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Vikingligr Veldi

Enslaved - Vikingligr Veldi ©1994 DSP/Voices Of Wonder
1. Lifandi Lib Undir Hamri
2. Vetrarnótt
3. Miðgarðs Eldar
4. Heimdallr
5. Norvegr

As many may already know, Vikingligr Veldi is the first full length Enslaved release and is often confused for a self-titled release as the words "Vikingligr Veldi" do not appear anywhere on the CD cover. So already bathed in mystery, Enslaved's first full length is a five song, majestic romp through a more honed form of Norwegian black metal and stands as one of the band's finest pieces of work. All five songs are quite long and harness a great epic feeling throughout. The band utilizes synthesizers, piano and guitars to strong effect, often conjuring a very trancelike state through the blur of the wall of guitar sound. The song arrangements never allow the length of the song to hinder enjoyment of the music. While the vocals are rasped throughout, they also fit the overall sound the band is creating very well. The main strength Enslaved displays throughout the album is that they are perfectly in control of their vision and are fully able to convey their concepts without coming across as imitations of their influences or slovenly in execution. Neither attempting to be shocking as some of their contemporaries in the black metal scene nor lacking the ability to create daunting music, Enslaved's Vikingligr Veldi stands as one of the foremost releases in Norwegian black metal history.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/2001

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Enslaved - Frost ©1994 Osmose
1. Frost
2. Loke
3. Fenris
4. Svarte Vidder
5. Yggdrasil
6. Jotunblod
7. Gylfaginning
8. Wotan
9. Isöders Dronning

For whatever reason, Frost has not been the easiest of Enslaved albums for me to appreciate. Of course, this isn't the sort of music that tends to allow for easy initial listens. On the first four tracks, the intensity level never lets up on iota, which means if you want a little breathing room in your music, you ain't getting it. "Yggdrasil" is the first track to let up and explore the band's infamous "Viking" metal leanings. Enslaved, however, does have a signature sound that sets them apart from nearly every other band that has ever emerged from Norway. The guitars have a certain chromatic edge to them, as well as having one of the better (read: faster) drummers of the scene in Trym Torson (who has gone off to bigger things with Emperor). Frost is something that has a lot going on within the chaotic assault of music, but give yourself a handful of listens before it will become comfortable.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/1999

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Hordanes Land Split W/ Emperor

Enslaved - Hordanes Land Split W/ Emperor ©1994 Century Black
1. I Am The Black Wizards
2. Wrath Of The Tyrant
3. Night Of The Graveless Souls
4. Cosmic Keys To My Creation & Times
5. Slaget I Kogen Bortenfor
6. -Epilog
7. Slaget
8. Allfaor Ooinn
9. Balfar
10. Andi Fara
11. Prologr

This infamous split CD between two of the most notoroius Norwegian extreme metal bands is what I would call a good developmental snapshot of the two artists. Between the two, you get a solid idea of these bands when enthusiasm and energy was more important than pretension of supreme art. On the Emperor portion of the CD, their attack is only slightly marred by the production, which is somewhat fuzzy. However, I believe that the fuzz guitar sound was integral to the sound of early Emperor. Naturally, "I am the Black Wizards", which is the band's ultimate theme, is featured as the opening track. It's a little less grand than the version that appears on In the Nightside Eclipse but still quite good. The following three tracks are less interesting on a whole. The enthusiasm is intact but it lacks the atmosphere and intrigue of later Emperor.

Meanwhile, Enslaved goes about their business of their unique "Viking" inspired metal with great ability and simply blows Emperor right off this split CD. Though speedy and harsh like black metal, Enslaved's usage of varying instrumentation, orchestration of keyboards, and vocal afflections put them in a different category. Though the guitar is even fuzzier and non-distinct than Emperor, it is still effective in transmitting the emotion and intent of the song. There is a certain relevance to Bathory in the theme and atmosphere of the album, though Enslaved doesn't tangibly have much else in common with them. Regardless, their complex and epic songs make this split CD a must-have.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/1999

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Enslaved - Eld ©1997 Osmose
1. 793 (Slaget Om Lindisfarne)
2. Hordalendingen
3. Alfablot
4. Kvasirs Blod
5. For Lenge Siden
6. Glemt
7. Eld

The nice thing about Viking metal is that it's all about being epic and grand. Bathory's Hammerheart era was possibly the epitome and definition of the style and anything even attempting to annoint itself Viking metal must at least nod a head to Quorthon. Norway's Enslaved does just that. While not sonically the same as Bathory in most respects, Enslaved's lengthy compositions reflect the stark mood of their forefathers. The opening track "793 (Slaget om lindisfarne)" is a downright majestic, awesome piece of work that employs subtle keyboards, guitars riding on the hoofbeats of a thousand warrior horses (a sure sign you're listening to Viking metal), and vocals that range from haunting chants to black metal screams. Eld is worth picking up on that song along. But worry not, the rest of the album is either above average or excellent as well. "Kvasirs Blod", "Hordalendingen" and "Glemdt" are standard black metal with rapid riffing, quite a few clever and enticing guitar lines, and the haunting vocals. Enslaved, who have done a split with fellow Norsemen Emperor, are in fact quite closely related to the latter's musical output, relying perhaps a bit less on Emperor's tendency to create symphonic madness. I'm certain that soon after listening to this album, you'll be full of ambitions to plunder shores afar.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 09/1998

