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Tech/Extreme Prog Metal • Norway

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Enslaved picture
Enslaved biography
Founded in Haugesund, Norway in 1991

Formed by a 17 year old Grutle Kjellson and a 13 year old Ivar Bjørnson (the band's only two constant members and main creative force), Enslaved began life as part of Norway's blossoming black metal scene. Early releases such as Hordanes Land (also released as part of an infamous split with Emperor) and Vikingligr Veldi established the epic, majestic sound known as viking metal and gained the band a steady following within black metal circles. Their ferocious yet soaring black metal placed them at the forefront of their subgenre, yet their artistic ambitions would soon pull them in new directions. 2000's "Mardraum: Beyond the Within" began a trend of more ambitious, diverse and prog-influenced songwriting encorporated into their black metal style, one which has continued ever since. Influences from groups such as Yes and Pink Floyd have become increasingly evident on more recent Enslaved releases, somewhat alienating certain members of their devoted black metal fanbase but opening their doors to thousands of new fans. Though they remain epic, this new approach is epic in an entirely different manner and has additionally made them one of the leading prog-metal acts.

ENSLAVED Videos (YouTube and more)

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Nuclear Blast America 2017
$3.65 (used)
In Times cdIn Times cd
Nuclear Blast America 2015
$5.54 (used)
Season of Mist 2012
$14.64 (used)
The Sleeping Gods ThornThe Sleeping Gods Thorn
$12.48 (used)
Imports 2008
$21.34 (used)
Season of Mist 2016
$11.29 (used)
Vertebrae - Limited 2 CD Box SetVertebrae - Limited 2 CD Box Set
Indie Uk 2009
$43.45 (used)
Candlelight 2005
$20.05 (used)
Season of Mist 2012
$10.47 (used)
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ENSLAVED discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

ENSLAVED top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.53 | 69 ratings
Vikingligr Veldi
3.43 | 65 ratings
3.75 | 62 ratings
3.31 | 52 ratings
3.75 | 64 ratings
Mardraum - Beyond The Within
4.05 | 72 ratings
4.23 | 110 ratings
Below The Lights
4.18 | 213 ratings
4.01 | 124 ratings
4.09 | 129 ratings
4.04 | 201 ratings
Axioma Ethica Odini
3.89 | 207 ratings
3.80 | 76 ratings
In Times
4.01 | 64 ratings

ENSLAVED Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

ENSLAVED Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.33 | 6 ratings
Live Retaliation
4.30 | 10 ratings
Return to Yggdrasill

ENSLAVED Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.43 | 7 ratings
The Sleeping Gods

ENSLAVED Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

1.73 | 8 ratings
2.57 | 13 ratings
3.09 | 19 ratings
Hordanes Land
4.13 | 13 ratings
Emperor / Hordanes Land split CD
3.20 | 26 ratings
The Sleeping Gods
3.07 | 16 ratings


Showing last 10 reviews only
 E by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.01 | 64 ratings

Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

4 stars One of the classic black metal bands and a favourite of Sam Dunn of Banger Films ("A Headbanger's Journey", "Flight 666", "Rush ? Beyond the Lighted Stage") is Enslaved. My first venture into their catalogue was their seventh album, "Below the Lights" because it was mentioned on a list of best metal albums as well as best progressive albums. I enjoyed it enough to consider a second purchase, and though "In Times" was next on my list, along with "Frost", I heard so many good things about "E" that I went for this one. Money well spent!

I understand well from what I've heard that Enslaved very early on expressed their progressive proclivities and that in the new millennium they expanded their sound into post rock. This album here expresses both of those faces of musical styles quite liberally. In fact, while I love the album as an Enslaved album, it was very easy for me to get into it because I could hear similarities to bands whose music I have already an attanchment to: Opeth, Anciients, Motorpsycho, and Devin Townsend. I also read that one member of Seven Impale joined Enslaved so that's another bonus as far as I'm concerned.

Of course there's the quintessential over-distorted guitar sound, speed, demonic vocals, and tenseness that comes with black metal, but also beauty and contrasts. The recording quality is superb, proving that black metal can sound magnificent once it swallows its lo-fi pride and goes for sonic brilliance.

