Enslaved – Heimdal (Album Review)

The wheels of creation keep turning for Bergen, Norway’s eclectic purveyors of Extreme Metal, the ever-evolving Enslaved. Released back on March 3, 2023 through Nuclear Blast, album number sixteen, Heimdal, continues a legacy growing since 1991 with its gnarled roots embedded in the old school Black Metal earth of their homeland. Yet the outward branches of the creation of Vocalist/Bassist Grutle Kjellson and boyhood friend and Guitarist Ivar Bjornson are ever-searching, refusing to be chained to the boundaries from whence they came.

Heimdal, like most of the albums before it, exists in defiance of the roots of Enslaved without betraying them. And this is where the sorcery of the band lies. Many bands consciously veer from their origins, and they do so for a myriad of reasons. All you need to do is take one listen to “Forest Dweller,” with its dreaming, proggy prelude. Here, Enslaved conjures up 1970s Pink Floyd and Rush, fluttering keys and atmosphere, then weaving that into a set of torrid Black Metal riffs and ripping vocals. However, they do it all so seamlessly that you would be tempted to think ’70s Prog Rock and Black Metal were always interwoven. Also, note the Hammond-organ-esque keys, which comes in along with the harsh vocal, clean vocal interplay. In all, this is Enslaved running at thoroughbred level.

At this point, Enslaved have long achieved a creative license to wander off the path of orthodoxy in sound. They have earned the trust of their fanbase to do so, album after album, with their sincerity and loyalty only to the muse. This in mind, “Congelia” storms into being with a speed Metal foundation. Midway in, you are transported by the trance-like cadence of the song. Keyboards abound, yet their velvety sound is never left without sufficient bite.

Thereafter, “The Eternal Sea” showcases the vocal acumen of Hakon Vinje, giving us Bjornson and second Guitarist Ice Dale’s propensity for repetitive riffs; lulling (but never boring) us until the song’s speedy conclusion. This is while “Caravans to The Outer World” is yet another example of a song which drifts between considered and ethereal prog and the abandon of blackened battery.

Restless songwriting dripping with confidence, Heimdal is a magnificent addition to a stellar, enriching career, which for these veterans seems fueled by a boundless well of creative drive. This is undoubtedly going to top many a year-end album’s list for 2023. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Heimdal 5 out of 5 stars.

Enslaved – Heimdal / Nuclear Blast (2023)

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