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Sentences That Age Gracefully – We Listened to Enslaved’s Heimdal

It’s a good thing that before writing the review, I looked at my article about Enslaved‘s latest EP, because to begin with, practically word for word the same thing that I wrote then came to mind.

„I’ve never made a secret of the fact that in the last couple of years Enslaved is one of the bands whose work I consider exemplary in terms of the broader underground metal scene as a whole.”

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If I may say so, this statement has aged quite well as I can’t really recall an experience or memory where our Norwegian friends have been disappointed with their recent performance.

This is not the case with Heimdal, which was released at the beginning of March, which is quite a big deal because it is already the sixteenth studio album in a row, and moreover, Ivar Bjørnson and his bandmates work at an extremely tight pace: a new album arrives on schedule approximately every three years, all this of course with regular tours, in addition to a stack of releases. Oh well.

„Some people talk about rock n’ roll and some people do it!”

Compared to Utgard, which was released in 2020 and was a hit parade by the band’s standards, the seven-song Heimdal is perhaps a step slower due to its intricate, more complex approach. While last time I had the feeling that they specifically strove for more transparent structures, acceptability, and more concise songs, now they have created slightly more adventurous and traveling compositions, which is not a problem at all, we have seen such things from them in their history. Accordingly, Heimdal‘s seven movements require a little more attention, but at the same time, they have a lot to discover in the musical field, as usual from this band.

Searching for a box has been unnecessary for Enslaved for quite some time. The cliché is true here that these guys play their own game on their own field, where anyone else can only pick up the ball. There’s everything here, from blasting themes originating from old-line black metal to interestingly rhythmic or especially doomy riffs to motifs reminiscent of seventies progressive rock, all written for three (or four) vocals and a first-class group of musicians with decades of experience which provides them practically endless possibilities. They can literally do anything they can think of, and luckily they have the balls to think of metal music as self-expression, and not as a product, like many bands out there. And so, as every time, Heimdal has something that we haven’t heard from them before, the best illustration of this is the album’s closing title track, which transforms from the krautrock-flavored, overwhelmed opening theme to something completely different over the course of eight minutes. An eerie, yet beautifully atmospheric composition, one of the highlights of this record, and – maybe it’s an exaggeration, but I don’t think so – their complete work.

I feel that the only beauty flaw is that five of the seven songs have already been heard on the mentioned EP and in the form of digital singles leading up to the album, with the exception of the title track and the fifth, epic, also outstanding The Eternal Sea, now – and only for that one reason – there are fewer moments of wonder that come out of nowhere, which makes Enslaved’s actual albums so impressive and spiritual. With a cinematic parallel, although the memorable cardboard box scene of David Fincher’s Seven is brilliantly shocking, it will no longer be a surprise when you watch it a second time.

However, this does not detract from Heimdal‘s values. The material works excellently as a whole and song by song and is more than on par with their whole earlier catalog – at their level, it’s not just another day in the office, so to speak. And since this one has definitely become an article of recycled sentences, I take the courage to steal a last one from my colleague’s album review three years ago:

„Every year when Enslaved makes a record, it’s one of the best of that year. It’s no different now.”

Rating: 4,5 / 5

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