A lot of old school extreme metal albums sound awesome but have little variety in their sound. When I think of old classics from my early teens like "Screaming for Vengeance", "Number of the Beast", or "Mob Rules", each song was treated like an individual piece of work and these albums had variety. No two songs sounded alike. So it's a great surprise and pleasure to listen to an album like this where once again I can feel that each song provides its own individual stamp on the album rather than just being a barrage of blast beats and tidal waves of distortion. With an album like this and a couple of other 21st century black metal and albums I have heard, I really think black metal has progressed and grown into an art rather than just a statement.

In the New Year, I will most certainly be looking to add two or three more Enslaved albums to my collection, possibly more.

 E by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.01 | 64 ratings

Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "E" is the 14th full-length studio album by Norwegian progressive black metal act Enslaved. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in October 2017. It´s the successor to "In Times" from 2015 and there´s been one lineup change since the predecessor as keyboard player/(clean) vocalist Herbrand Larsen has left Enslaved and has been replaced by Håkon Vinje. It´s actually the first lineup change since "Isa (2004)" so Enslaved have enjoyed quite a few years and album releases with a steady lineup.

Stylistically the material on "E" continue the progressive black metal sound that Enslaved have played and developed upon over now many years and albums, but it particularly has many similarities to RIITIIR (2012) and "In Times (2015)", which is of course only natural, as they are the two direct predecessors to this release. So the progressive elements of the band´s sound are dominant, while their black metal side is more subdued in the soundscape. The change on the clean vocal spot doesn´t make a major impact as Vinje doesn´t have a voice that is much different from Larsen´s ditto (they both have pretty regular non distinct sounding voices and vocal styles), and the vocal melodies haven´t changed much either. Grutle Kjellson predominantly uses his raspy black metal vocal style but occassionaly uses a more death metal type growling vocal style, so the vocal department of the album is fairly diverse.

The instrumental part of the music can be described as varied too. Heavy riffs, mellow atmospheric sections, guitars harmonies, skillfully played guitar solos, a solid rhythm section, which mostly keeps a mid-paced tempo, but occasionally speeds things up, and an omnipresence of keyboards. Predominantly organ and mellotron/string sounds. The material are generally well written and quite intriguing with great dynamic between mellow sections and louder more heavy sections. The album features an epic atmosphere and Enslaved cleverly navigate the listener through both dark and lighter emotions. The album features 6 tracks and a full playing time of 49:45 minutes, but it´s recommedable to seek out the limited edition version which features the two bonus tracks "Djupet" and "What Else Is There?". The latter is a cover of fellow countrymen Röyksopp and it´s interesting to hear how well Enslaved handle what is originally an electronic oriented pop song. "Djupet" is a great quality track too.

The musicianship is as always on a high level and Enslaved have clearly reached a point in their career where they are very confident in their performances. "E" features a clearly defined and powerful sounding production. Where the two predecessors featured relatively similar sounding production jobs, "E" features a more "dry" and clear sounding production. It´s a well sounding album but a slightly more organic sounding production would probably have suited the material a little better.

Upon conclusion "E" is another high quality release by Enslaved, which as such isn´t surprising given the many, many high quality releases in the band´s discography, but to my ears it´s a slight step down from the last couple of releases. Probably mostly because I don´t hear much development (the saxophone on "Hiindsiight" is a nice progressive element though) or that many standout tracks on the album (I´d mention the two tracks "Storm Son" and "Hiindsiight", which bookend the album, as some of the highlights), but on the other hand it´s a consistent album both when it comes to quality and style. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives:

 E by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.01 | 64 ratings

Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Enslaved's latest release is E, as in "E bah gum, in't this one a beauty?" Once again it's sure to confound genre classification nerds (is this progressive black metal or blackened progressive metal), since like much recent Enslaved material it sits right on the dividing line, but what's particularly impressive is how Enslaved have been able to heighten both sides of that equation whilst still retaining the balance.

The prog is more progressive, the blackened parts are dark as a moonless night, and the dabblings in folk have lured Einar Kvitrafn of Wardruna out of the depths of the Dark Folk Forest to come and make little contributions here and there. In short, it's exactly the sort of frothing, Viking-themed genre cocktail that we've come to expect from Enslaved, but the taste is stronger and richer and more delicious than it's been for a while - and that's a high bar to hit considering their usual excellent standards.

