Enslaved – In Times: Album Review (Nuclear Blast)
CD / LP / DL
6 / 10
Black metal brutality from Norway’s Enslaved. But does it meet the benchmark set by their earlier records? Louder Than War’s Dom Walsh finds out.
The follow up to 2012’s Riitiir wastes no time in bludgeoning the listener with blast beats and true black metal vocals as the guitars slay the listener. For the first 90 seconds of Thurisaz Dreaming it is an onslaught. As the smoke clears Grutle Kjellson sings on Thurisaz Dreaming, ‘I have taken on another form…’ This is obviously a part of the albums lyrical content but it could also be metaphorical for the bands change in style. The band has made no secret of their desire to branch out and incorporate more influences into their work. In the same way that Opeth moved away from the death metal aesthetic, and Anathema morphed into songs of soaring beauty, Enslaved have gradually sought to reform their sound, to varying degrees of success.
In Times is laced with plenty of moments of pure black metal, which is what Enslaved built their reputation on back in the early 90’s with albums like Frost and Blodhemn. The aforementioned opening track, parts of the title track and Nauthir Bleeding best show this on In Times; with the blasts furious and vocals brutally snarling. The band delivers such black metal ferocity and passion with complete effortlessness. There are flurries throughout the entire album which act as reminders as to just how good Enslaved are.
Enslaved’s ability to purvey a genre they helped mould is not in question and its superb to hear them still slaying. There are times when the change in sound is brilliant and sounds like a band branching out and pulling it off. The albums opening track is pitched well with the opening salvo of black metal intensity put together with well produced dense guitars and clean vocals. The solo work on the album is unnerving and sounds magnificent. The bass guitar of Grutle Kjellson is very clear in the track, and throughout the album as it keeps the more progressive sections of the album together with simplistic grace. The way Thurisaz Dreaming builds is excellent and it’s no surprise that the band led their release of the new album with this track. It is probably the strongest track on the album. Another album highlight is One Thousand Years of Rain which has a superbly towering riff in its later throws, and Nauthir Bleeding shows of the lead guitar skills of Ice Dale and Ivar Bjornson.
For the successes, there are a few moments where In Times meanders a little too much. The opening of the title track lags in a repetitive fashion with a lead guitar part that could take more of a centre stage, before a quite magnificent black metal passage reminds you why you are here. A more hard rock section gives way to a serene section of music which unfortunately misses the mark in creating the desired feeling and emotion. When this part of the track is blown apart by the ferocious drumming and superb choral undertones, the track fires straight back on track and reaches a quite superb climax. A couple of minutes shorter, and this track could have been the best thing on the album. The choral tones of album closer, Daylight, are also superbly meshed with the sounds of thunder to end the album in epic fashion…the Enslaved way; epic.
In Times is a good solid album. Enslaved are a fine band and do not produce anything poor. Of the six tracks on the album, they are all over eight minutes. Sometimes the tracks get bogged down with an air of disjoined creativity. All of the tracks veer between clean and growled vocals, with plenty of tempo changes between hard rock, black metal and thrash metal. Sometimes there can be a little too much in the melting pot to work with. That being said, there is plenty here to keep Enslaved fans happy, and plenty of music that is better than a lot of material that many bands put out. Their tour with Grand Magus later on in the year will be excellent as both bands are quite exquisite in the live arena.