No-one wants to be a stick in the mud, an armchair general, a prisoner of the past.
I like it that bands try new things, develop, keep themselves vital.
But the facts, when it comes to Enslaved, are pretty clear.
They just used to be much, much better. And I’m not talking aeons ago. I mean up until samey-ness set in with “Riitir” and, worse, “In Times”.
They’ve been treading the same icy, moonlit water, and two or three tracks aside ‘E’ does little to remedy the creative deficit.
Their recent shows with Opeth were roundly viewed as a success, even with the all too brief set length. Much of the praise was for opening with ‘Storm Son’, which also opens this new album.
It’s unarguably a new classic – one of the very best songs they’ve ever written. It’s denouement is unforgettable, with that woomph – ba- da- da- da -da -da- da riff just flattening all before it with a thundercrack of power.
After that though, one really has to ask how much extra this album brings to the party that isnt thoroughly bettered by earlier work of the ‘Isa’, ‘Runn’ and ‘Vertebrae’ period.
‘The Rivers Mouth’ is plain old okay by the above standards. It feels very much a reprise of their long established formula. I like the wind tunnel chill at the end of it for sure: but we’ve heard it before.
Much more impressive is ‘Sacred Horse’, which, while having a lick run through it that sounds suspiciously close to the Rolling Stones’ ‘Paint It Black’, nonetheless is pretty colossal.
It’s a track that has a definite North East European feel about it in the way that you might expect of Arkona, Negura Bunget or Skyforger – it sounds wonderfully evocative, as though a tale spun in a firelit cabin as the snow drifts down outside. Absolutely wonderful.
The Deep Song
The rest though, I’m just completely unsure about.
The odd bounce of ‘Axis Of Worlds’ just seems strange, and all the proggy Hammond and fizzy guitar in the world doesn’t really change the fact that it’s a fairly dull song. Again, it’s a feel that Enslaved have reached for better before.
‘Feathers Of Eolh’ with its syncopated drum beat is just plain boring and goes nowhere meaningful. It’s like they know they’ve to do a ‘deep’ song, and this is what’s been hashed out in a few jams.
It’s kind of like the place Katatonia were in for about a decade before they re-discovered themselves. There’s a formula – a good formula, we all know – and the band have forgotten how to do anything else, standout tracks aside.
For that, read ‘Hiindsiight’ (in which Enslaved are merely the latest Norwegian band to decide a Saxophone is essential), and the rather dull ‘Djupet’ that seems another dragged out jam, albeit made more interesting by some guitar that sounds borrowed from countrymen Virus.
And a Royksopp Cover
I don’t know if it should be considered part of the album proper or not, but the Royksopp cover ‘What Else Is There’ is just pure, unadulterated shit; fine for your practice room or a b-side lads, but there’s no way a cack pop cover like that should come under an Enslaved album banner.
Production wise it’s ok; the drum sound though is clunky, with the snare in particular sounding awfully heavy handed. A little deft airiness here wouldn’t have gone amiss.
As a decades long fan I appreciate what they’re trying to do. I’m heartened too that they can still crack out tracks like ‘Storm Son’, which is a plainly remarkable piece of music.
The other value in here seems very diffuse and occasional; good strong stuff, from time to time, but you have to wade through a fair dose of Enslaved-on-Auto to get at it.
3.3 / 5 – Earl Grey ::: 04/12/17