 In Times by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.80 | 76 ratings

In Times
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Ah, Enslaved. Are they purveyors of progressive black metal, or blackened progressive metal? They've wavered back and forth across that line over the years, but In Times to my ears sounds like it's sat on the progressive metal side of that line, largely consolidating the embellishments and improvements they'd made to their sound on albums like RIITIIR. The more aggressive and recognisably black metal-oriented compositions tend to be front-loaded to the start of the album, so as the runtime progresses you get less snarly blast beats and more progressive shoegaze-y sort of stuff.

It's unfailingly pleasant to listen to, but it doesn't do anything we haven't heard Enslaved already extensively dabble in. If you just want more Enslaved - and I can't fault your taste if you do - it's no disappointment, but it's not where I'd point people as a first port of call to explore their music.

 E by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.01 | 64 ratings

Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars It's always an exciting day when one of your favorite and most consistent metal bands releases an album and continues that exciting thrill of anticipation of whether they will continue their lengthy run as ambassadors of the extreme metal scene after more than two decades on the scene or the unthinkable of botching their rein and utterly teeter off that precarious precipice that they ride like a skateboarder sliding down a staircase railing. As the decade runs closer to its end Norway's ENSLAVED took only two years to craft yet another installment into their progressive black metal universe after the release of 2015's "In Times" which left more than a few loyal fans divided over exactly where they saw the band was heading next. While true that the album continued down the path of the expected quality material, there was still that lurking nagging feeling that perhaps ENSLAVED is just one tiny step away from completely derailing into pools of stagnation and ultimately becoming the feared and dreaded parodies of themselves. In 2017 the band emerge from their cocoon of secrecy and let loose their 14th full-length studio album E.

With an album title so truncated to one mere letter, it automatically triggers that WTF response and thankfully Ivar Bjørnson has explained this nebulous concept to smother any possible misconceptions in their nascency. E apparently has a dualistic meaning, firstly being a letter of the Latin alphabet but is also a reference to the rune Ehwaz which is depicted as our letter M (note both letters on album cover painted by long time associate Truis Espedal.) Ehwaz simply means horse and the relationship with humankind's most endearing animal friend that celebrates one of our longest cross-species collaborations. Once you get past all the horse symbology, the title and tracks included expand further into the symbolisms of the duality of humankind and nature as well as fear and subconscious drive all wrapped up in the expected Viking imagery constructed through poetic prose in both gurgling raspy utterances as well as clean Gregorian chant inspired harmonies that exude a beauty and beast combo effect only this is bro style.

As evidenced from the sneak peak video for the first track "Storm Son," ENSLAVED have entered new sonic arenas indeed and have once again taken all the different styles they've accumulated over their vast career and simply expanded them into new territory as if they take their Viking expansionist roots and simply apply those principles to conquering new musical territory. As E begins, i was expecting the immediate bombast of heaviness before meandering into softer passages of folky and ambience atmospheric touches but E takes a totally different approach than past offerings. This one begins with the sensual sounds of birds and the blowing of a gjallarhorn before horses whinny and clomp along insinuating a battle scene to come, however the track unexpectedly delivers a clean dreamy guitar riff that delivers the ultimate head scratcher making me wonder if these guys have pulled an Ulver on us and went post-rock or some non-metal direction as the repetitive riffs churn on augmented by an atmospheric ambience swirling around every arpeggiated note. Goodbye black metal ENSLAVED, hello progressive rockers who have always lurked beneath the noisefest. Oh, wait there's those raspy vocals on top of the clean angelic choral. (then once again the riff ratchets up in intensity but this isn't quite the metal i was expecting) as Grutle Kjellson takes the lead with his raspy evil-as-[%*!#] vocal style. As the synthesizers swirl around and the staccato guitar riffs pound on like Teutonic marches on Prussian plains it seems that ENSLAVED has gone Opeth on us and finally divorced the black metal aspects that have carried them this far into the 21st century minus those raspy vocals of course. But wait! This is progressive black metal and nothing happens too quickly in this world. Finally at seven minutes in the black metal guitars and bass kick in with synchronized drums and yeah baby! Oops, i jumped to conclusions. This is black metal for PATIENT fans :p After a rough start things seem on track once again although the atmospheric synths and staccato guitar riffs are totally uncharacteristic of the ENSLAVED sound. This band has decided to carry on into new even more progressive arenas. Will the fickle black metal fans like this? Probably not. As "The River's Mouth" takes the baton, the black metal groove is back at first but alternates substantially with the progressive metal segments that sound more like something out of a post-metal sludge band's canon than anything ENSLAVED has tackled. It doesn't take long to figure out that this is a band always looking for parameters to overstep while breaking rules and worshipping runes and on E the floodgates have opened.

