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5 stars It's a mystery that Enslaved is not more recognised in progressive rock circles. Growing a steady fan base among metalheads, Enslaved has only gained a small foothold among progressive rock listeneners. They deserve better. I mean the band is right up there - in quality - with Opeth. Not that these two bands are somehow musical twins, they are not, but the listening experience invokes some of the same emotions. Enslaved share Opeth's musical philosophy by stressing emotions over technicality. However, the band is firmly placed within a Norwegian metal-context, and they were - along with black metal-bands - one of the pioneers of the new Norwegian metal scene in the 90's. The sound of their music is raw, atmospheric, slightly psychadelic and chrushing. So if you want to tag the music with a label, it could be viking/black-metal with progressive elements.

For listeners who are sceptic about extreme metal, it should be mentioned that the band have moved further towards progressive territory during the three latest records: ISA, RUUN, and VERTEBRAE. As with Opeth's records, they are not just filled with long songs & crushing riffs, they also contain an intelligent mixture of growling and harmonious clean vocals. The records are wonderfully produced, and the songs are divided by a seperation of "light & dark" sequences, which intertwines intelligently. Clearly the metal inspiration is not difficult to hear, but referances to the 70's progressive rock music is always in the surface. This can for instance be heard in their consistent use of keyboards and the mellotron.

Being one of the pioneers of the Viking-metal genre, their lyrical universe emphasized pagan and norse mythological themes, rather than the satanism of Black Metal. However, as Enslaved progressed they became restless. With the record MARDRAUM: BEYOND THE WITIN they began to experiment with the genre's strict rules. As listeners of progressive rock, they sought to add psychadelia, space rock and other progressive elements in their music. It was by no means a retrospective approach, it still sounded raw - like contemporary extreme metal. But the new musical ingredients paved the way for more electronic/ambient soundscapes. It was the start of the band's second period, the experimental and progressive era of Enslaved.

Enslaved's "MARDRAUM: BEYOND THE WITHIN" is a very underrated album, not just in progressive rock circles - but also in the metal genre in general. Besides the new records, this is one of the best album Enslaved has to offer. "Mardraum" is norwegian, meaning nightmare in English. Firmly placed in a pagan & norse mythological context, listening to this album may at first sound chaotic and extreme. But the concept of the album, makes the thick heavy sound, and the active use of distortion & sonic attacks meaningful. Songs like "Aege's dream" & "Warrior Unknown" are brutal. The title track is maybe the best track on the record. Containing lots of killer-riffs in a sequence and chaotic and nightmarish screaming in the background, this songs captures madness and "mardraum" only like Water's and Pink Floyd did in the 70's. It's a piece of art, it sounds raw, it sounds mad and way out there.

But these brutal offerings also comes in combination with more varied & longer epics like "Entrance - Escape". The tempo has slowed down, opening up for more psychadelic soundscapes and guitar heroism. The guitar solos on the epic tracks are magnificent and very Gilmouresque, rather than the fast and mindless solos you often hear in thrash-metal.

Listen and be Enslaved!

Report this review (#94400)
Posted Friday, October 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Mardraum: Beyond the Within" is the 5th full-length studio album by Norwegian black metal act Enslaved. The album was released in 2000 through Osmose Productions.

The music on the album marks a slight transition in sound for Enslaved. While the basis in the music is still black metal/ blackened thrash (it´s very obvious that Enslaved are influenced by eighties thrash metal acts like Possessed, Celtic Frost and Kreator), progressive rock elements have begun to sneak into the music. The best examples are "Entrance - Escape", "Frřyas Smykke" and the 10:07 minutes long opening song "Střrre enn tid - Tyngre enn Natt". The latter is definitely the highlight of the album to me. Don´t expect a lot of progressive ideas though this is still first and foremost a black metal album. The vocals are pre-dominantly delivered in raspy and harsh black metal style but there are also clean vocals in a couple of the songs.

The musicianship is excellent. Tight playing and great harsh and clean vocals. Note that there are guitar solos on the album as well. Something that is not as dominant on earlier recordings by Enslaved. And great solos too I might add.

