ENSLAVED — RIITIIR (review)

ENSLAVED — RIITIIR album cover Album · 2012 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
J-Man
Of all the bands in modern black metal, Enslaved seems to be the one that amazes me most with their ability to evolve with each new release while still remaining consistently excellent each step of the way. Beginning as a pure black metal act in the early nineties', the Norwegian collective went on to explore viking-themed metal for a few albums, until eventually settling on a more progressive-oriented style that they've been refining and experimenting with for the past decade or so. RIITIIR is the band's twelfth full-length observation, and was released in 2012 to virtually unchallenged acclaim within the metal community. Its rich and diverse blend of extreme and progressive styles of black metal makes for an album that is as heavy as it is intelligent, and a very worthy follow-up to 2010's stunning Axioma Ethica Odini. RIITIIR is a powerful, innovative, and overall killer album that may be Enslaved's finest masterwork to date. Amazing.

RIITIIR is a challenging album for those unacquainted with the more progressive side of black metal; with nearly seventy minutes of material split between only eight tracks, this is a long album that will probably require some additional attention from most listeners. Thankfully, there are lots of great melodies and epic compositions to suck you in from the first listen, and the immaculate arrangements continue to reveal their brilliance over many spins. The music draws extensively from atmospheric black metal and seventies' progressive rock, but RIITIIR rarely sounds exclusively like one or the other. The epic black metal atmospheres are blended seamlessly with complex progressive touches, leading to a sound that is both coherent and unique. Although black metal purists may cry foul at the progressive song structures, heavy use of Herbrand Larsen's clean vocals, and unorthodox riff structure, I think it's resulted in one of the most creative black metal observations in years. Plenty of desperate grunts and rasps, lightning-fast riffs, and whirlwind blastbeats assure that Enslaved's place as a black metal band is not a thing of the past, although the music heard on RIITIIR is very far removed from anything resembling 'pure' black metal.

"Thoughts Like Hammers" opens RIITIIR with a bang, with its crushing riffs and majestic melodies immediately setting the tone for the rest of the album. "Death In the Eyes of Dawn" is my personal favorite from RIITIIR; the contrast between Grutle Kjellson's demonic grunts and Herbrand Larsen's powerful clean voice is beautiful, and the atmospheres created by the keyboards are wonderfully epic. Other favorites of mine include "Roots of the Mountain", which has some of the most devastating black metal carnage that you'll hear on the whole album (as well as an excellent melodic chorus), the highly progressive "Storm of Memories" (the opening wouldn't sound out of place on a King Crimson record), and the closing track "Forsaken". This one strikes me as the most experimental track on the album, with its multiple sections and meditative ending pushing the boundaries of Enslaved's sound. And, really, that's what this entire album does - it brings Enslaved's sound into uncharted territory, and although the entire thing sounds distinctly like these Norwegian vikings, RIITIIR brings their style to new heights.

Enslaved are at the top of the extreme progressive metal world right now, and RIITIIR once again solidifies their spot as one of the genre's leading acts. It's wildly creative, flawless in its execution, and, most importantly of all, it contains some of the most memorable extreme metal I've heard in a while. RIITIIR is the sound of true musical visionaries, and all fans of epic progressive black metal deserve to hear this breathtaking masterpiece.
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J-Man wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Yeah, this one really is something special. It's saying something when a band can top (or even equal) a genre-defining masterpiece like Isa this far into their career IMO! It seems like Enslaved has no intention of slowing down any time soon... and I'm perfectly okay with that! :-D
UMUR wrote:
more than 2 years ago
It´s not that I didn´t expect excellence from Enslaved, but RIITIIR has blown my socks off...what a great album! I see you feel the same :-)

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