I imagine am going to be slightly unpopular with two groups in saying that I have a hard time believing that Enslaved is not a logical substitution for the progressive hard rock band Tool. In absence of Tool’s newest album, I would think that the progressive and meditative aspects of Enslaved would compliment a person’s desire for metaphysical metal/rock. Again, I could be slightly unpopular if Tool fans think there is no substitute for their favorite band or Enslaved fans think I am wrong for comparing their favorite to Tool. There really is no good way of putting this into my review so I am going to settle for it being the first paragraph in italics.
Enslaved is actually two bands, split by their style choices. For a good portion of the 90’s, this Norwegian extreme metal band was a staple in the then blossoming black metal scene. Enslaved’s debut was released via Deathlike Silence, one of the most famous Norwegian black metal labels, which also served as ground zero for some ridiculously embarrassing events involving murders. Enslaved’s work in the past decade, however, has cemented the band as a separate entity from its black metal beginnings. Aside from no longer writing in Icelandic or ancient Norwegian, the band has tooled their music to be more progressive, accessible and possibly open ended. I feel that every few years people are reminded about that there are band that are constantly working on their sound and constantly bettering themselves.
I would like to make mention that I enjoy Enslaved’s early black metal work, specifically Frost and Vikingligr Veldi. With that said, by the time they hit Blodhemn and Mardraum, things were becoming stale and predictable despite having some interesting atmospheric effects behind its fury. The releases in the early 00’s really set a new course for the band as Monumension, Below the Lights, and Isa struck a new trail of both progressive and black metal with folkish elements as a back. In Times is the 8th record for this “new” band and 13th for the project as a whole. It is strange to think of the band as two separate entities but after hearing In Times, this Norwegian black metal band has shown dramatic transformation.
In Times further travels into the realms of well produced and crafted progressive metal, with equal parts melody and dissonance. Since Axioma Ethica Odini, the band has upped the production value on each record leading to swelling orchestral parts, this is especially apparent during moments on In Times. It should be noted that this relationship has worked in the past and continues to be one of the more intriguing aspects of the band. Enslaved manages to wrestle with all of these productional elements without making the music bloated or stuffed. Songs like “Nauthir Bleeding” and “One Thousand Years Of Rain” are frantic in their structure but both clean and harsh aspects compliment each other in a chilly yet inviting space. I have always thought of Enslaved’s newer work as thawing black metal winter, and now that In Times is here, I feel the band is approaching early summer.
I feel it is important to point out Enslaved’s consistency in terms of members since the early 00’s. Since Isa, Enslaved has not had any major lineup changes as compared to the band’s early history. This stability correlates with the band’s progression in terms of style. Enslaved is proving themselves to be a band that employs a variety of tools in order to reach a certain undeclared goal. Whether it be black metal, progressive metal, or psychedelic undertones, Enslaved has proven to be, at the very least, interesting through each record. In Times may have portions that are alien to different listeners, but its craft and construction are really something to be celebrated. Enslaved always seems to get praised every couple of years and I guess that won’t change unless the band stops making decent records. Maybe next time they will cease to be interesting.
Album: In Times
Released: March 6th, 2015
Label: Nuclear Blast
Score: 6/9 Hammers