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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.

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ENSLAVED Videos (YouTube and more)


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ENSLAVED discography


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

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

3.50 | 75 ratings
Vikingligr Veldi
1994
3.39 | 73 ratings
Frost
1994
3.74 | 68 ratings
Eld
1997
3.24 | 55 ratings
Blodhemn
1998
3.77 | 69 ratings
Mardraum - Beyond the Within
2000
4.07 | 78 ratings
Monumension
2001
4.18 | 130 ratings
Below the Lights
2003
4.15 | 224 ratings
Isa
2004
3.98 | 132 ratings
Ruun
2006
4.07 | 143 ratings
Vertebrae
2008
4.03 | 212 ratings
Axioma Ethica Odini
2010
3.91 | 220 ratings
Riitiir
2012
3.77 | 85 ratings
In Times
2015
4.00 | 78 ratings
E
2017
3.88 | 35 ratings
Utgard
2020

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)

3.67 | 9 ratings
The Sleeping Gods
2016

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

1.80 | 8 ratings
Nema
1991
2.62 | 15 ratings
Yggdrasill
1992
3.09 | 22 ratings
Hordanes Land
1993
4.16 | 14 ratings
Emperor / Hordanes Land split CD
1993
3.20 | 27 ratings
The Sleeping Gods
2011
3.07 | 17 ratings
Thorn
2011

ENSLAVED Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Below the Lights by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 2003
4.18 | 130 ratings

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Below the Lights
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by ssmarcus

4 stars "Progression or evolution is best served if it does not include dismissing either the past elements or the future possibilities. Being all about regression makes music rotten from the inside in the long run, while total futurism tears up roots and make the tree fall," said Ivar Bjornson, founding member and guitarist of Enslaved, in an interview with Metal Bite when Below the Lights first dropped in 2003. While referring specifically to the philosophy behind the music on the band's latest record, Ivar's comments could easily sum up the raison detre of many progressive and avant-garde metal acts leading up to and immediately following the turn of the millennium. This was an era where an open frontier of metal music remained undiscovered and many Nordic acts, Norway's Enslaved included, answered the call of exploration.

Below the Lights does its part in advancing these exploratory efforts by expertly threading together the most haunting elements of mellotron based 70's prog, Viking-inspired folk, and modern black metal. Coupled with an iconic album cover and esoteric lyrics, this is a record that fosters a palpable sense of impenetrable mystery. Who exactly is trapped below that snow covered forest? How does their pain and misery square with the abject euphoric beauty explored on tracks like "The Crossing"? Who exactly is having these mystical visions of impending darkness? I am not equipped to even attempt answering these mysteries. I am content with letting that mystery permeate through the music.

Despite the above praise, I'm still unable to afford this record a perfect rating. As I have mentioned in my reviews in the passed, black metal is, for my own personal taste, a liability. Compared to a death metal growl, black metal vocals are thin and grating. If death metal vocals attempt to capture the power and terror of Satan himself, black metal vocals imitate the sounds of the small imps running around stirring trouble on Satan's behalf. Additionally, black metal guitars and drums are too keen on using tremolo techniques as the foundation of entire passages. "As Fire Swept Clean the Earth" could easily have been improved had those tendencies been tamed.

 Utgard by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.88 | 35 ratings

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Utgard
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by lukretio

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 liking and so I only followed their subsequent releases tangentially and without paying too much attention. Until Utgard, that is. Fast forward to 2020 and Enslaved might have just released my favorite extreme progressive metal album of the year.

To these ears, the 9 songs of Utgard are very exciting, a refreshing and inspiring combination of black metal ferociousness, atmospheric metal accessibility, and sublime progressive extravagance. I may not be as acquainted with Enslaved's past discography as other people here, but to me Utgard sounds like nothing else I have heard from this band or from other extreme prog metal bands in the scene. Sure, nowadays there are many bands that combine black/death metal with clean vocals and acoustic instrumentation and write multi-part and layered compositions that take inspiration from the progressive rock/metal of the past. But it is hard to find releases that combine the various influences in such a well-balanced way and excel to such a high degree in all the components that are brought into the mix. When Enslaved prog, they prog like a pro 70s band. When they push their melodic side to the fore, they can compete with the best atmospheric rock bands out there, like Sólstafir or Porcupine Tree. And when they unleash their ferocious blast beats and growls, well ? that just shows you why Enslaved have been sitting at the top of the black metal scene for over 25 years.

