The muttering stagnation of Enslaved’s increasingly progressive sound is an argument for the ‘metal mind’ versus the ‘progressive ethos’ rather than a combination of the two. As the band gently lose their ‘caveman’ metal riffing philosophy with each release so do they lose their vigor. The band have been extremely careful inching towards transformative style with far more tact than their bolder, daring sisters in Opeth who went full ‘Camel metal’ years ago. This isn’t some conspiracy theory or attack on the bands musical direction, but rather a point towards making bold obvious choices rather than stringing fans along with mediocre albums with flaws that seem causally centered around ideological conflict. For a ‘progressive’ metal band Enslaved make slow, slight changes across albums and the result is both bland and confusingly non-musical for the sake of retained personality.
Of course, I’m only frustrated by ‘E’ and its surface-level banality because across fourteen full-lengths and nearly three decades of touring Enslaved has been an incredible force in eccentric black metal. ‘Frost’, ‘Mardraum’ and ‘Below the Lights’ were exciting releases from a band so on-the-level with masters like Emperor and Mayhem, bands that have taken great risks with great reward. Their previous release 2015’s ‘In Times’ was accessible, heavy, and seemed to point towards the possibility of something mainstream but still harboring the techno-viking spirit of Enslaved yet ‘E’ doesn’t have its “Building With Fire” moment. It is a longer, somewhat taxing album that misses both melodic and progressive marks with what could pass for a Djent-less, double growly Leprous record most of the time. Oddly enough, I like it.
‘E’ is meditative and flow-heavy extreme metal despite its corny half-baked songwriting and melodic failings. As much of a gushy, introspective journey as ‘In Times’ was much of the record was sonically unimpressive. Much like more recent Borknagar releases the clean vocals seek and destroy the weaker, croaked harsh vocal attempts. Speaking of their fellow progressive black metal brethren, in many ways this is the post-modern remedy to the sappy power-prog corniness of most Norwegian progressive metal coming out today. So, the real takeaway for me is that core observation: Enslaved are intent on finding the appropriate progressive rock hues that can colorize the ‘metal mind’ without offending with cheese and meandering blandness that drives metalheads away from masturbatory progressive metal.
In making ‘E’ I’d argue Enslaved have taken too small of a step forward without enough trust for the open-minded metal fans. Longtime fans, such as myself, who’ve stuck through some achingly dull Enslaved records will find a beautiful hour of pleasantly edgy viking rock. The caveat is that you might find yourself asking for something more than pandering beauty.
|Released||October 13, 2017|
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They will tremble. 3.0/5.0