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Enslaved - Caravans to the Outer Worlds CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.33 | 10 ratings

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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

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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