ENSLAVED — Heimdal

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ENSLAVED - Heimdal cover
4.06 | 8 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 2023


1. Behind the Mirror (6:20)
2. Congelia (8:01)
3. Forest Dweller (5:55)
4. Kingdom (5:51)
5. The Eternal Sea (7:25)
6. Caravans to the Outer Worlds (6:44)
7. Heimdal (8:06)

Total Time 48:22


- Håkon Vinje / Keyboards, Vocals (clean)
- Grutle Kjellson / Vocals (lead), Bass
- Iver Sandøy / Drums, Vocals (clean)
- Arve Isdal / Guitars (lead)
- Ivar Bjørnson / Guitars

- Eilif Gundersen / Horn

About this release

Label: Nuclear Blast
Release date: March 3rd, 2023

Heimdal [p] Downloadable, Streaming
2023 Lossless Digital Nuclear Blast

Thanks to silly puppy for the addition and umur for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

"Heimdal" is the sixteenth full-length studio album by Norwegion progressive black metal act Enslaved. The album was released through Nuclear Blast in March 2023. It´s the successor to "Utgard" from 2020, although the two full-length studio albums are bridged by the 2021 "Caravans To The Outer Worlds" EP. The title track from the EP is also included on "Heimdal". There have been no lineup changes since "Utgard", but keyboard player Håkon Vinje sings less clean vocals than before, and drummer Iver Sandøy sings more. They have relatively similar voices, so it´s not something most people may notice, but when you know, you´ll hear it.

While "Utgard" was probably one of the most polished albums in Enslaved´s discography, "Heimdal" is one of their more diverse and experimental releases. The basis of the band´s sound is still progressive black metal with Norse mythology/Viking related lyrics, but they´ve branched out for now many years and albums, and "Heimdal" adds another layer of experimentation to their sound. On most tracks you´ll find the tried and true Enslaved formula of atmopsheric yet heavy progressive riffs and rhythms, beautiful lead guitar work, epic keyboards and clean vocal passages, but also the raspy black metal screams of Grutle Kjellson and more "regular" black metal parts. But on a few tracks (or on parts on tracks) Enslaved have opted to challenge themselves and their audience.

"Congelia" is the most standout example as it´s almost like listening to a black metal version of a Hawkwind track. It´s repetitive, slow building, driving, psychedelic, and feels like it just goes on for 8 minutes with the same riff being played. That´s not entirely true though, as there are riff changes throughout the song. While the premise may sound a little tedious, "Congelia" actually turns out to be one of the most intriguing and innovative tracks on "Heimdal". Another one is the atmospheric "The Eternal Sea". "Caravans To The Outer Worlds" is a standout track too, but I already praised that song in my review of the EP where it is culled from.

"Heimdal" features a clear, detailed, but also heavy sounding production, which suits the material perfectly. Personally I found "Utgard" a bit too polished, and thankfully Enslaved have found a better balance between the epic clean parts of their music and the more heavy and raw on "Heimdal". For that you also need a sound production which allows that, and this production makes the material shine, like the best sound productions are meant to.

Upon conclusion it´s nothing less than amazing that a band like Enslaved with their sixteenth full-length studio album still sound as relevant as they did in the early 90s, when they first hit the scene. Successful musical changes throughout the years, and minor tweaks to their their sound have probably kept them alive and relevant all these years, and it´s not neccesarily a formula which works for all artists. Enslaved obviously have an open minded audience though, or have grown one over the years, who accept that they´ve grown and don´t play the same version of viking black metal they initially did. If they keep releasing quality music like this, I can´t see them stopping in the near future, and hopefully we can look forward to many, many more releases from them. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.
siLLy puPPy
ENSLAVED seems to have achieved a sort of metal immortality having survived the battle field for over three decades now and consistently releasing one quality album after another with no end in site. The band is back three years after “Utgard” for another black / Viking / progressive metal adventure with another interesting and unique variation on the progressive black metal sounds that have been churning about since 2001’s “Monumension.” HEIMDAL is the sixteenth album from this Norwegian metal powerhouse and the title refers to a god in Norse mythology who is the son of Odin and nine mothers. Now how exactly does that work? Those crazy Scandinavians!

This album features six brand spanking new tracks and the title track of the “Caravans To The Outer Worlds” EP which served as a holding place between “Utgard” and HEIMDAL. The album clocks in at 48 minutes plus and features a more beefed up black metal heft after the folk fueled “Utgard.” In fact in many ways HEIMDAL echoes back to the early 2000s sounding as if it was crafted somewhere between “Below The Lights” and “Isa.” For any diehard fan of ENSLAVED, this album won’t exactly take you somewhere completely new but rather does what virtually every ENSLAVED album exceeds at and that would be taking you on a familiar musical ride that continues the progressive black metal paradigm of the last 20 years and offers new twists and turns.

In the case of HEIMDAL we get a mix of crushing black metal guitar riffing, Grutle Kjellson’s expected raspy enunciations with the contrasting shift into clean vocals as well as a spooky atmospheric backdrop that offers some very tripped out psychedelic keyboard parts from time to time. On the proggy side of the equation HEIMDAL offers the usual interesting compositional constructs with several tracks sailing beyond the 7-minute mark with the closing title track being the longest. Still sounding like no other band on the scene, HEIMDAL chugs along with the usual black metal bombast all teased out with extended progressive expansiveness including the occasional clean vocal led acoustic strum-a-thon that makes me consider a bit of a Viking interpretation of Pink Floyd.

Perhaps the most glaring differentiation from previous works is the use of keyboards which offers some interesting contrapuntal contrasts to the usual black metal and mellower clean vocal segments. Sometimes they are straight out of the 60s psychedelic rock playbook only set to the thundering roar of Norwegian mythological narrations. Another feature that i’m not remembering very prominent in previous ENSLAVED albums is the use of call and response in the form of an all male beauty and beast tradeoff with raspy utterances ceding to clean vocal tenderness and back again. Having well kept up with 21st century standards ENSLAVED continues to imbue a stellar production job that allows all the musical motifs to shine like a diamond in the rough.

Perhaps one could accuse of ENSLAVED of playing it safe and not taking any major risks but it is quite common for well established bands to deviate from their formula only to lose their fanbase and never really recover. ENSLAVED has navigated the turbulent waters of the decades by playing its cards strategically and by offering a familiar sound while changing things up enough to keep things from being a cookie cutter approach. In other words ENSLAVED is in it for the long haul and with 16 studio albums, 4 EPs and 32 years in existence, it seems this band is in no danger of burning out any time soon and continues to releases satisfying and enthralling albums. HEIMDAL is no exception to this rule and although i was a bit underwhelmed upon first listen, a few more spins has revealed new angles to perceive. Another winner for ENSLAVED.

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