by kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Reviewer
4 stars As with virtually every band, Norwegian group Enslaved have been through line-up changes over the years, and indeed they now have a new drummer since the last album in Iver Sandøy, yet founders and childhood friends Ivar Bjørnson (guitars) and Grutle Kjellson (vocals) are still there, as they have been now for some 30 years (the band is completed by Arve Isdal, lead guitar, and Håkon Vinje, keyboards, vocals). They first came to prominence with a split release with Emperor all the way back in 1993, but like Ihsahn, they have now come a long way from those days, although even now they still look back to their roots. They may have been a death metal band at the beginning, but now they are firmly entrenched in a progressive metal vein of their own making.

Vocals switch between clean and gruff; the keyboards provide polish, the drums are all over the place, and the guitars never stop. They are incredibly tight, witness the ending to Homebound, which is chaotic and then suddenly it comes together and ends ? one would not expect that unless they were watching the timer run down. There are times when the music is more Viking in its approach, with a feeling of monks in a monastery, others it is almost pop while we also have touches of black metal as well as death, all coming together in a progressive metallic album which sounds at times as if it is different bands, not just one. The pop keyboard introduction to Urjotun could be leading us into pop, and when the New Order-style bass comes in, one could be forgiven for not knowing this was a metal band at all. But gradually the menace makes its presence felt, and it becomes something way more dramatic and frightening.

This is not an album for those who want every song to be in the same vein as the previous one, as these guys are pushing throughout. "We have albums that are steps and we have some that are milestones," Bjørnson says and Grutle nods in agreement. "I personally think 'Utgard' is a milestone". Only time will tell if they are correct, but for now, Enslaved are refusing to rest on what has gone before and with their 15th studio album are still pushing boundaries of what is expected of them.

Latest members reviews

4 stars I have had an on-off relation with Enslaved since their 2010's Axioma Ethica Odini. Of that album, I appreciated the ambition to combine progressive elements with a pure and uncompromised form of Viking black metal. But I have always felt that the end-result of that album is a bit too rough for my l ... (read more)

Report this review (#2487207) | Posted by lukretio | Wednesday, December 23, 2020 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The latest studio album by Enslaved is a great one. The albums concept and namesake is a mythical place in Norse mythology called Utgard. The songs on the album all center around that theme, with the giants being a metaphor for "uncontrollable forces in nature and in your own mind," as said by f ... (read more)

Report this review (#2454466) | Posted by progtime1234567 | Tuesday, October 6, 2020 | Review Permanlink

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