Foundational black metal band and innovators of Viking Metal.
flag of Norway Enslaved - Yggdrasill (1991)
Enslaved - Vikinglr Veldi (1994)
Enslaved - Frost (1996)
Enslaved - Eld (1997)
Enslaved - Bloedhemn (1999)
Enslaved - Mardraum (2000)
Enslaved - Monumension (2001)
Enslaved - Ruun (2006)
Production: These are demo tracks put onto CD and so they retain the scratchy, eroded, echoing concrete soundstage feel to their production.

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.


1. Heimdallr
2. Allfqdr Odinn
3. Hal Valr
4. Niunda Heim
5. Resound of Gjallarhorn
6. Enslaved
Length: 40:36

Enslaved - Yggdrasill - BLack Metal 1992 Moonfog
Copyright © 1992 Moonfog

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."

Vikinglr Veldi
Production: Streamlined haze of sound.

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)
Length: 51:00

vikinglr veldi by enslaved on deathlike silence productions 1994
Copyright © 1994 Deathlike Silence

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.

Production: Clear and digitally crisp with the modern aura of sterility and deathlike mechanism that aesthetic presents.

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.


1. Frost
2. Loke
3. Fenris
4. Svarte Vidder
5. Yggdrasil
6. Jotunblod
7. Gylfaginning
8. Wotan
9. Isøders Dronning
Length: 50:16

Enslaved - Frost - Black Metal 1996 Osmose
Copyright © 1996 Osmose

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.

enslaved - eld
1. 793 (Slaget Om Lindisfarne) - [793 (The Battle Of Lindisfarne)]
2. Hordalendingen - [The Man From Hordaland]
3. Alfablot - [Sacrifice To The Elves]
4. Kvasirs Blod - [The Blood Of Kvasir]
5. For Lenge Siden - [A Long Time Ago]
6. Glemt - [Forgotten]
7. Eld - [Fire]
Length: 58:46
Eld (Osmose, 1997)
Some albums are popular not because they are of quality but because the way they are put together makes a concept digestible for those who cannot abstract it from subtler things; while these lead bands on to great "success" in the measurement of our modern society, it is questionable that they lead at all to greater understanding among the audience, in effect marooning said bands among people who are alienated from what they desire. "Eld" is grotesque carnival music; held together by rhythm, segments of vastly different aesthetics march across the ear in disjointed assembly, producing the effect of cycling through different exhibits or experiences with no relationship except their unctuous desire to please the elements held in common by a thoughtless crowd. Fortunately, on this album Enslaved attempt to hold on to the aesthetic of majestic and ancient power which distinguishes both Dead Can Dance and older blackmetal, but by removing what made it integral -- an outpouring of experience in life, a logical response and better way of living -- they turn it into the kind of mockery one expects when thinking about "Vikings" playing rock music. Moments of this show the kind of insight that graced "Frost," but none of it has the persistence of vision and emotion that distinguished "Vikinglgr Veldi" above most of its contemporaries.
Enslaved - Blodhemn
1. Intro Audbumla
2. I Lenker Til Ragnarok
3. Urtical Gods
4. Ansuz Astral
5. Nidingaslakt
6. Eit Auga Til Mimir
7. Blodhemn
8. Brisinghamen
9. Suttungs Mjod/Outro Perku
Blodhemn (Osmose, 1999)
Staggering out of ideas near the end of the middle of their career, Enslaved thought briefly and came up with this slab of ripping black metal that shows technical death metal influences filtered in through bands like Satyricon, done with the Enslaved sense of dark melody and a new desire to make sudden and unrelenting riffs the bulk of each song. The atmospheric shifts of previous works have hardened to vestigial nubs of momentary transition, like a station identification, that flash between fast fingered fretting of intricate, often battering riffs. Vocals drill on constantly as do the guitars, nailing every beat with a fixed intensity that loses power quickly. Where this album is great is not as listening in the style of older Enslaved, but in its ability to maintain multiple iterations of power chord riffing in the technical style, which creates a pleasantly abstract texture in the background of any gathering.

