Enslaved is one of my favorite bands so reviewing any of their releases definitely comes with a very heavy bias. They are a VERY consistent band. Album to album, they just deliver. And this is even with various lineup changes. The new album “Heimdal” finds them with the same lineup as their last album “Utgard.” However, this album is not really the same as that one. If anything, the heavier parts on “Heimdal” rival any of their heaviest moments. “Utgard” had a more melodic tone to it.
This doesn’t mean that “Heimdal” doesn’t have plenty of epic melodic moments. They are always countered by plenty of pounding passages. The lead track “Behind the Mirror” starts out with a boat on the water and the sound of a horn blowing loudly. The vikings are coming. And the song itself is both abrasive and still sweeping. The second track “Congelia” is about as intense as Enslaved have ever been. Then you have songs like “Forest Dweller” and “Kingdom” that have sonic counterpoints. The heavy parts make the melodic parts sound even more melodic.
It’s cool that they included “Caravans To The Outer Worlds” on the album (it was released on an EP previously) and it fits both the sound and concept of the album perfectly. The bonus track “Gangandi” like the rest of the album has a lot going on musically and instrumentally. Enslaved have always had a ton of musical layers to their songs but there is a LOT going on here. I find myself saying “wait, what was that?” a lot. The title track closes out the album in typical epic fashion. It’s a heavy track but even the synths are heavy! And then it just goes off. The ending is superb.
The band sound amazing. I definitely think they keep improving vocally. Grutle is still spitting venom like he always has and has lost nothing with his harsh vocals. And the addition of drummer Iver Sandøy and his clean vocals is still a masterstroke. He can SING. And yes he’s a great drummer too. This allows keyboardist Håkon Vinje to be his backing vocalist, a role he is better fit for. This is why this could be the band’s strongest lineup yet.
How good is “Heimdal”? This is a good question. Usually I know right away how much I love an Enslaved album. “Heimdal” isn’t making it that easy which I actually like, it will take many more listens to figure out everything that is going on here. “Heimdal” is complex, brutal, beautiful and NOT a simple listen. This is a challenge that all Enslaved fans will be up for. It’s awesome that Enslaved are still able to surprise the listener and push the envelope of progressive metal.
Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: 3 March 2023
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