Enslaved – ”E” (Nuclear Blast records)
Two things surprised me about E: it’s Enslaved’s fourteenth release (it must be, it says so on their facebook page) and the album cover has just one letter on it and it isn’t an ”E”. The Norwegians have reached the 25 year mark, with Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson being constant and sometime only members. Obviously their sound has evolved over the years, travelling from the black metal of the early days to a more polished, layered sound today. They are the kind of band that it’s very hard to categorise, but then again why do you need to categorise them? Any band who can headline a bill by playing first because they have to catch a flight to go fishing (yes, they really did) is going to be a bit unusual to say the least.
Prior to E, my favourite Enslaved album was 2004’s Isa, and I can see the similarities between the two albums (mostly in the structure of the music) but also the differences: more than ten years have passed and anything else would imply stagnation – not something that I would ever accuse Enslaved of! This has all been crafted so well, distorted vocals lending a maniacal quality to certain passages, clean vocals giving a soaring counterpoint to others. The music twists and turns in that effortless way that tells you straight off that it’s been painstakingly created to sound inevitable.
Enslaved have previously been compared to a whole variety of other bands from a surprising cross-section of genres: all the usual culprits from the world of dark and black metal, but more interestingly also to Pink Floyd and Opeth, both bands who were never afraid to push the boundaries completely out of existence. I’d say that that trend continues here and add that “Sacred Horse” has an element almost of Gregorian chant thrown into the mix.
I was hooked into this album by the haunting opening of “Storm Son” and blown away by the beautiful layered vocals (clean and distorted). This will be one that stays on my playlist for a long time to come.