ENSLAVED — Monumension

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ENSLAVED - Monumension cover
4.22 | 29 ratings | 5 reviews
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Album · 2001

Filed under Black Metal


1. Convoys to Nothingness (7:58)
2. The Voices (6:07)
3. Vision: Sphere of the Elements - A Monument Part II (4:58)
4. Hollow Inside (5:38)
5. The Cromlech Gate (6:55)
6. Enemy I (5:16)
7. Smirr (4:26)
8. The Sleep: Floating Diversity - A Monument Part III (8:13)
9. Outro: Self - Zero (3:08)
10. Sigmundskvadet (feat. HOV and Trygve Mathiesen) (6:56)

Total Time: 59:38


Ivar Bjørnson: Guitar, Keyboards
Grutle Kjellson: Bass, Vocals
Richard Kronheim: Guitar
Dirge Rep: Drums

Guest musicians:
Trygve Mathiesen - Lead vocals on "Hollow Inside"
Dennis Reksten - MiniMoog, Vocoder, synths/effects.

"Sigmundskvadet" performed by HOV:
Lead vocals: Trygve Mathiesen
Tribal Choir: Kai "Skjegg" Lie, Dirge Rep, R Kronheim, Grutle Kjellson, Ivar

About this release

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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Exciting. This is, in a word, how I would describe Monumension, the 6th album of Norwegian Viking metal heavyweights Enslaved. Marking their 10th anniversary as a band, the album was the fruit of 1 month spent in the recording studio experimenting with song structures and arrangements, as the Norse were determined to stretch the boundaries of their sound beyond their black/death origins, continuing and amplifying the metamorphosis that they had started on previous records. And although Monumension is not yet a beautiful butterfly that has completely left the chrysalis, it shows flashes of Enslaved’s immense potential that the band will fully bring to fruition in later records.

The core idea at the heart of the album is simple: genre-bending experimentation. The roots of Enslaved’s sound are firmly set in extreme black/death metal, with fast-paced, aggressive riffs, brutal drumming, and lacerating growls. From early on, the band had started incorporating into their sound Nordic folk music influences, drawing heavily from Viking cultural and religious heritage. On Monumension, Enslaved further weave into their music influences from thrash and classic metal, as well as marked 1970s progressive rock aesthetics. The legacy of bands like Pink Floyd and King Crimson is apparent throughout the record and especially on tracks like “Convoys to Nothingness”, “Hollow Inside” (whose first half is almost an homage to Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd), “The Sleep: Floating Diversity - A Monument Part III” and “Outro: Self-Zero”. Elongated and meandering song structures, psychedelic vibes, Hammond organs, vocoders and other strange sonic experiments clash with double-bass drumming, growls and razor-sharp guitar tremolos, conjuring up a world within a world, disorientating the listeners and leaving them breathless.

It’s an alluring voyage the one that Enslaved invite the listeners to embark on. It’s not a voyage that everyone will enjoy. And there’s plenty of bumps and bruises along the road, as the Norwegians are still trying to find their feet and the sonic experiments are not always successful and occasionally backfire, like on the chaotic “Enemy I” or the unmemorable “Smirr”. But when the genius strikes, the music turns to gold and I am left in awe of the sheer brilliance of the ideas Enslaved put together on tracks like “Convoys to Nothingness”, “The Voices”, “Hollow Inside”, “The Cromlech Gate” and “The Sleep”.

But it’s the raw sense of fearless experimentation that is truly astonishing here. Other bands, with a similar musical heritage as Enslaved, were treading similar waters in those years, like Borknagar or Arcturus. With this album Enslaved outclasses the competition, not because Monumension is necessarily a superior product, but because of its boldness and audacity that leave me breathless and excited about this band still today, more than 20 years after the album’s initial release.
Following the dabblings in progressive influences on the preceding Mardraum, Monumension finds Enslaved diving head-first into the prog-black metal direction which they've persisted in to this day, with marvelous results. It would not be too much of a stretch to suggest that all their subsequent studio albums have essentially been refinements and embellishments on the advances made here - and that's no bad thing, because the musical universe they open up here (spanning the full distance from prog metal to black metal) contains near-endless variety.

Aside from the tacked-on bonus track Sigmundskvadet (which isn't so much as an Enslaved track as a HOV track with the members of Enslaved joining in with the choir), the album is presented entirely in English, representing a decisive shift from the all-Vikings-all-the-time stylings of earlier Enslaved and opening up new thematic dimensions for the band. The album as a whole is a fabulous accomplishment and deserves to be in any prog metal or black metal collection.
Conor Fynes
'Monumension' - Enslaved (8/10)

On their fifth album 'Mardraum', Norwegian black metal act Enslaved hinted that they were finally breaking out of the mundane viking metal sound that they had dabbled with on their third and fourth records. This was a move that I very much supported, although as far as 'Mardraum' went, it felt more like a halfstep in the right direction, rather than a proper destination. 'Mardraum' is now considered by some to be the band's greatest album, but I would argue that the sixth record 'Monumension' took what they tried to do on 'Mardraum', and took it to a new degree. Refining parts of their sound that were underwhelming or a little too raw, Enslaved maintains a thrashy black metal edge here, but contrasts it with psychedelic prog rock. The result is a spacey and exciting journey that still lacks the touch of the later albums, but nurtures the same adventurous heart and spirit involved.

