Review: Enslaved “Utgard” [Nuclear Blast Records]

Review: Enslaved “Utgard” [Nuclear Blast Records]

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Utgard is a wonderful collection of black metal and folk songs. Enslaved’s creativity, their talent at mixing different genres together and making truly memorable tracks, are as strong as ever.

This is an album that experiments with all sorts of sounds, and shows a great sense of creativity. The basis that the music is built on is a sort of more melodic approach to Norwegian black metal that uses harsh and clean vocals in equal quantities, and then, they had various elements to it, from the choirs on the intro to the first track, Fires in the Dark, to the folky ballad parts in Sequence, the weird guitar sounds in Jettegryta and the industrial sounds of Urjotun. Then there’s also that weird title track that is also an interlude, a short spoken word track with an industrial backing instrumental.

The album also switches between different moods and levels of heaviness. Sequence alternates between black metal and mellow folky parts, Fires in the Dark starts off with the choir before going turning into a melodic black metal track, but Jettegryta, the track right after it, is much heavier while experimenting with strange guitar sounds during the solo. Homebound is much heavier and faster, clearly going for an epic vibe. The folk-inspired parts are also more melancholic, creating a soft and mellow, and slightly cold atmosphere. If that album could be associated with a season and a temperature, it would be a nice cold and eerie autumn.

Because this album really succeeds at creating the atmosphere and moods its going for. It’s convincing at all the styles and moods that it uses, except maybe the industrial experimentations on Urjotun. Most importantly, everything sounds good about it, the melodies, the guitars that always know when to be heavy and when to be more melodic, and also the ever-changing vocals, from raspy growls to softer singing, angry, almost power metal-like singing but with a deeper tone, and slightly menacing spoken word. Even if the last tracks are not quite as creative or memorable as the previous ones, and if Urjotun gets better after a few listens but sounds somewhat bewildering at first, that album is a real joy to listen to.

Time to make an embarrassing confession: Enslaved is a band I had heard about, I had read descriptions of what their musical style was like, but for some reasons, I never really took the time to listen to them. Luckily, this album was a pretty good first impression, and I’m sure that long-time fans will not be disappointed. If you’re in the mood for a dark metal album with heavy and mellow parts, lots of experimentations and some damn good songs (and I’ll always be in the mood for that), I really recommend this one. What a great way to start the month of October.

Release date: October 2nd, 2020

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