The album brims with ideas. The guitar work is fantastic, shifting between tight riffs, atmospheric leads, blazing solos and mesmerizing jams. The use of synths and sound effects is another great aspect of the album. Keyboard wizard Håkon Vinje joined Enslaved only in 2017 from eclectic prog-rockers Seven Impale, and I cannot help but think that his prog-rock background has played a key role in the development of Enslaved's sound on Utgard. At times the album sounds like progressive rock with black metal influences rather than black-metal-gone-prog, like for example on "Sequence", a superb piece of music that start as a groovy post-rock anthem (Sólstafir come to mind here), before delving into a crazy instrumental prog jam complete with tubular bells, to finally drift into an extended, lysergic Porcupine Tree-esque finale. One of the best tracks on the album, no doubt. The vocals are another high point of the album. Grutle Kjellson's growls are a wonder to listen to, raspy ad grim but so well enunciated that add a whole new dimension to the standard black/death metal growl routine. The clean vocals (provided by dummer Iver Sandøy and Håkon Vinje) are also amazing, of much higher quality than what one usually finds on black metal albums. They play a big role in selling the melodic/atmospheric side of the music so well. Listen for example to the chorus on "Homebound" or to "Distant Seasons". I also thought that the sound production (Jens Bogren / Tony Lindgren) is excellent, retaining the rawness of black metal but allowing enough sonic clarity to let you fully appreciate all the subtleties of the music.

Among the 9 tracks, the three "epics" ("Fires in the Dark", "Sequence" and "Flight of Thought of Memory") certainly stand out as beautifully dynamic, multi-part, multi-layered compositions that stretch out through several twists and turns, and allow the band to showcase the full breadth of their influences. "Homebound" is another great moment of the album. It is a more concise piece, but no less powerful, with a great balance between raw and melodic parts. "Urjotun" is the most daring track on the album, a Hawkwind-inspired cross between post-punk and krautrock that will surprise many fans of the band. "Distant Seasons" is a great closer with dreamy clean vocals and an almost alt/post rock atmosphere. I am not so fond of the other three tracks ("Jettegryta", "Storms of Utgard" and "Utgard", the latter being a short spoken-word ambient piece) that I find more standard and perhaps a tad less inspired.

If I had to find a small flaw with the album is that it somewhat lacks a development arc: its 9 tracks are excellent, but I do not get the sense of an arc that ties them together (musically, not necessarily conceptually) and gives the listener the feeling of having embarked on a "journey". In this sense, Utgard feels more like a collection of great tracks that lacks however the "full-length album experience" where the listener feels that the songs were intentionally composed to be heard together as a whole. But this does not detract too much from the joy and excitement I experience every time I listen to this album. Utgard is one of the best albums I stumbled upon in this 2020, and probably my favorite extreme prog metal album of the year.

(Originally written for The Metal Archives)

 Utgard by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.88 | 35 ratings

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Utgard
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by progtime1234567

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 frontman Grutle Kjellson to Apple Music. The band plays its signature style of black metal and progressive metal on this album, which is a perfect soundtrack for the overall theme of the album. Other instruments such as the keyboard and the acoustic guitar are used, adding to the albums sound. One thing I love about Enslaved is how they keep to their black metal roots, with the guitar sound and technique, and the vocal technique, but they always find out a way to expand and renew their sound into something unique and different with each record. I recommend this album to anyone who is getting into Enslaved, such as myself, or die-hard fans of the band who would love the album no matter what.
 Utgard by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.88 | 35 ratings

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Utgard
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

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.

 Riitiir by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.91 | 220 ratings

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Riitiir
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by sgtpepper

4 stars I was very impressed when I first heard the album and thought it must be Enslaved masterpiece. Then I listed to their discography multiple times to understand how the band developed, matured. It goes beyond saying that Enslaved got more and more progressive after 2000'. They have also slowly abandoned the darkness or evilness of the first records. The poppy/rock section heard in the 3-rd minute on the first track "Thoughts like hammers" would be unacceptable on any album prior to 2005. Yes, Enslaved opened up like a flower to embrace more accessible rock elements like clean vocals and harmonies and also maintain complexity - to a certain extent being instrumental - but to a more extent in the compositional avenues. Each track here, albeit quite long, has numerous ideas, suprising development and no classic pop/rock chorus/verse structure. Tracks are memorable, well constructed, matured. Growling and black/death-metal are heavy but do not sound as convincing as in the past, simply because they are mixed with progressive music or lack the atmospheric element. All tracks are at least of average quality and better but let me name the last one that has irresistible post-rock and doom-metal spirit, something you will get immersed in.

This album is highly recommended to any fans of progressive heavy extreme music.

 Below the Lights by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 2003
4.18 | 130 ratings

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Below the Lights
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by progtime1234567

4 stars Enslaved are a great progressive black metal band from Norway. In my effort to listen to more black metal, I came across Enslaved. I really liked this album because it was heavy black metal that had a lot of progressive rock influences in it. The progressive rock influenced music made the album sound really good. Enslaved are one of those bands that are not afraid to push a genres boundaries by adding something new and needed into the mix. Nevertheless, the album is a great mix of progressive rock and black metal. Progressive music can be mixed with anything, even the Norwegian black metal that freezes the listener. If you are getting into Enslaved or any other progressive black metal band, this record is a great start as it was a great start for me.
 In Times by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.77 | 85 ratings

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In Times
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by sgtpepper

3 stars "In times" may have the most boring name of the Enslaved album ever but its music makes an ambitious impression when looking at the song times, none of them below 8 minutes. From my perspective, the band has developed again, even though various fans may dispute if forwards or backwards. I see a raised commercial potential and accessibility by introduced a "single-friendly" "Thurisaz dreaming" and a bit monotonous rocking "In times".

