Over 30 years and 16 albums into Enslaved’s career brings us to Heimdal, a reference to the god at the gateway of Asgard and keeper of the Bifrost.Perhaps Enslaved see their newest venture as more than another new entry into their lexicon, one that has included crucial albums of that have juxtaposed Norse mythos with black metal since their outset.
Over the last 20 years they have been gradually transitioning to become more progressive, yet not sacrificing their place as an extreme metal band. 2020’s Utgard, their most recent album, marked a return to form for the band, so hopes are high for Heimdal.
“Behind the Mirror” is the quintessential Enslaved song with its proper marriage of black metal atmosphere, sprinkled with progressive touches via various keyboard effects, plus the back and forth dueling vocals from Grutle Kjellson’s harsh and Hakon Vinje’s cleans. It’s a delicate balance, but exactly what fans adore. “Forest Dweller” is a slow build; it starts with clean vocals as the subtlety of the song builds until chaos is unleashed. The symmetric pattern of this track eventually brings the listener back to perdition, giving credence to the expert level song writing on display. “Kingdom” is the inverse of the prior track as the listener is met with furious guitar playing before the clean vocals and rasps come to blows yet again. It doesn’t matter where it starts or ends, but the ride you go on while listening.
Closing things out is the title track with its synthesizer to kick things off as it wobbles around until Kjellson signals his arrival with furious aplomb. Ice Dale’s leads soar next to Kjellson’s electronic work and Iver Sandoy’s drums pound in slow-moving unison, while the quiet sections build the level of atmosphere you come to expect from Enslaved. The drums pick things up after the slow down acting as a bridge for the album’s final movement and a fitting close.
This is the sound of a band continuing to perfect their craft without sacrificing their musical identity. Heimdal is a new classic to judge the band’s future by, using the past to inspire their future, precisely straddling the line between beauty and extremity along with black and progressive metal.
(released March 3, 2023 on Nuclear Blast)
Heavy Music HQ Rating:
Watch Enslaved – “Forest Dweller” Video