Up to this point, Enslaved had proven to be a pretty decent black metal band. Their music was “okay” but really nothing special, as evidenced by the lack of recognition of albums like “Vikingligr Veldi” and “Frost” before this album “Eld” saw the light of day in 1997. Some say that “Eld” is the only good Enslaved album, other say that it’s the beginning of the downfall, and although it may stand leagues ahead of the following albums – notably the ridiculous “E” – it’s really very mediocre black metal, and a lot of it seems derivative of AC/DC and Queensrÿche type radio rock. If Enslaved were once a black metal band, that pretense is all but gone on “Eld” as the band openly embraces its post rock roots.
This album is hardly metal – let alone black metal – due to the guitars, keyboards and drums. All three of these instruments are played in a “progressive rock” style. Up to this point, Enslaved had done a good job keeping a black metal-ish sound. “Eld” fails to be metal despite the raucous harsh vocals from Grutle Kjellson. It is very possible to play rock with harsh vocals and Enslaved pulls it off somewhat convincingly here, at least more so than Ulver, Borknagar or post-Somberlain Dissection. I’m not condemning rock music, but we came here for true black metal… not poser cock rock!
One positive point about this “Eld” album is that the lyrics don’t devolve into hollywood “devil worship” nonsense like so many shits bands from Dark Funeral to Watain – Enslaved stay true to the ethos of black metal, Scandinavian folklore, Norse mythology and Paganism. Fuck off with your “Satan,” Biblical bullshit has no place in black metal.
“Eld” is not the best black metal album, that’s a certainty. But they are far, far from the worst in this genre unfortunately dominated by posers (like Infernus of Gorgoroth).
At least Enslaved made an effort to try and expand on the genre’s repertoire, not just rehashing the same music tropes over and over again. Yet, there is better atmospheric and Norse themed black metal than “Eld “out there. Start with Burzum’s “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss,” then move onto Graveland’s “Dawn of Iron Blades” and finally Neraines’ “Yggdrasil,” one of black metal’s few masterpieces of atmosphere.