Many surprises lurk on E which is of course the key ingredient (surprise that is) to keep things spiced up. For example, "Sacred Horse" begins like a hippie dippy folk track for a few seconds but then bursts into the more familiar extreme metal sound of past glories. "Axis Of The Worlds" has a very different sort of groove than the band is used to with a much more sophisticated labyrinthine and circuitous riffing methodology that ratchets up their progressive rock aspects even further and with the mellotron organ sounds that accompany may raise the red flag for a progressive pollen attack for those allergic to the world of progressive rock but somehow once again the band walks that thin line between the black and prog worlds all the while including some bizarre electronica sputtering in the background reminiscent of electropop bands like Röyksopp whose cover they tackle with the rhetorical self-directed question "What Else Is There?" "Fathers Of Eolh" is probably the most un-ENSLAVED sounding track on E with its heightened 5/4 timing sludgy riffs, ambient shoegaze backdrop and liturgical proggy vocal styles mostly delivered in a clean, clear yet turgid display of interweaving compositional parts that are laced together in various alternating ways. "Hiindslight" is yet another progressive metal behemoth that tackles hitherto unexplored arenas as it churns out complex guitar riffs that range from brutal to sensual and graced by the raspy vocals of Kjellson. This is the track that will for sure act as the sunlight that scares the black metal vampires into their coffins as it incorporates a whirlwind of progressive features including the unthinkable use of flute and saxophone. "Djupet" is another more traditional track tacked on to appease the hardcores.

You may be wondering just how progressive can they possible get. Well before you get your knickers in a twist and cry out that they've totally gone Opeth on us, it should never be forgotten that ENSLAVED was always a progressive black metal band which began with their debut album "Vikingligr Veldi" and despite tamping down the progressive qualities on their next three albums, "Frost," "Eld" and "Blodhemn" they nevertheless persisted under the surface before finally erupting once again in full pent-up fury on 2000's "Mardraum: Beyond The Within" only to have the progressive aspects outweigh the black metal from "Monumension" and the albums that followed. The fact is that unlike Opeth who utterly abandoned their extreme metal roots to focus exclusively on progressive rock, ENSLAVED never for even a single album smothered the black metal out of their overall sound. While it's true the black metal has taken a back seat to the progressive side of the coin, it's more akin to the band having a new lover move in while banishing the ex to the basement only to be chained up but kept around because she's still useful for all those chores around the house.

Yeah, the black metal may be the ugly ex-wife who is forced to perform as an indentured servant but she still has a role to play while ENSLAVED's promiscuous Hugh Hefner tendencies take on a musical libido all their own. Keep in mind that the band's name is ENSLAVED and not "Emancipated." Set free the black metal and we're left with an Age of Aquarius la-la-la singalong feel good album. Now that wouldn't be very metal now would it? While ENSLAVED has not gone Opeth on us, it can be argued they've followed in the same footsteps another fellow Norwegian and gone insanely Ihsahn on us instead. You don't believe me? For anyone who has kept up with Emperor's frantic frontman as a solo artist, you will hear lots of parallels with albums ranging from "The Adversary" to "Arktis," not only in the highly complex time signature rich riffing styles but in the addition of unorthodox metal instruments with the inclusion of flautist Daniel Mage and sax blower Kjetil Møster on the tracks "Hindsight" and "Feathers Of Eolh" and also the inclusion of fellow Norwegian Einar Kvitrafn from the Nordic dark folk outfit Wardruna. OK, i lied. There is one moment of going Opeth and that is the short use of mellotron style keyboard sounds at the end of "Sacred Horse." This is probably one of the parts of the album that doesn't exactly sound like it's at home here and i concur that this should have been aborted before birth, but we should never let a few moments of awkwardness destroy the big picture.

