enslaved E (double LP, £17.50)label: Nuclear Blast
Formed in Bergen, Norway in 1991, Enslaved had evolutionary zeal in their eyes from the start. Even as they emerged from the nascent Norwegian black metal scene of the early 90s, guitarist Ivar Bjornson and vocalist / bassist Grutle Kjellson demonstrated a fervently idiosyncratic approach to making extreme music. By the late 1990s the band had morphed into a wildly progressive and adventurous beast, always retaining the core, aggressive tenets of their musical roots but increasingly in thrall to the limitless possibilities that music, in its entirety, truly presents. In 2015, Enslaved released their 13th studio album, ‘In Times’. A tour-de-force of hypnotic prog intensity and scabrous, blackened pomp, it exuded an air of completion and finality that led perfectly into 2016’s extravagant celebrations, as Enslaved marked their 25th anniversary with some truly life-changing shows that explored all shadows and hidden corners in the band’s colossal catalogue. Despite rarely pausing for breath - not just as a result of Enslaved’s hectic touring schedule but also due to numerous extracurricular projects - Ivar and his comrades have somehow managed to piece together yet another full length milestone in the shape of their 14th studio effort, the elegantly titled ‘E’. Written amid a burst of creativity, grabbed at the tail end of the band’s 2016 US dates, the new album marks the majestic birth of a revitalised and newly inspired Enslaved. Against the logistical odds, a new dawn was coming. One major factor in this revered band’s new lease of creative life is the arrival of new keyboard player, Hakon Vinje, who replaces the departing Herbrand Larsen. From the grandiose, weather-beaten riff-scapes of 11-minute opener ‘Storm Son’ to the wild, psychedelic frontier squall of ‘Sacred Horse’ and the muscular, sax-powered shoegaze barrage of monstrous closer ‘Hiindsiight’, it is both a typically bold and fearless statement from this most inventive of modern metal bands and a thrilling sideways step that harnesses the spirit of old and sets it loose in a whirlwind of imagination. 14 albums and 26 years into a career that shows no signs of losing neither momentum nor its magical, effervescent creative sheen, Enslaved are once again evolving before our ears and eyes. Gatefold double vinyl features an etched fourth side.
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