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ENSLAVED

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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ENSLAVED discography


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

3.52 | 86 ratings
Vikingligr Veldi
1994
3.40 | 84 ratings
Frost
1994
3.74 | 76 ratings
Eld
1997
3.27 | 63 ratings
Blodhemn
1998
3.77 | 76 ratings
Mardraum - Beyond the Within
2000
4.06 | 88 ratings
Monumension
2001
4.10 | 145 ratings
Below the Lights
2003
4.14 | 238 ratings
Isa
2004
3.96 | 140 ratings
Ruun
2006
4.07 | 156 ratings
Vertebrae
2008
4.03 | 221 ratings
Axioma Ethica Odini
2010
3.90 | 237 ratings
Riitiir
2012
3.77 | 97 ratings
In Times
2015
4.01 | 90 ratings
E
2017
3.88 | 54 ratings
Utgard
2020
3.93 | 30 ratings
Heimdal
2023

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

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

4.38 | 8 ratings
Live Retaliation
2003
4.50 | 12 ratings
Return to Yggdrasill
2005

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

3.82 | 11 ratings
The Sleeping Gods
2016

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

1.80 | 9 ratings
Nema
1991
2.67 | 19 ratings
Yggdrasill
1992
3.15 | 28 ratings
Hordanes Land
1993
4.15 | 15 ratings
Emperor / Hordanes Land split CD
1993
3.21 | 27 ratings
The Sleeping Gods
2011
3.08 | 17 ratings
Thorn
2011
3.33 | 10 ratings
Caravans to the Outer Worlds
2021

ENSLAVED Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Heimdal by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 2023
3.93 | 30 ratings

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Heimdal
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars It has finally clicked in me that Hugsjá co-creator Ivar Bjørnson comes from Enslaved! Thus, I am far more willing to give them the very close attention that they deserve.

1. "Behind the Mirror" (6:21) eery Viking horns warn off the stealthy raiders coming across the still waters. Cool! The music then kicks in, sounding more subdued for dark metal but then the vocals enter and the horn-like twin guitars and then the chugging sophistication of the rhythmic interplay of the fourth minute makes it much more interesting. Nice mutli-voice vocals over the last third remind me of CYNIC's "Veil of Maya." (8.875/10)

2. "Congelia" (8:02) Kind of monotonous (and relentless) despite some nice guitar soloing and choral vocal singing. Lots of similarities to KAYO DOT / TOBY DRIVER projects. (13.25/15)

3. "Forest Dweller" (5:56) acoustic guitars and electric walls of sound (including Mellotron) give this one a ORPHANED LAND sound and feel. Interesting BRENDAN FRASER effect on the vocal over an acoustic guitar accompaniment in the second minute. The dominance of the synth play over the acoustic guitar is fascinating. I really like this! In the third minute the band and vocals ramp up to prog metal (heavy on the Hammond) with growl lead vocals and Opeth-like background chorus. With the return of the synth dominance and Middle Eastern melody lines in the the fifth minute I am once again reminded of Isreali band ORPHANED LAND. The final vocal lines remind me of IGGY POP. Nice stuff. Because of its refreshing behind of styles and themes, this is my favorite song on the album. (9.5/10)

4. "Kingdom" (5:52) nice opening guitar riff sucks one in and then the racing rhythm section brings its own power and adrenaline. Until the chorus at the three-minute mark, this song feels a bit cruise-controlled. Don't get me wrong: the impressive musicians are working hard, but there is so little development in the music (besides the chorus) that over six minutes it feels a bit like an endurance race. The little pause and lament at 3:40 is my favorite moment on the album. Very cool. Another top three song. (9/10)

5. "The Eternal Sea" (7:26) another interesting song for the strong presence of keyboard synths within the metal soundscapes (which, again, feel very TOBY DRIVER-esque to me). I really like everything up to the five-minute mark, but do not like the sudden decent into hell that is taken at this point, despite the pleasant leveling off only 40 seconds later. Another top three song. (13.5/15)