Ultimately i'm finding E is about contrast and tension. There are simple clean parts that are unlike anything the band has done but somehow after slowly emerging elements, the band always resolves itself with the heavier and more frantic dynamics delivering fairly balanced compositions that perhaps can carry on a wee bit too long at points but still never entering the extremities of the uncomfortableness zone. It goes without saying that ENSLAVED alienated the one-dimensional kvlter-than-thou crowds long ago when the scales tipped in the progressive metal direction and with E, the band challenges their fans once again and therefore the close-minded, musically illiterate and those who simply get complacent in a particular phase will probably piss all over this one, however if dissected like a laboratory rat in order to scrutinize the inner parts, E is actually the logical next frontier for ENSLAVED to venture into. As the band continues to mature it would be pathetic for them to linger in pastures already explored and personally i much prefer a band to delve into new arenas despite less than perfect results than stagnate in festering doldrums of inertness. E may not constitute the absolute pinnacle of the career of ENSLAVED but i'm finding this to have much more of a return value than "In Times" and offers yet another creative and excellent rung in their long ladder of musical development since their humble beginnings during the second wave of early black metal.

 Mardraum - Beyond The Within by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.75 | 64 ratings

Mardraum - Beyond The Within
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

5 stars The last decade of the 20th century saw a major split between the strains of extreme metal that had gestated into more distinct subgenre categories at the end of the 80s. By the mid 80s, black, death, doom and progressive metal were well on their way to become fully developed subgeneres splitting off from the parents at an astonishing rate like amoebas gracefully undergoing meiosis in a petri dish. While the majority of extreme metal bands were satisfied in pigeonholing themselves into one newly found subgenre or another, others couldn't quite decide which way to proceed, so they chose more than one. The world of ENSLAVED owes a major debt to the sonic realities created by fellow Scandinavian Quorthon who under the guise of his band Bathory introduced the world to black metal and then once again moved on to the world of Viking metal which emphasized traditional Scandinavian folklore, mythology and instrumentation while eschewing the expected anti-Christian vitriol and Satanic church burning shenanigans that were plaguing the Norwegian extreme metal world in the early 90s.

Even on their debut "Vikingligr Veldi" ENSLAVED were entertaining the notion of expanding beyond the quickly ossifying expectations of subgenre conformity and although they retreated a couple steps back with their next few albums "Frost," "Eld" and "Blodhemn" that deemphasized the progressive touches in favor of more Viking themed black metal ferocity, on their fifth album MARDRAUM - BEYOND THE WITHIN, the band had a rekindling, or more accurately explosive discharge of the creative pent up energy that was captured on their debut and was ready for prime time for a new millennium unfolding. The sonic evolution heard on MARDRAUM (Norwegian for "nightmare") is not only crushing in its sonic bombast but pulverizes the status quo of subgenre categorization as it unapologetically incorporates the fiercest black metal ferocity with Viking metal themes that unfold seemingly accessible riffing styles into insanely complex beasts of progressiveness. The world of metal could hardly see one his coming.

With an opening that reminds more of the Cocteau Twins than the second wave of black metal, ENSLAVED were breaking the chains of sonic subjugation and unfurling their victory flag in the defeat of complacency. While "Større enn Tid - Tyngre enn Natt" may bring space pop to mind at first, it quickly delivers the old one, two punch of Ivar Bjørnson and Roy Kronheim's blistering dual guitar abuse and while technically dishing out the same riff, the duo usher in a totally revolutionary methodology of incorporating subtle distinctions between their counterpoints and offer a sonic storm of creative interpretations. In fact every musician involved on MARDRAUM is firing on fully fueled pistons as Grutle Kjellson pounds out unbelievable bass lines while Dirge Rep unleashes his mastery of drum abuse unlike anything heard on ENSLAVED's previous canon. MARDRAUM is in effect the heaviest album the band had done at the time and remains so to date despite offering a clairvoyant peek into the world of progressive metal that they would elucidate on future releases beginning with the followup "Monumension" which includes interludes into clean vocal folk extravaganzas as well as cleverly placed ambient wizardry. Of course the black metal raspy vocals are on full display and have never sounded as energized as they do here.

