AlbumsMarch 3, 20233,105 views

Enslaved Heimdal


Heimdal
1. Behind The Mirror 2. Congelia 3. Forest Dweller 4. Kingdom 5. The Eternal Sea 6. Caravans To The Outer Worlds 7. Heimdal
2023 Nuclear Blast Records
Our score 9

by Jake
3/3/2023

Any time Enslaved releases new music it’s kind of a big deal. After all, they’re one of the most consistent, prolific, and progressive metal bands of all time. How they gained this distinction is more than likely already well known, so there’s no need to write a full biography for them, but suffice it to say, they are bonafide legends, and legends, might I add, that refuse to rest on their previous accomplishments. Heimdal is their sixteenth full-length album, and as staggering as that number is, there are still new ideas for Enslaved to express as well as familiar sounds to refine. With a varied vocal approach, forward-thinking ideas, and lush, layered instrumentation, the expectation of greatness is natural for those of who are excited to hear what these Norwegian stalwarts are up to. But can this band really improve at this point?

The album is named after one of the most interesting and mysterious figures from ancient Norse mythology, Heimdal, a character that stands as a gatekeeper between the nine realms. This idea of intersections symbolizes what Enslaved have been doing for a while, and this album finds incredible ways to express this concept as it ebbs and flows. Even the cover art reflects the notion of crossroads, depicting intersecting land, water, and sky. Of course, what really matters is the music, and thankfully Enslaved know how to make incredible music. After the horn-blowing and longboat-rowing opening, the intensity of their black metal roots seeps through as “Congelia” reminds us that the DNA of their acclaimed 1992 release, Yggdrasil is still bouncing around inside all of the layers that they have added throughout the years. And in great prog fashion the following track, ”Forest Dweller” immediately turns to neo-folk before firing off an assault of its own off in the latter half of the song. 

The disparate musical ideas that Enslaved tinkers with aren’t unfamiliar to them, or to the whole of black metal in general, but there is something about how effortlessly and organically this band can float from one to the other — something that speaks to their decades of experience and mastery of craft. The flourishes and touches that pepper Heimdal range from subtle to decidedly unsubtle, but each time shift, new instrument, harmony or riff feels like it was destined to be there. Another strong point worth mentioning is just how economical this album is. Progressive music can often overstay its welcome, but clocking in just under 50 minutes feels like a great runtime, giving the ideas the space to fully play out and do so without any bloat.

With tempos varying from mid-paced stomps to furious black metal blasts, and even touches of contemplative folk, there are moods aplenty on Heimdal. “Caravans To Outer Worlds” is a massively bombastic track that gets every player from Enslaved involved at the highest level. Each moment of the song builds from the previous, and each second of respite feels both restful and anxiously impatient, waiting for the crescendo. The final piece of the record, the album’s title track, employs tension to a staggering degree as the introduction is downright stressful, giving way to a moment when Enslaved sound as close to death metal as they ever have; low and slow riffs, evil vocals, and a stripped back sound that builds as it goes along. There’s nothing this band can’t do. 

Bottom Line: There are simply no weak points on Heimdal. While it isn’t an album that breaks brand new ground for Enslaved, they do find themselves venturing further into the mists than before. With confident song structures that layer ideas in perfectly aligning ways, and a beefy vocal lineup, Heimdal feels like a complete experience that pulls from the best this band has to offer. While it's ranking amongst the rest of the discography will be discussed for some time, we couldn’t ask for a better effort from a band that has been doing it better than everyone for over three decades. 



5 comments

Post Comment
NorthFromHere 3/3/2023 10:28:13 PM

Meh, I've been a fan of this band since 2001, but 2015's In Times is the only album I've really liked since 2004's Isa. I don't care for the clean vocals from the keyboardist, and the lead guitars are more sweepy than the usual mix of styles I prefer. Good example is the title track: which finds a great riff in the second half which should have had Grutle either close out the album with his (clean or unclean) vocals but instead it's primarily those goofy highs from the keyboardist.

anonymous 3/4/2023 6:37:45 AM

AOTY…They can't write a bad song or album

anonymous 3/4/2023 11:26:50 AM

Same score as Zulu. Must be a banger!!!

anonymous 3/4/2023 9:31:11 PM

Enslaved is great but does every record get an 8 or 9 on Lambgoat now? Dafuq

anonymous 4/17/2023 4:52:24 PM

I give Enslaved a lot of props, repsect, n'all that, but their formula peeked around Isa. Every one after that started becoming interchangeable.