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Enslaved - Blodhemn ©1998 Osmose
1. Intro "Audhumla; Birth Of The Worlds"
2. I Lenker Til Ragnarok (In Chains Until Ragnarok)
3. Urtical Gods
4. Ansuz Astral
5. Nidengaslakt
6. Eit Auga Til Mimir (An Eye For Mimir)
7. Blodhemn (Vengeance In Blood)
8. Brisinghamen
9. Suttungs Mjød (Suttungs Mead)

Without much fanfare or quite the attention of other black metal bands whose names start with the letter E, Enslaved has gone about their business of writing truly solid and powerful black metal. Enslaved themselves prefer not to call themselves black metal but as a description of their current output, it's fairly accurate. Unlike the epic, Viking-esque Eld, Blodhemn is a straight-for-the-jugular assault of warp-speed riffing and aggressive drumming. The riffs are truly a remarkable specimen as the production allows for the just correct amount of clarity without sounding polished at all. Speedy and melodic, yet harsh and uncompromising, nearly every one of these songs excel simply due to the excellent guitar work. Generally much of the vocal work is Grutle Kjellson's torn throat screaming with much less of the monk chants of previous outings. There are some of the Viking-esque chants here and there that add variety and keep the songs lively, but they are very smartly sprinkled about. But the best thing about this album is that it proves there still is life to hyperspeed black metal. Too many bands are unable to retain song clarity while operating on overdrive. Enslaved is exceptionally talented in that regard. "Urtical Gods" moves along at breakneck speed, yet rather than being a blur of noise, it is a gripping and exciting piece of work that best demonstrates Enslaved's abilities. I think the addition of Dirge Rep (from Gehenna) on drums has greatly enhanced Enslaved's ability. It would be quite interesting to watch this man work the kit live as he is truly a dervish on the drums. Blodhemn is possibly one of the most overlooked releases in recent months. With the overall letdown people are having with some other band whose name starts with E, it needs to be stated that Enslaved is ready and primed to take a spot on the black metal elite.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 05/1999

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Mardraum: Beyond The Within

Enslaved - Mardraum: Beyond The Within ©2000 Necropolis
1. Større Enn Tid - Tyngre Enn Natt
2. Daudningekvida
3. Entrance - Escape
4. Ormgard
5. Æges Draum
6. Mardraum
7. Det Endelege Riket
8. Ormgard II - Kvalt I Kysk Høgsong
9. Krigaren Eg Ikkje Kjende
10. Stjerneheimen
11. Frøyas Smykke

What's going on here? Looks like we're being approached by a new breed known as the urban cyber-vikings! They've pillaged the vaults of über-riffs and quality metal, and ought to be heading for a CD-player near you!

As you might've guessed by my intro, on Mardraum Enslaved take yet another step away from their viking-roots. Some of the influences are still there, like the somewhat peculiar "epic" vocals that appear from time to time, some lyrical themes and of course the grandiose atmosphere of the music. But this time it seems like the guys have been dipping their wings into some of the psychedelic waters that many bands of the 70's wet their throats at, not to mention taking a long good listen to their old Voivod records.

In fact, "Entrance - Escape" almost sounds like a long-lost song from Voivod's Nothingface sessions. But no, this is still distinctly Enslaved. And it's an Enslaved that most certainly hasn't given up exploring their music. Atypical songstructures, exploration of new chords, instead of holding on to the "tried and true" powerchords and an overall sense of excitement really makes for a great album.

There is still a lot left from the black metal of old, but mixed in with all these new elements we get an album that truly sticks out in today's scene, proving that there's still much to be explored out there, even if you stick with just a good ol' Guitars, Drums, Bass and Vocals line-up. And this is one of the few albums where some riffs come out and just make me wonder how the hell they came up with THAT! There's definitely no rehashed 'Sabbath-riffing.

In other words, if you liked Enslaved in the past, you most likely will still like this. And if you're anything like me, it might even become your favorite Enslaved album. But this also offers something new, and should thus also be of interest to people who have not been too excited by previous Enslaved outings.

Review by Øystein H-O

Review date: 01/2001

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Below The Lights

Enslaved - Below The Lights ©2003 Osmose/The End Records
1. As Fire Swept Clean The Earth
2. The Dead Stare
3. The Crossing
4. Queen Of Night
5. Havenless
6. Ridicule Swarm
7. A Darker Place

For the past two releases, Enslaved has made quite the living playing abruptly bizarre, twisted black metal that made more than a few heads spin at the dizzying structural arrays flung about by the Norwegian outfit. In fact, their last release, Monumension, was one of those releases that absolutely befuddled me to the point where I never quite grasped their concepts. However, Enslaved has come roaring back with a fantastic new record in Below the Lights. This release sees yet more lineup changes, with a new lead guitarist and drummer Dirge Rep sticking around for session duties before vacating the building. However, the creative duo of Ivar P. and Grutle Kjellson proves that lineup changes are easily overcome as this is easily the band's most impressive outing since Blodhemn.