The production is strong and well sounding. It´s actually the first Enslaved album where it is apparent that they employ a bassist.

"Mardraum: Beyond the Within" is the first Enslaved album where I begin to understand what the band are capable of. I enjoyed both "Eld (1997)" and "Blodhemn (1998)" greatly but with "Mardraum: Beyond the Within" the band bring just enough new elements into their sound to really intrigue me. A 3.5 star rating is deserved.

Report this review (#212992)
Posted Wednesday, April 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Mardraum is the first Enslaved album of the new decade. In a way it is their most essential one as it bridges their black metal fury of the 90's with the progressive directions they would take in the 00's. The sound is still raw but the production is sharp, clear and heavy. The music has opened up compared to Blodhemn. There's more room for dark atmospherics and progressive riffs.

Mardraum is breathtaking, stunning, shocking, evil, ice-cold, morbid, ultra-aggressive, dissonant, possessed, insane, evil, satanic, primal and yet it's also full of stunning riffs, chilling melodies, rhythm, icy screams, growls and chants.The exceptional qualities are maintained through all songs. Maybe one or two could have been left off to make an even more devastating impact. This is very extreme music of course and not easy to get into, but if you can stomach it, you might be overawed by it.

This would be my favourite Enslaved album next to Isa, which is a bit more streamlined and digestible. Still, I would dare to call Mardraum the best extreme metal album ever. To compare it to classical music is maybe a bit of a stretch but this is as disturbing as the Sacre Du Printemps was almost a century ago. A worship of all things pagan, violent, untamed and hedonistic. 4.5 stars

Report this review (#237530)
Posted Sunday, September 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
The T
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars For me, ENSLAVED's Mardraum honors its title, becoming a nightmare after just a few listens.

I enjoy black metal, a lot. I enjoyed ENSLAVED's most recent albums, fully progressive-black- metal records. I even liked ENSLAVED's first, Vikingligr Veldi, and the second, Frost. It's actually how far removed this album is from the black metal sound of the band's past what I can't manage to enjoy. The band started to develop into something more after Frost, something different, and we all know that work has rendered great fruits in the Norwegian's most recent records. But I think Mardraum was a slight bump in an otherwise smooth road to musical brilliance.

Mardraum avoids atmosphere and darkness and casts aside typical black elements like nostalgia and tremolo riffs and adopts a more death/thrash metal-oriented style more in the vein of 80's bands like KREATOR. The problem is, the music sounds uninspired, lacking in ideas. The band sounds like a hybrid between those 80's bands and more noisecore-oriented black metal artists like MARDUK. But while the Swedish manage to make their music attractive even amidst all the violence and noise, the Norwegian fail completely, delivering an endless procession of uninteresting riffs with little subtlety, atmosphere, or any hint of progressiveness.

ENSLAVED has never been a band that shines in violence. They shine in creating more atmospheric, epic black metal with progressive tendencies. This is proven here in MARDRAUM, an album that even lacks that semi-epic factor that informed most of the band's viking-metal's past.

Report this review (#239418)
Posted Tuesday, September 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Mardraum: Beyond The Within' - Enslaved (74/100)

Mardraum: Beyond the Within routinely stands as the most overlooked album in Enslaved's extensive discography. It's a state I find pretty baffling, considering it's one of the most historically significant stages in their career. From a gloriously thrashy and straightforward outing on Blodhemn, Enslaved finally took the plunge they had been alluding to since their debut. Although the headstrong nods to 1970s progressive rock would only become obvious on Monumension, it's enough to say that Enslaved became a full-fledged progressive metal outfit on Mardraum. It's the only way I could justify some of the more outlandish stretches they take on this album.