6. "Caravans to the Outer Worlds" (6:45) massive low reverberating bass, strumming acoustic guitars and synth play open up this with an ominous, potentiated sound. At 1:08 the full band kicks into the main theme with a reckless abandon that reminds me of some of the more dynamic passages in MAUDLIN OF THE WELL or even DEVIN TOWNSEND songs. The little chorus thing at the 2:30 mark reminds me of Fates Warning lead singer Ray Alder, but the rest of the song's vocal performances are more typical (even the IGGY POP-like basso profundo is now familiar). The final minute is rather cool with the bass and drum playing off one another. (13.5/15)

7. "Heimdal" (8:07) dominated by bass guitar chord play acting as the leader (and some great drumming beneath), the growl vocals feel a bit Halloween spooky--almost comical. The fourth minute is passed in a near-vacuum as spacey guitar and growly vocal recitation in the back, but then 4:18 we ramp up into a simplistic 1970s THIN LIZZY-like rock motif. When the vocals pick up at the very end of the sixth minute they're delivered choral style sounding very much like country-mates MOTORPSYCHO. Interesting. But a little too weird and disjointed for my puny little brain. (13/15)

Total Time 55:39

There was time, as many of you know, that I could not review an album like this. I think that my repertoire of familiarity with the metal sub-categories is finally beginning to pay off as I can definitely hear and feel (and enjoy) the creativity and similarities in the musics I'm hearing. Yay!

B/four stars; an excellent addition to any prog metal lover's music collection, Heck! Even some prog purists will probably find this quite interesting and pleasing.

 Heimdal by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 2023
3.93 | 30 ratings

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Heimdal
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "Heimdal" is the sixteenth full-length studio album by Norwegion progressive black metal act Enslaved. The album was released through Nuclear Blast in March 2023. It´s the successor to "Utgard" from 2020, although the two full-length studio albums are bridged by the 2021 "Caravans To The Outer Worlds" EP. The title track from the EP is also included on "Heimdal". There have been no lineup changes since "Utgard", but keyboard player Håkon Vinje sings less clean vocals than before, and drummer Iver Sandøy sings more. They have relatively similar voices, so it´s not something most people may notice, but when you know, you´ll hear it.

While "Utgard" was probably one of the most polished albums in Enslaved´s discography, "Heimdal" is one of their more diverse and experimental releases. The basis of the band´s sound is still progressive black metal with Norse mythology/Viking related lyrics, but they´ve branched out for now many years and albums, and "Heimdal" adds another layer of experimentation to their sound. On most tracks you´ll find the tried and true Enslaved formula of atmopsheric yet heavy progressive riffs and rhythms, beautiful lead guitar work, epic keyboards and clean vocal passages, but also the raspy black metal screams of Grutle Kjellson and more "regular" black metal parts. But on a few tracks (or on parts on tracks) Enslaved have opted to challenge themselves and their audience.

"Congelia" is the most standout example as it´s almost like listening to a black metal version of a Hawkwind track. It´s repetitive, slow building, driving, psychedelic, and feels like it just goes on for 8 minutes with the same riff being played. That´s not entirely true though, as there are riff changes throughout the song. While the premise may sound a little tedious, "Congelia" actually turns out to be one of the most intriguing and innovative tracks on "Heimdal". Another one is the atmospheric "The Eternal Sea". "Caravans To The Outer Worlds" is a standout track too, but I already praised that song in my review of the EP where it is culled from.

"Heimdal" features a clear, detailed, but also heavy sounding production, which suits the material perfectly. Personally I found "Utgard" a bit too polished, and thankfully Enslaved have found a better balance between the epic clean parts of their music and the more heavy and raw on "Heimdal". For that you also need a sound production which allows that, and this production makes the material shine, like the best sound productions are meant to.