'Monumension' is Enslaved's most underrated album, and for good reason; it's locked between some of the band's most acclaimed achievements; 'Mardraum', 'Between The Lights', and finally 'Isa', where Enslaved's sound would get a much more professional do-over. While I cannot consider 'Monumension' to be the greatest thing that Enslaved have done- that honour will likely always rest with 'Vertebrae'- this would be the first time in Enslaved's career where they were finally making good use of their progressive inclinations. Before, I found Enslaved's moderate experimentation in psychedelia and 'epic' composition to be somewhat mixed in result. Finally, the psychedelic sounds are taking a more deserving presence in the sound, sometimes here with entire tracks being devoted to the pursuit of mellow space-outs. The clean vocals would never sound so good for Enslaved as they do here, but unlike 'Isa', there is still enough of an organic feel to the production and performance to make the album feel alive.

The heavier elements of Enslaved are much more familiar for the band, being more or less on par with the work they were doing on 'Mardraum'. This is certainly not the Norwegian black metal of the early 90's playing; while the vocal rasps are certainly rooted in that style, the riffs here are much more technical than anything that was coming out of Norway a decade earlier; it is nice to see how the genre had progressed over that time. One thing that still plagues Enslaved's sound at this point however is the sense of album cohesion; whether it was simply a lacking in studio flair or otherwise, 'Monumension' still gives me that somewhat underwhelming sense of continuity that most of Enslaved's music has; the songs in themselves are quite good, but the space in between them only serves to derail what is otherwise an excellent experience. It's still a little rough around the edges, but 'Monumension' is an album that shouldn't be missed by anyone looking to explore what this band is all about; while 'Mardraum' hinted at what the progressive Enslaved would sound like, 'Monumension' would go to realize the vision.
"Monumension" is the 6th full-length studio album by Norwegian black metal act Enslaved. The band´s last album "Mardraum: Beyond the Within (2000)" was enjoyable to these ears but lacked the final touch to earn the excellent mark. "Monumension" pretty much continues down about the same path. With some improvement and innovation of the band´s sound though.

The music is aggressive black metal with lots of nods towards the blackened part of the eighties thrash/ heavy metal scene. bands like Celtic Frost and Possessed often comes to mind. There´s an epic element to Enslaved´s sound on "Monumension" that sets them apart from that scene though. The vocals are raspy and aggressive most of the time but guest musician Trygve Mathiesen adds some clean vocals to the tracks "Hollow Inside" and "Sigmundskvadet". There are also occassional clean vocals featured in other tracks on the album, which works great for the variation. In addition to guitars, bass and drums there are also various synths on the album courtesy of guest musician Dennis Reksten. Tracks like "Convoys to Nothingness", "Hollow Inside", "The Cromlech Gate" and "The Sleep: Floating Diversity - A Monument Part III" all feature progressive elements that give Enslaved their unique sound. The retro 70s progressive rock influence, that the band would embrace further on later releases, has begun to creep more and more into their music.

The production is powerful and aggressive.

"Monumension" is another solid effort by Enslaved. "Monumension" is, just like "Mardraum: Beyond the Within", a transitional album of sorts. The band stay rooted in their black metal past yet incorporate progressive rock elements to that sound. A 3.5 star rating is deserved. This one might get a 4 star rating in time though. I sense this could grow on me.
Monumension is another impressive Enslaved album, be it a rather weird one with a very creepy atmosphere. It’s an enormous step away from their black metal roots and it couldn’t be more different from the fury of the preceding album Mardraum.

The music has become very experimental, incorporating uncanny organ sounds and lots of guitar effects like the chorused opening bars of the epic monster Convoys to Nothingness, a song that is still close to the previous album. The following track adds entirely different elements to the Enslaved sound. After its black metal opening, The Voices has that typical groovy Voivod-styled riff (around minute 1) that Enslaved would explore ad infinitum on the ensuing albums.

The songs have become very adventurous and unpredictable, The Sleep is a certain highlight in their new-found sound. The album ends with a strong Viking chant that they performed together with a number of guests, an occasional gathering fittingly baptized ‘Tribal Choir’.

This album should fit my taste perfectly but somehow I miss something. On most listens I enjoy it, but at other times it appears studied and sought-after. The spontaneity seems to have disappeared from this music. It's a flaw the appears in varying degrees throughout the ensuing albums. 3.5 stars

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