With a discography to die for, our favourite black metal innovators, Enslaved, are back and they have something new hiding up their wizard sleeves. Here, on their fourteenth long-player, they exercise their love for the Norse god of War, Odin, and they sem hell-bent on honouring his notorious wanderlust.
For their opener, “Storm Son”, the band usher us gently onto their battlefield with a series of emotive sound effects, before launching into eleven minutes of weaving sinuous guitar riffery that rides over abrasive blackened hilltops and down into soft, richly-decorated auditory valleys. It’s a track that burns with originality, is excitingly honest and heart-breakingly beautiful in its organic design.
The game is clearly afoot but they aren’t playing ball and quickly settle back into playing something approximating their more traditional sound for “The River’s Mouth”. New keyboardist and clean vocalist Håkon Vinje really rises to the fore in this tumbling, galloping song providing a wonderfully soothing, yet catchy ethereal chorus and a craftily woven mesh of warm synth.
With the prog-heavy, distorted organ sounds of “Sacred Horse” and the eerily psychedelic wash of “Axis Of The World” dragging us once again through the mill, you begin to get a sense of this new manic force driving the ideas machine. It is clear that Vinje has played a major role in the creation of this scattergun collection of sonic thrusts.
The band wrap things up with “Hiindsiight” proving to be the moody, doom-laden moment to release the saxophone solos of Kjetil Møster. As he lets forth a torrent of apocalyptic squeals and sharp blasts it becomes clear that we are once more in the grip of another masterful work from these legendary Norwegians. Even if it struggles to reach the insane emotional peaks of Riitiir or the ferocious black metal crush of Eld, it still slots easily into their increasingly unsurpassable back catalogue.
(8/10 John Skibeat)