Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Enslaved - E (2017)

Enslaved is back with another record, entitled... "E"? What does it mean? It can't be a new hipster way of self-titling your albums, that would just be silly. So what does it stand for? Ecstacy? Elk? Egonometry? I do not know, and I should not really care, but somehow I still do. Anyway, Enslaved is one of the most consistent bands out there, so let us put that short, but baffling, name aside, and find out if the band continue their streak of really good records.

Now, it has been only two years since the Norwegians released the last record, the excellent "In Times" from 2015, so maybe it is fair to not expect a double album or so, but we do only get 6 songs on "E". Sure, those songs amass to a play time of around 50 minutes, but 6 songs is still the bare minimum to what I think is the amount of songs an album should have. The band could have easily put in one or two more tracks, but it is ultimately the fact that these 6 songs do not have enough meat in them to justify a full release, something I think Dream Theater did a lot better with their own 6 track album, "Black Clouds & Silver Linings".

Even so, we do still get what we would expect from Enslaved in this part of their career, a deep progressive record with tons of atmosphere and of course some call backs to their early career. The band is taking steps to become more and more like their country neighbours Opeth (which I think is most notable in "Axis of The Worlds"), but they are not quite there yet, they still do their own thing and does so really well. It is the sound that you would expect from Enslaved, but  exactly how it sounds and what path it takes you is still a mystery, keeping your interest level at an high close to all the time. So it is not a surprising album, but it still has surprises in it.

Its biggest strength could be that it is a long lasting album, that grows with every listen. All the sweeping melodies and little details takes some time to fully understand and appreciate. A song like "Hiindsiight" did not really grab a hold of me in the beginning, but its beautiful mood and looming saxophone (by Kjetil Møster) does enhance the feelings quite a bit, making it the perfect final song of the record. And the overall quality and consistency of "E" is really impressive, with no loose threads anywhere to be seen. Even a slightly different song like "The River's Mouth", the most up tempo song on "E", feels like it belongs in the family

But as said before, it is kind of short, and the two bonus tracks ("Djupet" and a Röyksopp cover of "What Else Is There") just does not add anything special, so I do not feel fully satisfied in the end. There is no question about the quality of "E", there is a lot of it, and it is another great progressive metal release from this year, but I do not think that I will look back at this album as one of the band's strongest efforts. There is a chance that a lot of people will enjoy this one more than "In Times", but I would take "In Times" any day, just because it is more memorable and had some killer tracks (still love the hell out of "One Thousand Years of Rain"). "E" is most certainly more consistent, but to me, it lacks something special. It is still a good record that I highly recommend, but I do think there are better Enslaved records out there, records that need more than a single letter for a name.

Songs worthy of recognition: The River's Mouth, Feathers of Eolh, Hiindsiight

Rating: 7,5/10 Storm Sons

More reviews of Enslaved:
In Times

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