MARDRAUM can be considered a musical transubstantiation of sort in its own right for providing the bridge between the Viking themed black metal phase of ENSLAVED's long and enduring career and the progressive black metal to occur after, but more than anything MARDRAUM proves to be a pinnacle of black metal creativity at the turn of the millennium showing ENSLAVED break away from the gravitational pull of their influences and finding the free range of musical independence which MARDRAUM displays in full regalia. Although steeped in black metal buzzsaw fury with blastbeat prowess and earache inducing decibelage, this collection of eleven tracks stampedes like a cavalry of warriors on horseback laying waste to any unfortunate bystanders in their trajectory. Personally i find the millennium turnover era of ENSLAVED to be their absolute best beginning with this final chapter of their most ferocious and aggressive stage of their career and MARDRAUM delivers all the goods in an amazing and precise manner. One of, if not my favorite ENSLAVED album.

 Eld by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 1997
3.75 | 62 ratings

Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Kicking off with a 16 minute composition inspired by the Battle of Lindisfarne, Enslaved's Eld reveals that in the years since the 1994 release of their first two albums the band had not been standing still. Although they had yet to reach the progressive-black metal fusion they would perfect on later albums, prog-inspired song structures begin to play a more prominent role, and keyboards remain a significant part of their sound. Ivar Bj'rnson's stint on the first Borknagar album, which itself was in a similar viking metal vein, means that this release feels a bit like a companion piece to that one due to the aesthetic and thematic overlap.
 In Times by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.80 | 76 ratings

In Times
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'In Times' - Enslaved (82/100)

Enslaved have pulled off a seemingly impossible double-feat with their career. Not only have they managed to keep up with consistent quality well over a decade after most bands would have met their expiry date, they also continuously reinvented themselves while they were at it. With every Enslaved record, you could count on them not to rest on their laurels. Their inevitable prog rock destination was pretty apparent even from the start, but like rewatching a favourite film, it was easy to love an experience of the journey, even if you already knew how it was going to end up.

I've never been quite as sold on Enslaved as some of my friends, often having found them a bit too formal and restrained. That said, they always managed to keep me engaged throughout their career. I think they hit their stride with Axioma Ethica Odini at the start of the decade. By that point, their progressive metal transformation was complete, and you can bet they made a good time of it. That album came with the sort of energy and fulfillment that comes when a band is making the music they were born to create. On RIITIIR and now with In Times, it finally sounds like Enslaved found their promised land and are learning to stick with it.

Even if it was one of my most anticipated albums of last year, In Times never seemed to catch my attention at the time. I enjoyed it the few times I heard it, but unlike the triad of albums that came before it, it never served to leap out and demand I listened more. It took a wide revisitation of the band's material to finally push me to give this album the time it deserved. For one, I'm glad I did. As any fan might have predicted, In Times holds itself to a high standard of quality. At a glance, it's very much the same upbeat prog sound they've been doing since Axioma Ethica Odini. At the same time, it's less immediate than its predecessors, preferring to emphasize melody over the crunchy fireworks showcased on RIITIIR. Enslaved's perennial innovation has finally shown its signs of slowing down, but staying in the same place isn't keeping them from writing some fantastic material.

I don't think it's really fair to think of Enslaved as having stagnated. The big leaps are conceivably over from the looks of it, but rather than staying in the same place, it's better to think the band as having slowed down to a more typical rate of evolution. While the developments get slighter with each album, there's still enough to distinguish In Times from its 2012 predecessor. While I identified RIITIIR with its heaviness or Axioma with its upbeat energy, the material here is distinguished by its emphasis on melody and atmosphere. In a certain way, it's almost as if they wanted to recreate echoes of Monumension for their latest era. All of that is perfectly fine with me. Enslaved trying to be dark or heavy on recent albums felt vaguely like an out-of-touch dad picking up skateboarding in an effort to appeal to his kids. Even if the attempt at heaviness was sincere and well-executed, it's not the proper fit for them, and hasn't been in a long while. By that rubric, In Times' melodic shift is all for the best.

