|Translation:||Crypt Of Fear|
It’s not surprising at all that Enslaved — as the Hogwarts staircases — likes to change. The band, indisputably among the most famous of the black metal scene, has molted several times during its twenty-six years of activity, from being a kvlt formation of the Norwegian black metal scene to pioneering the progressive black metal context, without forgetting an intermediate viking period. The band achieved its greatest success with the prog breakthrough, arriving to very high levels of fame for an underground formation. Albums like RIITIIR and In Times have earned for the creature of Grutle Kjellson and Ivar Bjørnson rivers of compliments but also criticism, the latter especially from the most avid fans of their early work, and their latest E is no exception.
We are in 2017 and the evolutionary process continues undisturbed. E, in fact, proves to be musically very different from the previous albums, while proving to be their direct descendant. The blend of progressive black metal to which we are accustomed this time takes a lighter and more — literally — meditative direction than usual: has Nuclear Blast failed this time its crusade for the standardization of all the bands it puts under contract? Of course, Enslaved‘s sound is no longer the raw one of the early 2000s, perhaps indeed, this is the cleanest album they have ever published, but first things first.
If “Storm Son”, the single anticipating the record, had left many listeners (including myself) disoriented, in the context of the entire work, it turns out to be much better than expected. The atmosphere is compressed, heavy, a meditative sound that in some respects feels ancient; as a ritual aimed at evoking a profound runic power, the song winds through its almost eleven-minute duration between concentric riffs and imposing melodies, with the clean voices of the new keyboardist intertwined with the classic dirty voice of Grutle. And this is, more or less, the same feeling that you will have for the entire duration of the album, as if the band had tried to combine the style of Vertebrae with the style of their most recent productions. A return to the past, a step forward towards the future, as the seventies prog rock influences found throughout the work, between organs, synthesizers and saxophones (“Hiindsiight”).
The only jarring note of the whole album, in my opinion, is the excessive lenght of the first track, as if it lasted a few minutes less, it would have been even more exciting. However, there is little we can do: if you have not endured the cleanliness and the high definition of Enslaved‘s last chapters, this work will probably make you even more disgusted than In Times. To some extent it’s okay, of course: it’s not that everyone has to appreciate everything in advance. If you are obsessed with your vinyl of Hordanes Land or with the first print of Vikingligr Veldi, you should just listen to those. Instead, if you want to push your mind over, jump on the back of the sacred horse and ride along the axis of the worlds: the rendezvous with the son of the storm is at the mouth of the river. Trust me, in hindsight you will not regret it.