Upon conclusion it´s nothing less than amazing that a band like Enslaved with their sixteenth full-length studio album still sound as relevant as they did in the early 90s, when they first hit the scene. Successful musical changes throughout the years, and minor tweaks to their their sound have probably kept them alive and relevant all these years, and it´s not neccesarily a formula which works for all artists. Enslaved obviously have an open minded audience though, or have grown one over the years, who accept that they´ve grown and don´t play the same version of viking black metal they initially did. If they keep releasing quality music like this, I can´t see them stopping in the near future, and hopefully we can look forward to many, many more releases from them. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

 Heimdal by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 2023
3.93 | 30 ratings

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Heimdal
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Special Collaborator PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic

4 stars ENSLAVED seems to have achieved a sort of metal immortality having survived the battle field for over three decades now and consistently releasing one quality album after another with no end in site. The band is back three years after "Utgard" for another black / Viking / progressive metal adventure with another interesting and unique variation on the progressive black metal sounds that have been churning about since 2001's "Monumension." HEIMDAL is the sixteenth album from this Norwegian metal powerhouse and the title refers to a god in Norse mythology who is the son of Odin and nine mothers. Now how exactly does that work? Those crazy Scandinavians!

This album features six brand spanking new tracks and the title track of the "Caravans To The Outer Worlds" EP which served as a holding place between "Utgard" and HEIMDAL. The album clocks in at 48 minutes plus and features a more beefed up black metal heft after the folk fueled "Utgard." In fact in many ways HEIMDAL echoes back to the early 2000s sounding as if it was crafted somewhere between "Below The Lights" and "Isa." For any diehard fan of ENSLAVED, this album won't exactly take you somewhere completely new but rather does what virtually every ENSLAVED album exceeds at and that would be taking you on a familiar musical ride that continues the progressive black metal paradigm of the last 20 years and offers new twists and turns.

In the case of HEIMDAL we get a mix of crushing black metal guitar riffing, Grutle Kjellson's expected raspy enunciations with the contrasting shift into clean vocals as well as a spooky atmospheric backdrop that offers some very tripped out psychedelic keyboard parts from time to time. On the proggy side of the equation HEIMDAL offers the usual interesting compositional constructs with several tracks sailing beyond the 7-minute mark with the closing title track being the longest. Still sounding like no other band on the scene, HEIMDAL chugs along with the usual black metal bombast all teased out with extended progressive expansiveness including the occasional clean vocal led acoustic strum-a-thon that makes me consider a bit of a Viking interpretation of Pink Floyd.

Perhaps the most glaring differentiation from previous works is the use of keyboards which offers some interesting contrapuntal contrasts to the usual black metal and mellower clean vocal segments. Sometimes they are straight out of the 60s psychedelic rock playbook only set to the thundering roar of Norwegian mythological narrations. Another feature that i'm not remembering very prominent in previous ENSLAVED albums is the use of call and response in the form of an all male beauty and beast tradeoff with raspy utterances ceding to clean vocal tenderness and back again. Having well kept up with 21st century standards ENSLAVED continues to imbue a stellar production job that allows all the musical motifs to shine like a diamond in the rough.

Perhaps one could accuse of ENSLAVED of playing it safe and not taking any major risks but it is quite common for well established bands to deviate from their formula only to lose their fanbase and never really recover. ENSLAVED has navigated the turbulent waters of the decades by playing its cards strategically and by offering a familiar sound while changing things up enough to keep things from being a cookie cutter approach. In other words ENSLAVED is in it for the long haul and with 16 studio albums, 4 EPs and 32 years in existence, it seems this band is in no danger of burning out any time soon and continues to releases satisfying and enthralling albums. HEIMDAL is no exception to this rule and although i was a bit underwhelmed upon first listen, a few more spins has revealed new angles to perceive. Another winner for ENSLAVED.

 E by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.01 | 90 ratings

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E
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by sgtpepper

4 stars After the first average album by Enslaved (average for in their merits) in 2015 after more than 17 years, I was curious to see if the trend would continue. The first good thing upfront, the album is less commercial than the previous sometimes almost radio friendly "In times". The band provides playing without any lack of confidence indulging in some intriguing sections. The band is mature enough to know how to bake long pieces together that could partly be used in the past or come up with completely new ideas. I think that the sound has even more 70's elements than in their past - especially when it comes to keyboards (Moog, synths) and quieter moments recalling space or post-rock. For some fans, the very little presence of classic black metal moments may be discouraging; Enslaved are so experienced in various metal genres, that they easily put death, black and progressive elements together at once.

