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Released: 2017, Nuclear Blast
Reviewer: Mr. Metalguy (Guest Reviewer)
Quick history lesson here, being that the mighty Enslaved have been around now for 14 full albums, some 25 ish years, are arguably Norway’s largest metal exponent at the current time, and remain one of the most enigmatic and engaging forces in music. The mere fact they have steered their ship true to course this long is a staggering thought especially in consideration of the fact that sole remaining and founding members Grutle and Ivar were in their early to mid teens at the band’s inception. What were you doing at 13? I was listening to Limp Bizkit.
Morphing from straight ahead first-isa wave of Norwegian Black Metal then distilling that sentimentality through an alchemical distillery of naturalistic philosophy and an ever expanding musical lexicon and ultimately merging the steely imperviousness of Black Metal’s soul with prog sensitivities, latter years Enslaved finds the band an enigma wrapped in a riddle. Somehow they are too metal for prog, too prog for “pure” metal, not rock, and not Yes. And that is exactly how they like it.
So, the question becomes one of where E fits in the cannon? Firstly, E forces the listener to really become enveloped in its world, beginning with 10 plus minute epic “Storm Son,” a slow and smouldering start to an album filled with complexity. It is at once forthright and aloof, teasing the listener with an introduction that belies nothing of its ultimate composition, nor of its ultimate metallic weight, a welcome wash of beautifully orchestrated distortion covering the listener in familiar tones if not unfamiliar movements within them.
Moving on, “The River’s Mouth” continues the narrative of what I can only presume is an epic journey told through song and lyric. And the tapestry woven by the lyrics is nothing less than spectacular, paired with a gentle atmosphere of Moog and subtle acoustic accoutrements and a crisp vocal delivery. The recording and mastering of E is impeccable, giving full range and breadth to each instrument, human or otherwise.
A true standout is track 3, “Sacred Horse.” Now, if that introduction doesn’t subtly remind you of “Paint It Black” with a similar refrain after the Moog boogie, we just can’t be friends.
But does any of the foregoing answer the question of where in the cannon of Enslaved does E fit? I suppose, if pressed on the matter, E represents the band’s most cohesive and focused effort since VERTEBRAE with the otherworldly nature found in AXIOMA ETHICA ODINI. Hyperbole aside, Enslaved are unique in that each of their albums can, and does, stand on its own and is not easily compared to their other works as each outing embodies a differing feeling, a differing story. Oh and the blues noodle to start out “Axis of the Worlds” is just ridiculously good. See? It’s all different. It’s all Enslaved. It’s all excellent, and in
my mind, that is what E is short for.
1. Storm Son
2. The River's Mouth
3. Sacred Horse
4. Axis of the Worlds
5. Feathers of Eolh
8. What Else Is There?
Ivar Bjørnson Guitar, Keyboards
Grutle Kjellson Vocals, Bass
Arve Isdal Guitar
Cato Bekkevold Drums
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