1. Larger Than Time - Heavier Than Night
2. Deadhymn
3. Inngang - Flukt
4. The Hive
5. Aegeïs Dream
6. Nightmare
7. The Ending Empire
8. The Hive 2 - Strangled By Purity
9. Warrior Unknown
10. Star Home
11. Freya's Necklace
Length: 58:47
Mardraum (Beyond The Within) (Osmose, 2000)
Take the award-winning formula of "Eld," and add hard rock, with a smidgen of Maudlin of the Well; bright chords cycling one note at a time in a loose rhythm, ends falling over beginnings, and then sometimes there's a ripping riff that comes from Motorhead or Slayer. And in the middle? In the middle, there is a loss of direction; an uncertainty; a desire to please. "Mardraum" is literally a schizoid album as Enslaved try to find a new zone of competence, bouncing between the distant past and the recent present, yet unresolved as to what it wishes to say, thus finding those voices to qualify "the medium is the message" -- as all we are hearing is medium.

1. Convoys To Nothingness
2. The Voices
3. Vision: Sphere of the Elements - A Monument Part II
4. Hollow Inside
5. The Cromlech Gate
6. Enemy I
7. Smirr
8. The Sleep: Floating Diversity - A Monument Part III
9. Outro: Self - Zero
Length: 51:41
Monumension (Osmose, 2001)
There is a wonderful ambient metal album hiding within the associated junk that builds up over a career of trying to be a metal musician; sloping, gently-unfolding passages that present threatening absensces of solidity in a context of hopeful discovery of new spaces, these ambient moments emerge during the earlier part of this album and show the kind of music these musicians compose when inspired by love of what they do. The rest of the album -- unfortunately, its bulk -- is tedious and repetitive wallpaper cut from the framework of speed metal and heavy metal, and thus familiar to anyone who has been around for more than a few years. It's "creative" in the sense of applying known variations to known archetypes in a different order, but in a metaphysical sense, that is not distinct from going up a down escalator because it is unexpected. They do a reasonable job of bringing in atmosphere, in a method hybridized from Pink Floyd and the Doors that uses undistorted guitar strummed to asymmetrical rhythms to build a sense of falling water-style randomness resulting in consistency, but at some point, the crashing of Very Boring metal archetypes must occur and at this point, the album loses its magic and like a cheeseburger becomes an obvious device for pandering to the lowest common denominator. Clearly these guys have talent that expands beyond this type of music, so they must be very bored with the lives they now have.
enslaved - RUUN
1. Entroper
2. Path To Vanir
3. Fusion Of Sense And Earth
5. Tides Of Chaos
6. Essence
7. Api-vat
8. Heir To The Cosmic Seed
Length: 46:05
RUUN (Candlelight, 2006)
With this release, we see black metal smoothly integrated into the rock/emo/metalcore that is popular these days. With some hints of British progressive and shoegazer tendencies, this CD is almost entirely composed of fast slightly dissonant riffs alternating with melodic lead patterns which specialize in going nowhere but cycling. Clean voices and interludes drop throughout the whole thing, but really, it's a more archly dramatic version of a Callisto album with black metal vocals. What Enslaved seem to fail to understand is that while labels and fans will encourage you to make your own version of what's currently popular, people subconsciously find bands desirable when they escape those tendencies, because the most popular tendencies always express not something distinctive but a massive compromise that is popular because it is nonthreatening. Despite all of its pretensions toward truthfulness, this album is a heap of tediously indecisive waffling. Enslaved need to make a choice: do they want to be one of the crowd, or return to putting truth before being inoffensive? Indeed, that is an excellent description here: inoffensive, melodic, with that emo-inspired edge of partial dissonance that makes it "bittersweet" to the inexperienced (or stupid) listener. How low the mighty fall.
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