ENSLAVED — Heimdal (review)

ENSLAVED — Heimdal album cover Album · 2023 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
"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.
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adg211288 wrote:
3 months ago
I've gone through the Enslaved discography a couple of times now and have never been unimpressed by them. I only own Isa and RIITIIR on disc so far, but that will change over time. I'm really digging this latest one so far.


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