Melody rock driven is also the second song "Building with fire" in the beginning but gets a bit more challenging and wild later on. Those waiting for a black-metal passage will be pleased although it sounds forced from such song. In any case, Enslaved are good producers and arrangers to pack the candy in a tasty cover.

The title song has more than 10 minutes but fails to fulfill my expectations as it should be shorter to what it brings. Quite repetitive rocking pattern with calming guitar soloing is finally interrupted by wild screams and "something happening". This is perhaps the most similar song to Opeth in its acoustic and rocking moments without sounding dark though.

Although there is no single weak song, I think that Enslaved remained varied at the expense of using more pop/rock moments instead of complex patterns. So 3 stars for a progressive minded fan and 3.5 from a metal perspective.

 Vertebrae by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.07 | 143 ratings

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Vertebrae
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by sgtpepper

4 stars Return to the old form from the 2004 "Isa" and more ambitious structures. It makes a more lasting impression on me than "Ruun" and even "Axioma Ethica Odini".

The album starts with an immediate progressive highlight "Clouds". It has dynamic rhythm changes, powerful riffs and as one of few cases, quote prominent keyboards (Hammond, synths). This is a blackened progressive metal at its best. "Ground" has modern lyrical singing as well as relentness uncompromising growling with heavy riffing. The slow guitar solo complements the song well. Another memorable piece.

Alternative metal without black/death metal conventions? Listen to the title track. This is a display of modern metal, agile, mood-changing with no typical verse-chorus structure.

"New Dawn" is another chameleon - starting with angry black-metal rasp vocals to be continued with the same aggressive rhythm but unfitting clean vocals. Growling has very good power and intensity including echo. Progressive rock is represented by Hammond + clean-vocals and Opethesque tonality.

The biggest highlight for me is however "Reflection" with the rising melody and incredible drumming textures that matches the vocals so well. You can hear the absolutely evil riff in the main chorus helped significantly with agressive harsh vocals. On the other hand, the track has commercial potential due to its melody, accessible riffing in some passages. If you don't have enough, listen to Hammond or mellotron enriched riffing later on. I think that this is one of masterpieces by Enslaved in general.

"The watcher" may sound like a straightforward and simplied blackened Enslaved by if you listen to the chords and vocal melody, you'll spot the hit potential augmented by its 4-minute length.

Excellent album for any metal fan and recommended for any progressive open mind.

 Axioma Ethica Odini by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 2010
4.03 | 212 ratings

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Axioma Ethica Odini
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by sgtpepper

4 stars Enslaved is a very consistent band - not only they deliver above average albums with no flops since their 2000's Blodhemn but also keep churning out a new york at least every 3 years.

With "Vertebrae" yet, the band seemed to gain their second or third breath, becoming very familiar and comfortable with the music direction featuring progressive metal, rock and even alternative metal/rock leanings. Although they are still associated primarily with black-metal/death-metal vocals, there is a good chunk of clean vocals displayed, too. I personally think that screams and growls do not always much the music behind and could be limited. On the other hand, I still feel that the traditional extreme singing by Enslaved has higher quality then their clean vocals, unlike with modern Opeth. "Ethica Odini" is a very good first bite into the cake with melodic growling, accessible drumming and black metal riffing. "Waruun" has perfect extremens with powerful death-metal growls, dark riffing but also Hammond and clean vocals. I really like playful drumming with nuances. "Axioma" is a very unusual ambient track with synths and robotic voices. "Giants" show a new influence of the band - having pop/rock melodies supported by clean vocals and heavy guitars + rhythm section. It's an acquired taste as you are comparing apples with pears. Playing is as usual very technical. That's one case where background growling isn't necessary.

"Singular" has a strong two-guitar riffing and death-metal basis but a blend of other styles, too. "Nightsight" has psychedelic rock twist with acoustic passages a ala Opeth (Mellotron/guitar) but overwhelmed by brutal growls and ultra-heavy beats. "Lightening" remains one of the most emotional pieces by Enslaved - dark, bleak subtone and well constructed song development.

This album offers enough to explore to any music fan, be it a metal, progressive, rock or just a curious listener.

 Below the Lights by ENSLAVED album cover Studio Album, 2003
4.18 | 130 ratings

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Below the Lights
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by sgtpepper

4 stars Enslaved delivered another of their masterpieces with "Below the lights". There is a right and delicate balance of instrumental prowess, compositional maturity, experimentation and taste to not overcomplicate things even to a standard metal fan.

There are many things to be discovered and I haven't been able to achieve this even after multiple listens, I could register rhythmic changes, very good use of keyboards and vocals.

If I should name one highlight out of many, it would be the longest track "The crossing": I like the simple acoustic guitar parts, the ultra heavy middle part with progressive riffing.

"Queen of the night" has a great guitar work and one of the best mellow intros by Enslaved augmented by keyboards. Within 6 minutes you'll encounter fascinating changes of moods.

"Ridicule swarm" is one of the hardest Enslaved songs of the 00's. "A darker place" ends the album on a reflective and melancholic note.

Highly recommended album!

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

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