Time passes continually, and Enslaved change and evolve constantly and unexpectedly along with it. Since their inception in 1991 they have consistently pushed boundaries of limiting genre brackets; even their earliest ‘pure’ black metal recordings displayed song structures and passages that pushed them ahead of their contemporaries in terms of sheer dexterity and song writing.
Time continues to pass, and the band mutates, taking in Viking metal influences, and slowly, progressive rock influences come to the fore, swelling and expanding the bands song writing with every release in their prolific history, which consists of a very impressive two year cycle for albums, and various EPs (including the cracking double whammy of 2011’s The Sleeping Gods and Thorn short players.
Naturally, Enslaved RIITIIR is downright obliged to be a culmination of everything that has come before, whilst taking fascinating new musical avenues to blow the listener’s ears clean off. However, can this honestly be done? How often can they keep hitting grandiose home runs? Is it still possible?
Of course it fucking is. RIITIIR does exactly what is expected and more, taking everything that has worked before and taken it to a different level entirely. This is a stunning piece of work. Opening track Thoughts Like Hammers is an encapsulation of everything that has come before; the song kicks in with a distinct black metal blast of ridiculous double kicks and lacerating riffage, before giving way to quite possibly the most simple but fist-pumping doom riff I’ve heard all year, and then everything starts to twist and turn in several directions. Extreme vocals bleed seamlessly into glorious clean vocals, furious riffage blends with whimsical strumming without a false step, progressive passages and swirling keys weave in and out, and to put it bluntly it’s a frightening ten minute statement of intent as to where Enslaved are today.
Up next is the quite frankly amazing Death In The Eyes Of Dawn, and I have no shame in saying it’s quite possibly the most beautiful piece of heaviness I have heard in many, many a moon, and I don’t give a fuck if my metal licence is revoked for using the B word to describe Enslaved. Sweeping, swirling and evocative, it is simply grand music. There is also a surprisingly strong reminder of Tool in the tune as well, which I found to be so refreshing. Truly the best piece of music I have heard this year. The quality just keeps flowing as the album goes on. The energetic Veilburner is up next, and yet again the passages twist and turn with amazing fluidity, and yet again I can hear a slight whiff of Tool in there, but not in a plagiaristic way.
Roots Of The Mountain is one of the heaviest tracks on the album, and contains one of the most melodic and catchy vocals on the entire album, just to piss off the black metal purists, I’d like to think. However the more open minded fans will be treated with a classic blackened blast for their perseverance. The title track is oddly the shortest track here (the only one to clock in under six minutes), but also the most accessible, containing some real fist-pumping riffs. Materal is a towering progressive epic with strident passages and an absolutely streamlined and iconic riff around the five minute mark that I NEED to hear live. Anthem making shit.
Finally we have the final double whammy of Storm Of Memories and Forsaken, the former displaying intense progressive keys and classic blasts, and the final track seeing things out with a haunting eleven minute blast of ferocity, odd serenity and haunting near quietness. It’s a perfect way to end a frankly epic album.
I can’t stress enough how damned impressive this album is. It’s a mature and confident work that is evocative, enticing, intriguing and grand, and it grants the listener with the same intelligence it took to compose it. This is a fantastic, fantastic album that I can already shoe in as the top of my favourites of the year, by a great distance. Thoroughly recommended, this is essential listening that I will now break my unwavering ’no higher than 9/10’ rule for. Lap it up kids, it’s a one-time deal.
10/10 – Own it.
Thoughts Like Hammers - 9/10
Death In The Eyes of Dawn – 10/10
Veil burner – 9/10
Roots Of The Mountain – 9/10
RIITIIR – 10/10
Materal - 10/10
Storm Of Memories – 9/10
Forsaken – 9/10
Grutle Keelson – vocals, bass
Ivar Bjornson – guitar, vocals
Arve Isdal – guitar
Cato Bekkevold – drums
Herbrand Larsen – keyboards, vocals
Label: Nuclear Blast
Release date: 28/09/2012