The best and most recognizable track is at the beginning, packed with furious blackish moments, progressive riffing, psychedelic moog, Opeth-like moody guitar solo at around 7-minute mark. Nobody can put all these things together as good as Enslaved.

"The river's mouth" goes down from the high previous bar. It alternates heavy metal and angry moments but lacks the uniqueness of other songs.

"Sacred horse" spoils with an effective Hammond solo in the forefront of maybe unnecessary heavy drumming. We have an oriental-like meditative second part before it surprisingly gets furious again inevitably resulting in furious headbanging of the listener.

"Axis of the worlds" finds the band recycling previous ideas and experimenting with sustaining heaviness in drumming and vocals.

"Feathers of Eolh" is built around an interesting irregular beat and abrupt dynamic changes, be it into a quiet space/folk rock territory or back to fast metal drive. They could have made the changes more gradual. It is the song with the highest clean vocal ratio.

When you think that you've seen all surprises or changes, you'll hear a fresh and intensive saxophone solo in the last track. The band is effective in painting in dark and light colours at the same time but it's an acquired taste - hearing saxophone play and black-metal growling 2 seconds later won't please everybody. The same contrast is achieved with mischievous black-metal guitar and clean soothing vocals.

The bonus tracks are OK to hear once and it's good they remained excluded from the original album.

I will round up the score to 4 stars but all other 4 stars album I've rated for Enslaved are better than this.

 Below the Lights by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 2003
4.10 | 145 ratings

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Below the Lights
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Norwegian death metal artists are back with their sixth studio album release since their 1994 debut, Vikingligr Veldi.

1. "As Fire Swept Clean the Earth" (6:35) Gollum vocals! and then, later, deep mountain trolls. The music is so simple with it's two two-chord foundations alternating from start to finish. The Fripp-like lead guitar work in the final two minutes is nice. (8.667/10)

2. "The Dead Stare" (5:37) a little more dynamic fluctuation here but still hard to tolerate with those indecipherable vocals. (8.5/10)

3. "The Crossing" (9:11) acoustic guitars!? Oh. The metal walls of sound take over--again using two two-chord progressions (one major, one minor) as the sole basis for the entire song. The slowed down passage starting at the end of the third minute is actually quite nice. But then an old-fashioned two-chord metal passage is faded in during the fifth minute, bringing with it the growl vocals (the song's first vocals). A minute later the guitars shift to more spacious staccato strumming with normal human voice vocals before the music again shifts into a more of a swing rhythmic pattern. These last two motifs alternate back and forth over the next few minutes before turning to a rather hypnotic (and, actually, pretty) tremolo-guitar-based instrumental section for the ninth minute and finish. Parts of that were actually quite good! (17.5/20)

4. "Queen of Night" (5:59) opening with an odd acoustic guitar and flute duet, the music is quickly supplanted by metal (almost industrial metal) for some display of flashy lead guitar speed shredding. The vocals in the fourth minute have a monastic haunting feel similar to something from Blue Öyster Cult. But then we turn a corner into some very choppy stoccato and machine gun bas and guitar playing over which growl vocalist Grutle Kjellson does his thing. Pretty amazing speeds generated by that bass player! (8.75/10)

5. "Havenless" (5:35) Warrior-like men's group choir vocals over the metal guitar play opens this one before the growler takes over. The most schizophrenic song on the album, there are so many parts and dramatic vocal voices used that it is truly confusing. Interesting but just a little too weird. (8.5/10)