Below the Lights is a considerably easier product to consume than their past two albums. The abrupt right and left turns are still strictly in place on the CD, but the fluidity of the song arrangements allows for things to gel in a smoother fashion. There's a sense of "back to the basics" for the album, but it's hardly a deliberate withdrawal into an older style. Rather, Enslaved seems to have said, "Okay, we like old thrash, we love black metal and it looks like we've turned out to be quite the proficient musicians. Let's jam and see what happens." As a result, the songs are epic and sprawling, yet avoid bogging down in tepid ideas. The vocals are used sparingly, but do switch between the snarly raspiness and clean chanting that has become Kjellson's trademark over the years. The music offers great twists and turns, often diving into lengthy passages that simply tear things asunder. "The Dead Stare" uses an incredibly simple, but fantastically successful riff with a touch of 70s keyboards to create an excellent jam. Enslaved smartly avoids showing exactly how good these guys have gotten on their instruments and instead show their talents in the songwriting showcase.

Flat out, Below the Lights is by far one of the best metal albums of 2003. Without resorting to any gimmicks beyond excellency through creativity, Enslaved has put out one of the most enjoyable records in their catalogue. I have no idea why you're still reading this review when you could be getting yourself a copy of the actual CD. Up, you! Begone!

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 05/2003

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The Sleeping Gods EP

Enslaved - The Sleeping Gods EP ©2011 Scion A/V
1. Heimvegen
2. Alu Misyrki
3. Synthesis
4. Nordlys
5. The Sleeping Gods

One should give a lot of credit to Enslaved for being one of the longest running Norwegian bands who came from the black metal eruption in the early 90s. Morever, they deserve considerably more credit for being known more for their generally excellent musical output rather than outlandish press statements or mischief involving flammables and old wooden structures. Enslaved has done a reasonable amount of musical exploration, particularly from 2000 onwards where they explored the hinterlands of "progressive rock". I hesitate to use that word since most so-called progressive bands are those who have technically great musical chops, but end up playing some of the most self indulgent, tame music known to mankind. These bands suck, except with better scales. Anyhow, Enslaved's musical progression was mostly based on some challenging song structure ideas within the context of their origins, and ultimately exploring how to include classic atmosphere in their music. The 00s was a fairly prolific decade for them, although I've been remiss on keeping up with reviews of their output.

In 2011, Enslaved, with the help of Scion A/V, decided to provide their fans with a little treat in the form of a free downloadable EP. The Sleeping Gods is a half hour, five song excursion that continues the journey for the band. Just because it's a free download doesn't mean the fans have been given a couple demo outtakes and a techno remix of Grutle Kjellson mumbling after a few too many beers. Instead, The Sleeping Gods is a rather solid release that offers a slightly different take on Enslaved's sound. "Alu Misryki" has a black metal punk feel (think of some recent Darkthrone, except recorded by sober and more competent musicians) while "Synthesis" is an ambient piece. "Nordlys" is a straight forward atmospheric rocker. Aside from some of the vocals, the black metal aspect is somewhat muted throughout the EP, although this hardly to its detriment.

For those who have been dutifully keeping up with Enslaved over the past ten or twelve years, The Sleeping Gods is a solid addition to the Enslaved discography. The fact that the price is free certainly sweetens the deal. The good news about this EP is even if it weren't available as a free download, it'd be worth any fan's time to track it down as it's a rather solid half hour of music.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2012

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Enslaved - RIITIIR ©2012 Nuclear Blast
1. Thoughts Like Hammers
2. Death In the Eyes of Dawn
3. Veilburner
4. Roots of the Mountain
5. Riitiir
6. Materal
7. Storms of Memories
8. Forsaken

It's obvious to even casual metal fans that out of all the early Norwegian black metal bands, Enslaved has become the most enduring act over the past two decades. They seemed to have wisely bypassed much of the over the top extracurricular and invested their energies into musical exploration throughout their existence. As most fans know, their studio albums have both retained aspects of their original black metal sounds while incorporating elements from prog rock and more classic heavy metal sounds. Admittedly, use of a keyboard automatically translates into "prog rock influence", but people seem to understand what we're talking about with the usage of the tag.

RIITIIR continues down the path of mixing both non black metal influence with their trademark growly vocals and overall adventurous approach to music. There is a bit of a tendency on this album for Enslaved to reel back some of the complexity that has occasionally popped up over the past decade and in many passages they stick to very straight forward rhythms and arrangements. The album rarely approaches uber-technical aspects. The songs tend to be fairly long (the shortest is five and a half minutes, but most range much longer than that), yet they never feel overly busy or find the band just throwing various parts together and calling it a song.

Overall, RIITIIR has both been enjoyable and somewhat pedestrian, depending on my mood when listening. I would safely say it does not rank as their best album ever (which should be self evident considering how long this band's career has been so far), but it is also far from a disappointment. Fans who have enjoyed the ride, particularly over the past decade, will find enough good material on this album to make it a worthwhile addition to the Enslaved collection.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 05/2013

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