Enslaved – E (Review)

EnslavedEnslaved are a Norwegian progressive black metal band and this is their fourteenth album.

Enslaved have put out so much quality music over the years it’s no wonder that they’re one of many people’s favourite bands, (including mine); they have more than earned that privileged.

With a new, and obviously talented, keyboardist, this also means that the clean vocals are different on this album as he provides these too. However, his voice is similar enough to the old vocalist’s impressive singing that he slots right into the mix, while still being different and individual enough to have his own take on the Enslaved style.

The difference in performance regarding the clean vocals, not only in delivery, but arrangement, is simply one aspect of a slight shift in sound on this newest Enslaved album, one that sees the band sounding creatively invigorated and hungry once more.

It’s tempting to accredit this new member with introducing a certain amount of revitalisation and rejuvenation to Enslaved, as E is the sound of a band refreshed and vibrant. Who knows, maybe there’s truth to this? Either way, E, like many Enslaved albums, takes the band’s style that they have slowly cultivated and cared for over the years and develops it further, pushing deeper into progressive and post-black metal territories.

These new songs sound somehow brighter and more positive, (in some ways), than much of Enslaved’s work. The band have frequently explored resplendent melodies and introspective soundscapes, but now seem to have found a greater freedom to do this. The familiar core of the band that they have worked so hard to refine over the years is intact and very well, of course, and E sits nicely in their catalogue as a natural progression from 2015’s In Times, but it’s clear that the band haven’t yet said everything they want to. E is the latest step in new explorations to come.

There’s a certain openness to this new music that draws the listener in. Enslaved have always had this quality, but rarely has it been so laid bare for all to see. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future we end up viewing E as a transitional record, between the band’s previous progressive black metal and some as-yet unknown version, where the black metal elements are marginalised further, and the progressive and post- elements are really brought to the fore. This is apparent on E, but it’s not fully there yet. I could easily be wrong, of course, as I can also imagine a scenario where the band ramp up the blackened aggression, while still exploring greater progressive heights that are firmly embedded into this. Whatever they do, I’ll be eagerly awaiting it, as Enslaved remain one of the best bands out there.

An essential listen.

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