6. "Ridicule Swarm" (6:18) weird keyboard spacey ghostness opens this before the death metal stuff comes crashing in at the end of the first minute. Nice variation with the growls (in both duration and pitch) and nice drum play. Some kind of film voice sample in the background during the midsection is then followed by a "lulling" metal passage before the death metal stuff comes crashing back in. Definitely one of the more interesting songs on the album. (8.667/10)

7. "A Darker Place" (7:01) my brain hurts! Even the acoustic guitar mid-section and more 1980s heavy blues metal finish is more than my puny little vegetarian brain can take. (13/15)

Total Time 46:16

I finally decided to give these Death Metal artists a listen because I so respect and love Ivar Bjørnson for his Viking folk rock collaboration with Einar Selvik, the 2018 release, Hugsjá. but, in the end, I am, as usual, disappointed with the sonic textures presented in support of the death metal growls. Just not my cup of tea. Plus, the music is often far simpler than I expected (especially the drums--the bass is often amazing.)

B-/3.5 stars; a mind-numbing album of metal music that may find fans within the fold but, to my mind, even there might find detractors for the sometimes simple music and not-so-very-impressive soloing on display. Perhaps the messages mean more to those fans, but, as we all know, I do not hear lyrics--and especially not in the death metal growl form. I cannot in good conscience assign this the "excellent addition to any prog rock music collection" precisely because I've never been quite certain of death metal's place in Prog World but also because, even if I try to put myself into a Metal Head's mindset, I can see a lot of flaws and shortcomings with the music this album puts forward.

 Caravans to the Outer Worlds by ENSLAVED album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2021
3.33 | 10 ratings

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Caravans to the Outer Worlds
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

3 stars Over the years Enslaved have become known for releasing EPs that contain material not on an album, and 'Caravans' is another example in that while it was released only a year after their fifteenth album, 'Utgart', these four tracks are all new. They have also continued to move their sound, so they are now far removed from the black metal sound of their early material and instead are embracing so many different elements that the only way to describe them is as progressive metal, although this is in its truest sense as opposed to sticking to any particular genre. I have enjoyed many of their albums over the years, but these four songs feel like the band are somewhat going through the motions and creating atmosphere but without much substance behind them.

They throw lots of ideas into the pot, blasting into tech blackened death metal here, acoustic there, some chanting vocals yonder, but to my ears there is no cogent or interwoven structure. The keyboards just don't sound right at some points, while the clean vocals are not as powerful as they could be and detract from the gruffness of Grutle Kjellson. I don't know who produced this, but it has all the hallmarks of self-production as this should have been chopped and external guidance provided as this just does not work for me. I know there are a load of fans out there who have been reviewing this with high marks, but it is just too muddy and confused for me to follow that path.

 Monumension by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 2001
4.06 | 88 ratings

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Monumension
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by 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.

 Caravans to the Outer Worlds by ENSLAVED album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2021
3.33 | 10 ratings

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Caravans to the Outer Worlds
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "Caravans To The Outer Worlds" is an EP release by Norwegian progressive black metal act Enslaved. The EP was released through Nuclear Blast in October 2021. It succeeds the release of the band´s 15th full-length studio album "Utgard" from October 2020, and features the same quintet lineup as the album. It´s not unusal for Enslaved to release EPs with additional non-album material. The two 2011 EPs "The Sleeping Gods" and "Thorn" are other examples of that.

"Caravans To The Outer Worlds" features 4 tracks and total playing time of 18:12. The opening title track is a progressive metal track, and it´s quite the catchy and memorable track, which could easily have been included on "Utgard" (2020). The track features everything you´d expect from a contemporary Enslaved song, like raspy/clean vocals, vintage keyboards/organ, 70s progressive/psychadelic rock influences, organic rhythmic playing, and of course a dose of atmospheric black metal. It´s one of the stronger and more remarkable tracks I´ve heard from them in a while. "Intermezzo I - Lönnlig Gudlig" follows and it´s a dark, brooding, and atmospheric instrumental.

