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Enslaved - Mardraum - Beyond the Within CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.77 | 76 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
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.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |


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