ENSLAVED — Frost (review)

ENSLAVED — Frost album cover Album · 1994 · Black Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Conor Fynes
'Frost' - Enslaved (7/10)

Although Enslaved has greatly shifted their sound over the course of their career, I am of the belief that they have maintained a relatively consistent flow of music, with no albums truly passing me as being 'weak'. Although I first was introduced to the music of this Norwegian black metal band through their later, progressive work, I have recently found myself more drawn towards their primitive early side. A fan and appreciator of black metal in most of its respects, I can say that even though Enslaved has clearly progressed far beyond the sound heard on early albums like 'Vikingligr Veldi' and 'Frost', they were already beyond many of their contemporaries from the start. Although taking quite a different approach to their sound than did the more drawn out debut, 'Frost' maintains a magical quality, infusing their intelligence as musicians with a rawer black metal vibe to create an album that is much closer to mainstream black metal than I am used to with Enslaved, but is every bit as enjoyable and atmospheric as the progressive material.

Suffice to say, Enslaved's debut 'Vikingligr Veldi' greatly impressed me, and went far beyond my expectations with its folky interludes, epic scope of songwriting and symphonic undertones. Although all of these things had been hinted at in the earliest demos of Enslaved, they never came close to being realized. Coming as yet another surprise to me, Enslaved has not necessarily improved their sound with the sophomore 'Frost', but rather changed it up. Instead of ten minute plus bouts of fury and synths aplenty, 'Frost' takes a more orthodox approach to the style, using more concise songwriting formats in general, and exchanging many of the beautiful acoustic interludes for more intense metal buildups. While I would generally be opposed to a band supposedly 'dumbing down' their sound in this respect, Enslaved do manage to largely pull it off, saving just enough of their distinctive qualities to set them aside from their contemporaries.

The production and execution of the music here is fairly standard for black metal of the time; low fidelity, somewhat unpolished and what most outsiders to black metal would consider weak production and mixing. 'Frost' is however, quite a bit clearer a listen than much other black metal of its time, and especially with the lighter folky elements (that are still present here), the dreamy quality that the low fidelity studio grants works really well. Many of these tracks flow together as streams of blastbeats, speedy and simplistic riffs, and rather generic snarls and rasps from Grutle Kjellson. What has always set Enslaved apart however is their ability to throw extra things into this formula. Enter an atmospheric symphonic intro track, a brooding pagan folk song with 'Yggdrasil', and 'Isuder's Dronning', a short epic of sorts with some beautiful acoustic guitars mixed in with atmospheric metal guitars, much in the style that Opeth would adopt for their careers. To top things off, Grutle experiments with clean vocals throughout the album, which usually amounts to a deep pagan chant of somewhat mixed quality. The fact alone that the band adopts these sounds into their style however is enough to distinguish Enslaved, regardless whether or not all of them are done necessarily well.

'Frost' may not stir the same excitement in me as did the debut, but the quality and enjoyment after time is more or less the same. Although Enslaved shifted their style to what some may consider to be the opposite direction of where their career has taken them, it's clear that they never let go of their inventiveness.
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