"Ruun II - The Epitaph" is the third track of the EP. Although this one features clean vocals by keyboard player Håkon Vinje, it´s a continuation of the dark, gloomy, and almost psychadelic tinged style of the preceding track. It´s repetitive and hypnotic in nature, building an ominous atmosphere. The use of choirs and organic acoustic instruments deserve a mention here. "Intermezzo II - The Navigator" concludes the EP and sounds like Enslaved playing a Hawkwind song. Great driving psychadelic space rock. It´s no surprise that Enslaved pull it off with ease. At this point in their career it´s the most natural thing in the world to them.

Upon conclusion "Caravans To The Outer Worlds" is a high quality EP release by Enslaved. It´s less polished and slightly more experimental in nature than the material on "Utgard" (2020), and that approach suits Enslaved well. They´ve always been best when they added a bit of organic grit to their releases, and "Caravans To The Outer Worlds" is one such release. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

 Caravans to the Outer Worlds by ENSLAVED album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2021
3.33 | 10 ratings

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Caravans to the Outer Worlds
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Special Collaborator PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic

4 stars ENSLAVED seems to have overcome its moniker as it has over the course of three decades been one of the most prolific and creative shapeshifters in all of extreme metal and in the year 2021, some thirty years after its formation in the icy cold Norwegian city of Haugesund, Ivar Bjørnson, Grutle Kjellson and their constantly rotating cast of musical accompaniment are continuing to churn out more innovative and even currently relevant music.

A year after the band's Scandinavian folk-infused progressive black metal offering "Utgard," ENSLAVED is back with an EP's worth of four new tracks that offer yet another take on the band's already established mishmash of folkened black prog metal. ENSLAVED proves not only to be an astute long term survivor in the extreme metal world but maintains its popularity due to the fact that this band knows how to juxtapose the aforementioned ingredients and change things up just enough to keep things a bit different than what came before.

CARAVANS TO THE OUTER WORLDS is a short but sweet EP (ENSLAVED's fourth overall not counting demos) which clocks in at only 18 minutes but offers four intense atmospheric prog and black metal tunes that continue to forge ahead into the future. On this EP, ENSLAVED joins the ranks of the more psychedelic black metal bands that look to the stars rather than confine themselves to the fjords with themes from the stars as well as lysergic organ runs and other space rock elements melding their way into the crunchy power chords and blackened prog workouts.

Wisely ENSLAVED sticks to its established sound on its full-length releases but isn't afraid to experiment radically once in a while on these infrequent EP releases. Perhaps this is a testing ground to see how well this type of music is received but if the success of psychedelic black metal acts like Oranssi Pazuzu and Hail Spirit Noir are any indication, ENSLAVED has a pretty good chance of adapting its classic sounds to a new era of hybridized black metal that keeps morphing into the next phase of evolution.

For those more accustomed to ENSLAVED's heavier sounds of yore ranging from the 90s black metal behemoths that culminated with "Mardraum" or the intricately designed black metal prog that ran from "Monumension" to "In Times," CARAVANS TO THE OUTER WORLDS may be a bit of a disappointment due to the fact the clear emphasis is on the atmospheric and ethereal elements with only the heavier parts adding a bit of contrast. ENSLAVED has definitely mellowed out in recent years but that's really not a bad thing at all considering how incredibly well this band crafts melodic folk-fueled catchiness with atmospheric and heavy contrasting elements.

Given that CARAVANS TO THE OUTER WORLDS is designed to take ENSLAVED on a journey into the world of space rock, i'm not really put off by the lack of metal heft in comparison to the classic years of yore. This is simply a really outstanding series of four tracks that actually leave me wanting more. This easily could've been extended into a full-length release and i for one would totally embrace this spacier side of ENSLAVED ever expanding persona. While purists will surely be left cold by this perceived wimping out of an aging metal band, i find this one to be quite a statement of expansiveness to continue to take ENSLAVED down roads never considered way back in the Viking theme days. While by no means ENSLAVED's best works here, this is definitely an essential listening experience for true fans.

3.5 but good enough to round up

 Utgard by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.88 | 54 ratings

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Utgard
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

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.

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

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