Looking back, the leap forward they took here is awe-inspiring. Especially when I imagine listening to Blodhemn in 1998, I would never have thought they would follow it up with an album that lops everything from doom and death metal to post-rock into their trademark sound. If Blodhemn was Enslaved at their most vicious and intense, Mardraum is surely the band at their most varied. On the previous album I was surprised to hear them pulling off sections akin to Inquisition. The same goes moreso for some of the gruelling riffs here, which instantly recalled the tech-inclined death metal Darkthrone were playing on their first record. Or what about the punk-infused riffs on "Det Endelege Riket?" It goes to show that the sliding scale between prog and black metal most are intent to place Enslaved is far too narrow to encapsulate their sound. They've been doing more at every stage, and Mardraum probably offers the most surprises of all.

Mardraum is the most creatively risky effort of this band's life. In such talented hands, that could never be considered a bad thing. With that said, it's a shame that their grand entrance into the prog metal pantheon comes with its fair share of growing pains and rough edges. I don't think there's ever been a time I've listened to this album and I didn't get the impression it was messy and overly long. For all the flak I give an album like Isa, they knew exactly where they wanted to go on that album and how to get there. In good ways and bad, Mardraum strikes me as an all-inclusive flow of ideas, and damn how they might complement each other. This isn't helped much by the production, which is among the worst of their career. The organic rawness of the early stuff gives way to a murky production that sounds like it's trying to be "modern," but lacks the clarity. Again, I would blame brush this off as a matter of growing pains. And despite the massive gains they made here, there was still a lot of growing to do.

Even outside the historical context as Enslaved's first "prog" record, Mardraum has got it where it counts. The punchy riffs and varied ideas outweigh the uncertain songwriting and dry production. Although I don't necessarily mind the direction they took on future albums, I do wonder how much more impressive they might have been if they had kept their approach so chaotic and freeform. The polished streamlining of their prog tendencies beginning on Monumension (and coming full form on Isa) gave their work a greater logic, but this is probably the last album where their creatively felt appropriately wild.

Report this review (#503232)
Posted Monday, August 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Enslaved's debut album included some comparatively fancy progressive influences for black metal of its era, but their second album (Frost) took a turn back towards more straight-ahead black metal inspired by the model for Viking metal put forth by Bathory, and their next two ploughed ahead in that vein. Mardraum, by contrast, sees that progressive influence return to their music.

In turning away from a "pure" black metal approach, Enslaved bring up to date the approach of their debut album, with its curious blend of harsh and relaxing musical elements, and also takes into account both recent advances in technical black metal and in the band's own mastery of the studio. No longer feeling the need to take a particularly lo-fi or "kvlt" approach to producing black metal, the band simply take their mystical Viking metal approach in their own direction without asking for or requiring the approval of any particular metal scene.

Report this review (#637839)
Posted Wednesday, February 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
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 "Střrre enn Tid - Tyngre enn Natt" may bring space pop to mind at first, it quickly delivers the old one, two punch of Ivar Bjřrnson 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.

Report this review (#1775603)
Posted Saturday, August 26, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars Within 2 years, Enslaved made the greatest artistic leap and change in their direction. Gone are simplistic raw songs from "Blodhemn" and repetitive patterns from the early area. The band now significantly embraced progressive rock/metal, catapulted in terms of complexity and acknowledged the existence of post-rock, too. A nod is given to death metal, punk and to a lesser extent, thrash or doom metal. Compositional quality reached a new dimension, I think it must have taken much longer time to pull the pieces together. Instrumentally, keyboards are lessened and guitar attacks and very versatile drumming mark the record. Especially the drums are imaginative.

The first epic " Stшrre enn Tid - Tyngre enn Natt" is a masterpiece with death-metal drums, vocals, pulsating bass, a prog- metal intro. Black metal in its genuine form is also presented. The end is more a post-rock signature with its riffs.

"Daudningekvida" gives us a beautiful and powerful guitar solo. In general, you can hear the power of guitar tandem on this record, providing more intensity.

"Entrance-Escape" has a doomy riffing and great clean contemplative vocals.

If you're nervous because of lacking traditional black metal elements, wait for the second half of the album.

The melancholy instrumental outro makes a rounded impression of a well spent hour with this album.

Report this review (#2438898)
Posted Monday, August 17, 2020 | Review Permalink

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