Enslaved – Heimdal

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Reviewed: March 1, 2023
Released: March 3, 2023, Nuclear Blast
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: The Elitist Metalhead

The release of a new ENSLAVED album is an event. This is a band that continues to reinvent itself on each successive while staying true to their roots, and that is not an easy feat. In fact, ENSLAVED has pretty much evolved into it’s own sub genre of metal. There is no band doing what they have been doing for the last 20 years. Although they were indirectly linked to the main players of the Second Wave, they tried to steer clear of all a lot of the similarities that was part of the Norwegian scene in the early 90s. Forgoing Satanic references and instead deciding to focus on Nordic Mythology themes; they even began experimenting with their sounds even at their young age. In fact, one prevailing theme has always been standard with ENSLAVED, and that is to evolve their sound and approach with each release. They have held true to that formula and it has never been more prominent than with their new album, Heimdal.

This album actually picks up where Utgard left off, with its genre bending riff and melodies. But is also the part of an ongoing theme in which the more esoteric nature of Nordic Mythology is the lyrical concept.  “Behind the Mirror” kicks this beast off in a way only ENSLAVED can deliver. The creaking of ropes and splashing of waves sets the stage but the horn blowing as if to signal an attack shows exactly why that may have been extremely intimidating to whoever was on the receiving end. The song itself is six and a half minutes of pure genius only these Bergen boys can muster. This song has so many layers but the its foundations are all metal. There’s some killer riffs and some major time changes; but its the vocals that stand out now….possible more now than ever before. Along with Grutle’s snarls we have both keyboardist Håkon Vinje and drummer Iver Sandøy providing the clean vocals. Both vocalists compliment each other on their clean choirs and are the perfect offset to Grutle’s growl. This is the perfect album opener and pretty much lets you know all the elements you are going to hear on this album. The song structure itself is brilliant.

Then you have a track like “Congelia” that is mostly Grutle throughout with some cleans here and there and is more of a straight ahead modern ENSLAVED track. Ice Dale adds a really nice melodic solo on to add more layers to the song. This one took the longest to grow on me, but now it is one of my favorite songs on the album. If you listen hard enough and really dissect the song, it will begin to remind you of elements from every ENSLAVED album to date. “Forest Dweller” makes up the third of the opening three and this is also a perfect song to sum up modern ENSLAVED. The atmosphere, the riffs, the use of the keys, as well as the vocal trade offs between the clean and growls. Most of the songs on this album were released in some form, either through an EP or music video or both. I abstained from previewing any of it just so I can hear the songs in the order they were meant to be in for the actual concept and I’m actually glad I did because the order in which the songs fall makes a huge difference. Songs like “Caravans to the Outer World” and the title track album closer deviate from the formula at times but are some of the best songs ENSLAVED has released to date.

I must admit that it took some times for the album to grow on me but when it finally clicked, I realized what they were trying to get across. This is the most ambitious ENSLAVED album to date and the more I listen to it, the better it gets. Do not try to confine ENSLAVED to one box, this album is proof that something like that is impossible. This band can do no wrong!


Line Up:
Ivar Bjørnson – Guitars
Grutle Kjellson – Vocals, Bass
Arve ‘Ice Dale’ Isdal – Guitars (Lead)
Håkon Vinje – Keyboards, Vocals (Clean)
Iver Sandøy – Drums, Vocals (Clean)

Track Listing:
1. Behind the Mirror
2. Congelia
3. Forest Dweller
4. Kingdom
5. The Eternal Sea
6. Caravans to the Outer Worlds
7. Heimdal

Official Enslaved Bandcamp