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



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siLLy puPPy
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

Report this review (#2599822)
Posted Wednesday, October 6, 2021 | Review Permalink
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 bandīs 15th full-length studio album "Utgard" from October 2020, and features the same quintet lineup as the album. Itīs 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 itīs quite the catchy and memorable track, which could easily have been included on "Utgard" (2020). The track features everything youīd 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. Itīs one of the stronger and more remarkable tracks Iīve heard from them in a while. "Intermezzo I - Lönnlig Gudlig" follows and itīs 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, itīs a continuation of the dark, gloomy, and almost psychadelic tinged style of the preceding track. Itīs 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. Itīs no surprise that Enslaved pull it off with ease. At this point in their career itīs the most natural thing in the world to them.

Upon conclusion "Caravans To The Outer Worlds" is a high quality EP release by Enslaved. Itīs less polished and slightly more experimental in nature than the material on "Utgard" (2020), and that approach suits Enslaved well. Theyīve 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)

Report this review (#2657503)
Posted Saturday, January 1, 2022 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Crossover Team
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.

Report this review (#2819569)
Posted Sunday, September 11, 2022 | Review Permalink

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