Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Enslaved - Riitiir (2012)

After being incredibly lazy and trying to put off reviewing this album for over 2 weeks to make sure I had everything together when started writing about this album, I have finally decided to write the review. This album, just like the band, is an interesting beast to tackle so this has probably taken the longest out of any of my reviews to write so far. Anyway, here I go...

1. Thoughts Like Hammers 9:30
2. Death In The Eyes Of Dawn 8:17
3. Veilburner 6:46
4. Roots Of The Mountain 9:17
5. Riitiir 5:26
6. Materal 7:48
7. Storm Of Memories 8:58
8. Forsaken 11:15
Total Time: 67:13

Norway's Enslaved have never been an easy band to write about. Watching their evolution from a raw viking themed black metal band in the beginning to their current state, incorporating classic progressive and shoegaze influences into savage black metal, I have been a diehard fan ever since falling in love with "Ruun" when it was released. This is a band that constantly improves themselves in some way or another and continues to innovate the prog and black metal worlds.

And here we are with Riitiir, album number 12 in the band's almost flawless back catalogue, arguably the most prog-influenced and least full-on metal album the band has ever produced. And without a doubt the most ambitious they've ever attempted.

First things first, this album is long. 67 minutes split over 8 tracks. For the first couple of spins things will definitely stick out for you, but by the 3rd time around everything seems to click.

Starting off with the doomy, driving riff of "Thoughts Like Hammers", this song showcases the diversity available on the album, switching split-second between doomy riffs, abrasive black metal sections and melodic choruses. Grutle Kjellson's black metal rasp, Ivar Bjornson's throaty roar and Herbrand Larsen's gorgeous cleans all sound better than ever.

"Death In The Eyes Of Dawn" starts with a very shoegaze influenced opening section, while still retaining some black metal influence (à la Alcest). This is a band that can move from ferocious and raw to swirling and ethereal sounding in an absolutely seamless fashion. Which certainly makes my job much harder, because as you can probably guess, summing up fucking everything is far from easy...

As always, Enslaved manage to compliment their stunning music with equally thought-provoking and distinctive lyrics, such as "Veilburner" which begins in fine form with Kjellson screaming "finding the truth, doesn't mean there's an answer, who would have though...", this song reminds me intensely of "Path To Vanir", taking its listener on a journey.

One thing that can definitely be said about this album without hesitation is that there is a lot to take in. This is an album that demands your undivided attention. And at 67 minutes, listening can occasionally be a mammoth task. But everything pays off in the end as there really is something for pretty much anyone on here. "Roots Of The Mountain" starts off with a simple, high tempo black metal riff, leading into a dreamlike chorus and layers of lush keyboards kicking off with one of Enslaved's best ever solos. Kjellson's bass is also a standout of this track, rhythmic and locked in with Cato Bekkevold's kick drums.

"Materal" has in my opinion one of my favourite solos of recent times along with "Roots Of The Mountain" this song however has a much slower, thunderous pace. Evil vocals throughout as Kjellson growls "Endlessness opens", bringing a feeling of morbidity and despair.

"Forsaken" takes everything up a notch however. The speed, the power, the atmosphere, all intensified to create a closing track of mammoth proportions. This track has to be heard to be believed.

Every track on this album stands out in a different way and could be the best track, except all of them are the best, and I do mean ALL of them. Whether it's the intensity of "Roots Of The Mountain", the doomy goodness of "Thoughts Like Hammers", the fantastic chorus in "Death In The Eyes Of Dawn", "Veilburner"'s spectacular grooves, or the monumental closer "Forsaken". Enslaved have once again outdone themselves somehow, and have inexplicably managed to pack more into 8 tracks and 67 minutes than a lot of bands can fit into several albums. Once again Enslaved have kept their standing as one of the most consistent metal bands on the planet, and for many fans who believed they had peaked not once, but twice on "Isa" and "Axioma Ethica Odini", I can safely say that Enslaved have once again delivered their masterpiece (Until the next album of course!). Check this out as soon as you can, I can promise you'll find something to enjoy about it.


Check this out if: You like Vikings, dreamy prog and visceral black metal in one package, or a combination of the aforementioned elements. Or if you like bands that never do the same thing twice.

For fans of: Enslaved (Obviously), Opeth, Borknagar, Bathory
Riitiir is out now on Nuclear Blast Records

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