Review: Enslaved give a peek into the minds of developing artists working through older versions of songs on the Emperor/Enslaved split in a trademark blastingly distorted metal that evokes visions of mideval European music. An epic take on the Norse style helps this band blast out songs at bouncy, high-energy tempos with a heavy melodic overtone and stringent guitar technique to adulterate what would be otherwise unbearably happy black metal.
2. Allfqdr Odinn
3. Hal Valr
4. Niunda Heim
5. Resound of Gjallarhorn
Riffs are simple melodies and scale-walking microrhythmic devices, placed into context by scarce choruses and abundant verses with variations, interjections, and other elements of theatrical music. Blockade running drums race after the heartbeat of terrified prey or drop onto the beat with double-hitting, counterpoint-driven, battled-hardened phrases which serve halfway as verse/fill but more as permutations of verse entirely. What lead guitar does exist is simple but provocative.
While keeping their material nondogmatic Enslaved fall to the easy melodrama of demonstrative mimesis, having obvious themes to contrast central elements in each song. Mostly abstract however, their most cogent real world statements are in the old world melodies of each song and the sweetness and hope with which these are crafted. In this sense I believe them when they call themselves "Viking metal."
Review: This album functions as an organism to fertilize and evolve its essential concepts within a space of imaginativity coloring with naturalistic design a world of ancient and current vitality in the functionality of life as an exchange of nothingness and infinity expressed through the potential of tones toward an open resolution (new phrase or recyclic motion) or a finite dissonance which expresses in its structural conclusion a resonance to earlier continuous themes within the motif of each song. Epic in a logical extension to later Bathory and early modern Black Metal, these lengthy pieces showcase this band at their most inventive and conceptually expansive as demonstrated by the unique character in each of these works.
Songs that somehow hide aggressively precise and dominant rhythm including lengthy blasts and driving explosive confrontational stanchions of bullet-precise structural percussion building boundaries and evolving their destruction, despite aggression meld into sonorous fluidity. Guitar employs a range of basic power chording variants to sweep harmonization into the expansion of phrase in shape and impulse rhythm for intensity building through the liquid re-creation of themes and atmospheres in the swirling moods emerging from the chaotic but surprisingly gentle merging of ideas. Atmosphere forged in technique and texture absorbs melody and regenerates it in multiple forms, rendering a motif which over time grows through rebirth and decay within, suggesting the autumnal thoughts of an ancient forest or the last days of a retired and renowned warrior.
1. Liflandi Lif Undir Hamri (11:31)
2. Vetrarnótt (10:59)
3. Midgards Eldar (11:16)
4. Heimdallr (6:15)
5. Norvegr (instrumental) (10:57)
As such its appeal is lost on many; there is no dominant mood, but a range of moods variantly saturated with sadness, ambition, youth, despair and a hopeful sense of structuralist pragmatism in service to an ideal based in belief in life and its darkness and light. No album more "beyond good and evil" has been so subtly stated however, and the progressive inspiration to gestate concept and project reason in the form of fantastic voyages into the subconscious desire for existence of all free spirits, while brilliantly executed and reasonable in musicianship, remains underappreciated for its contributions not to black metal but to metal as a whole in gesturing a compositional complexity which could in fairness be called symphonic.
Neoclassical and Norwegian folk influences are integrated entirely in the vision of melody as nihilistic and immanent through dynamic structural principles in tonally congruent phrasing within arrangements that are less rock than epic open Eurometal jam sessions with the precise structure and intelligence of a majestically esoteric lyric poem. Emotionally it is mature beyond the evident youth and hopefulness that full knowledge of an adult world could not crush, with themes developed with vision and depth for the sense of reflecting a worldview rather than an overdeveloped faculty for self-pity (for example) or other artistic dodges of a modern time. Its tolerance for multiple chiastic motif transitions indulges a sense of naturalism in ecosystems of melody building, combining, dying, being born.
Both metal in its purest sense, with raging riffs and raw power in the explosion of song across tonal and rhythmic space with rapacious hunger and warlike immediacy, and of a new sense of the music we know as the neoclassical expansion of black metal, this album defined for many the atmospheres of both the North and human ambition toward mental meritocracy and strength, reflecting through this dark and nihilistic yet ambitiously inspired work a hope for the self and nature through through intentional creation.
Review: This album of war songs takes black metal nihilism to an austere world of minimal elements presented in a stillness of organic warmth, a coldness of the digital age forged in the rigidity of logic and position. Previous creators of ambient folk metal masterpieces, Enslaved use the presentation dynamics of folk music to break black metal into its simplest form of vector expression yet, a blasting counterpoint style based on melodic affinity to central lyric (as many folk songs do). Mostly their loudest voice are the three- and four-note riffs that through direction and melody take place in a piece like characters, rather than objects.
4. Svarte Vidder
9. Isøders Dronning
With the searing overblasted whisper of Grutle Kjellson chanting the unifying narrative through carefully measured phrases and Trym Torson laying down a clattering double-bass fronted sequence of drum patterns, from blast to churn, equally rooted in the preparations and mechanizations of warfare. The dominant speechmaker here however is the guitar, which through mercurial transformations becomes a walking riff accompaniment that drives a linear progression in different potential directions or a leading melody tracing the progression of the song's decryption like an addict finding veins. Using minimal chords and barely intrusive lead guitar the six-stringed section creates the rhythm which defines the counterpoint the drums explore, reflecting off the vocals to work out the tension of the song.
Sometimes these epics turn into bouncy Viking drinking songs, or celebratory musings of romance, but their overall intent is harmful and belligerent in the spirit of war as metaphor for life; a devouring voice, this music infiltrates at subtle levels to splay its visions of obscure ancient modes of thought before your barely programmed brain. Its appeal is similar to most folk music, the exploration of a very obvious theme in ways that subvert its instance as means to assert its essence. Whether that is your taste in black metal or not, "Frost" bears study as a musical document of a potent direction for future technical underground minimalism, especially in its expression of Viking traditionalism through melody adapted to the manic patternings of modern rhythm.