Enslaved are a Norwegian progressive black metal band and this is their sixteenth album.
Following on from 2017’s E and 2020’s Utgard, Enslaved return once more with Heimdal, 48 minutes of progressive black metal. Or, probably more accurately, blackened progressive metal. Either way, Heimdall essentially continues the path that Utgard started upon, breaking new ground, while still keeping a firm eye on where the band came from.
On their latest album Enslaved have let themselves venture deeper into progressive metal territories, to great effect. The songs are layered and expressive, and aren’t afraid to say what they really feel. There’s a good mix of aggressive black metal and furious riffs set alongside atmospheric depths and mood-building dynamics, but the real emphasis on much of this material is on the progressive aspects, especially the use of keyboards, organs, and other related instruments. Heimdal really has seen the band give into their progressive inclinations in this regard.
These new songs are multifaceted explorations of blackened progressive music. Combining elements from pretty much all eras of Enslaved – from aggressive black metal to post-metal resplendence to an introspective light touch – Heimdal offers the listener a very complete, and very enjoyable, collection of tracks to dig deep into. Of course, the music leans to the more modern side of the bands sound than their more formative one, while still delivering a wide ranging number of styles, sounds, and ideas.
I like the psychedelic explorations and progressive workouts that Enslaved venture into very much, but I also like the heavier, harsher side of their sound, and I’m pleased to hear that both are well-catered to here. The band are obviously practised songwriters at this point, and these tracks are well-crafted examples of how to write engaging and rewarding music that balances a keen progressive edge with a black metal heart.
Heimdal is richly atmospheric and coloured with vivid progressive streaks, but it also has bite when it needs it. The record is a nuanced creation with a lot going on, and despite its obvious charms it’s a record that’s in it for the long haul and rewards getting to know it over time.
Very highly recommended.
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