Enslaved – E

Cover artwork hand-painted by the Norwegian artist Truls Espedal

Of course, after so many years, the excitement is already there as soon as a new Enslaved release is announced.  They continue to surprise though, and digging in to their fourteenth studio album, “E“, was nothing short of delightful.  Just one track in – the below single, “Storm Son” – and new listeners will be captivated and old fans pleased at an act that has delivered on the promises of their own evolution.  Dreamy, yes; progressive, absolutely, and all combined with tireless dedication to the things that made so many of us come to love them in the first place.

Longtime fans will likely notice the introduction of a new keyboardist, also providing clean vocals as did his predecessor.  Welcome to Håkon Vinje, and also appearing as guests are WARDRUNA’s Einar Kvitrafn Selvik, flutist Daniel Mage and jazz saxophonist Kjetil Møster.

According to Ivar Bjørnson (Guitars & FX) via the Nuclear Blast website: “It is about the symbioses that surrounds us; which are vital to our existence, to our development – on all scales: man and vessel (for instance horse, yes), a person and its significant other, child and parent, musician and instrument, chaos and order, subconscious and conscious, Oden and Sleipnir – wisdom and communication. There are many levels and variations of this concept on the album; the duality of man and nature, present and past personalities within one self, the conscious fear and the subconscious drive. And other symbiosis.”

That duality – the balance between ethereal interludes and raw bursts of primal energy – teeters back and forth throughout.  After a slow buildup of a few minutes on the first & third tracks, vocalist Grutle Kjellson is letting go with his now signature growl (“no chains to hold me back!” indeed), lighting up the whole arrangement.  It is plainly awesome to hear all of it coming together like this.  Second track “The River’s Mouth” is a bit more relaxed, and by “Sacred Horse” they’re back to a driving uptempo sound with seamless transitions and Vinje’s keyboards peeking out with a noticeably different tone than what we’ve heard before.  There’s a minor chord breakdown bit here that had me grinning like an idiot, and at 5:20 something really weird and beautifully new happens.  I won’t spoil it all for you though, you can pre-order it and listen for yourself on October 13th.

Nuclear Blast | October 13th 2017 | Pre-Order Physical or Digital copies