We had a rather good tribute to Emperor album earlier this year via Candlelight Records so one for Enslaved was also very welcome. The timing is good too as I am currently waiting for new album Riitiir to come through the door having been considerably blown away by our download promo of it and needing the real disc (I am never going to embrace MP3 technology). Thanks to French label Pictonian this proved a welcome diversion whilst I was waiting and is a whopping 20 track feast of covers spread over two discs and almost two and a half hours of music.
Of course with anything like this there is likely to be a mix of bands that you are well versed in and others that you are not so au fait with, to me that is one of the selling points for something such as this and it is nice hearing bands you know well covering others material and it is always good to find others you want to explore. As far as the latter type is concerned well we start off with Odem Arcanum from Germany and I certainly should be looking into this lot on the strength of what they have done with the psychedelic ‘Convoys To Nothingness.’ Keeping the track epic and mesmerizing this is one of many spirited covers staying close to the original and delivering a master class of musicianship around its ebb and flow. Some of the numbers here are obviously going to be really long and this is no exception and the somewhat personal song (according to the extensive booklet liner notes) is treated with the utmost respect as it mixes lush acoustic parts with feudal barbarity; a perfect start. Moving onto middle ground I was keen to hear what the underrated Belenos would serve up especially as they were doing one of many old classics ‘Hordalendingen.’ This one man French act put the cleave into the early era number and replicate the clean vocal aspects brilliantly, this is another cut that is totally worthy of the original. More well known territory next and Wodensthrone are a natural to be included especially as they tackle ‘Slaget I Skogen Bortenfor.’ It really is a case of one of the best UK black metal acts covering one of the best ever Norwegian black metal songs here and if you are not completely blown away by this then you are listening to the wrong sort of music. I would love to see them play this live sometime and this is a 10/10 track. However it means that following it is a bit of a task and it is a shame that Fen are doing an instrumental as ‘Resound Of Gjallahorn’ strikes as a bit of a wasted opportunity.
Sticking in England with help via Sigh’s Mirai we have The Wolves Of Avalon and the Meads of Asphodel are another natural to appear taking a slightly folk like pagan hold on ‘Essence,’ Metatron’s gnarly vocals giving things another twist slightly beyond what is expected. Darkenhold are another band I don’t really know and apparently they have a lyrical theme of castles! Fair enough ‘Allfadr Odin’ certainly storms the battlements and gets the head banging and blood pumping nicely. The classic synthesized melody of this is well handled and when it hits you should have a shit eating grin on your face about its familiarity. I am glad that this is not just another first few albums tribute though as the power of songs like ‘As Fire Swept Clean The Earth’ is certainly a song that should be tackled. Spanish band As Light Dies do so in an interesting fashion putting in spoken word sampled parts and some jaunty melodic twists, turns and string instruments that add to the song even if they do give it a slightly different flavour.
Moving onto disc two there are probably less well known bands included as far as I am concerned. The first of these I have only just started listening to due to their new album arriving but Negura Bunget offshoot Dordeduh are hardly amateurs and handle Ruun in a suitably majestic and soaring fashion. Having given the newKrakowalbum a listen and not getting into the buzz about them I was interested to hear what they would do with ‘Center’ There is nothing I can particularly put my finger on but it plods and has little warmth about it, really don’t think I am going to buy into this band. Foscor take another mid era classic ‘Return To Yggdrasil’ from ‘Isa’ and nail the gorgeous melodic weave of the song which bristles with that aforementioned warmth and atmosphere. It would appear Stagnant Waters are part French and part Norwegian and have Svein Egil ‘Zweizz’ Hatlevik in their midst. This may well explain why their number ‘Større enn Tid – Tyngre enn Natt’ is so barking, especially after a couple of more orthodox renditions prior to it courtesy of Reverence and Lux Divina. It is certainly the most removed from the original composition here with some real avant-garde madness coursing through its veins and coruscating electronic noise. I challenge anyone’s head not to be doing a Scanners impression after this!
Back on safer ground the ever dependable Vreid take ‘Lunar Force’ the vocals particularly being spot on in the rasp stakes. Finally we arrive at the track I was most concerned about and the one to close off the compilation. ‘Eld’ is probably still my favourite album and 793 (Slaget omLindisfarne) my favourite track by Enslaved. The first time I heard it I was completely blown away and wondered how ATMF band Janvs from Italy were going to fare, especially as I have not heard much at all by them. Well I have to say after a somewhat shaky start with the croons not quite fitting in for me as the track develops it wins me over and counterpoises the breathtaking brutality of the original with calmer parts well. It’s not as good as the original but all I can say is thank fuck for that, if it had been I think there would have been something wrong about it all! Oh and the flutes are particularly cool.
So in closing what’s left to say? Well if you like Enslaved you really do need this double album and you certainly get stacks of material to listen to with very little disappointment to be found. Now where is the bastard postman with Riitiir?
(8/10 Pete Woods)