Whether it's "Building with Fire" or my personal favourite "Nauthir Bleeding", a lot of the album's best moments are thanks to Herbrand Larsen's clean vocal performance. In an album I thought I could predict note for note, that's a part of it that has me surprised. Since Enslaved began using Herbrand's voice to contrast Grutle's snarl, his delivery was often thin and timid, limiting the emotional effect of their choruses. I was happy to hear his voice improve on RIITIIR, and the same has happened to an even greater extent here. While the rest of the band has remained the same, Herbrand belts out with all the confidence and charisma Enslaved deserve to be fronted with. Although the rest of the sound here is very familiar, that one relatively small improvement does a lot to help the sound as a whole.

In Times doesn't have a highlight quite as high as "Death in the Eyes of Dawn", but it does come across as a much more coherent and consistent album than RIITIIR. Only the track "In Times" itself feels overdrawn and somewhat boring. The rest of these tracks feel warm, urgent and fiery. Even if I've learned not to expect anything really new from them in the future, Enslaved are learning to impress me in new ways. The style they've settled on is resulting in some of the most solid material in their entire career. Better still, they're not using the settled style as an excuse to be lazy. Rather, a lot of the tiny improvements that may have been swept aside by groundbreaking shifts are given much-desired attention. If I've ever been cynical about the modern era of Enslaved at times, all it seems to take is a new album to remind me they really do deserve practically all of the praise they receive.

 Emperor / Hordanes Land split CD by ENSLAVED album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1993
4.13 | 13 ratings

Emperor / Hordanes Land split CD
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'Emperor / Hordanes Land' - Emperor / Enslaved (77/100)

The split between Emperor and Enslaved remains a standout from the height of the Second Wave, but it owes its full significance to the achievements both acts would reach later on. Given Norway's hotbed status for black metal throughout the 90s, it's not surprising some of the best would team up at one point or another. Both bands were young, and still in the process of finding their voice when this split came out. The rest, of course, is history. If Emperor did not innovate the symphonic black metal sound (I'd say the credit goes to Master's Hammer) they certainly perfected it on their first two albums. As for Enslaved, their career's been nothing if not consistent. Viking-lore infused black metal ultimately gave way to a rich, progressive sound. Not that you'd ever guess that from the music here. As deceptively sophisticated as the arrangements here are, the impression is moreso one of primal molten creativity and rawness in the truest of black metal customs.

Effectively a combination of Emperor's self-titled EP and Enslaved's Hordanes Land, I loved this split years ago. Today I still do, though now it strikes me more as a pair of parallel works-in-progress. Both Emperor and Enslaved would make fantastic bounds for black metal with their first two respective albums. Emperor / Hordanes Land is made a bit less interesting by the fact that the former would re-record their tracks in better shape for In the Nightside Eclipse. As for Enslaved's offering, I've come to see Hordanes Land as a much-welcomed expansion to their own debut Vikingligr Veldi. The two halves were made independently of one another, and were originally intended to be heard each on their own. Even so, with the two together, you get an impressive one-two punch. Both bands are impressive on their own; together, they complement one another, and there's more than enough of a distinction between the two to keep the music fresh.

When I call this split a "work in progress" for both bands involved, I don't think that's a bad thing at all. While it may have been less favourable to hear this rough display on a full-length, the bands here are making rough strokes already with a unique personality. Emperor's trademark speed and symphonic accoutrements are already in sight, although fans of In the Nightside Eclipse won't be surprised by anything they hear here. Although I prefer Emperor over Enslaved most days, I'd actually say the Hordanes Land offers the most promise here. The guys were in their teens and already playing with longer song structures and deeper orchestrations. The primitive mix of Viking metal with a primitive symphonic lean in the direction of their splitmates is a great combination, and I think the band pulls it off very well.

Both sides of this split were released on their own before getting paired up, and I think the halves ultimately deserve to be interpreted independently first, and as a split second. Although the In the Nightside Eclipse rerecordings make Emperor's side less essential in context, musically I'd ay the two are just as solid. It's a really interesting thing to hear two bands make their own unique statements on a single disc. If anything, Emperor / Hordanes Land goes to remind us just how individually talented that classic Norwegian hotbed really was. Since then, the two have carved out amazing legacies for themselves. As a fan of both, it's pretty cool to hear the two together when they were first starting out.

 Nema by ENSLAVED album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1991
1.73 | 8 ratings

Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by thwok

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.

Thanks to Bryan for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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