Enslaved - "Eld" (Black Metal)

Enslaved – “Eld” (Weak Black Metal)

Enslaved - "Eld" (Black Metal)

Enslaved – “Eld” (Black Metal)

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.

Enslaved - "Frost" (Black Metal)

Enslaved – “Frost”

Enslaved - "Frost" (Black Metal)

Enslaved – “Frost” (Black Metal)

Wow. These blokes seem to be heavily inspired by Burzum. And not in the “let’s make good music” kind of way, rather the “let’s have lyrics in Norwegian about Vikings” way. And you know what? I’m fine with that. I’d take that over Gorgoroth’s “Hail Satan” poser crap and Watain’s “I waas raped in the ass as a kid (and enjoyed it)” rantings any day.

S o here we have “Frost,” also known as Enslaved’s second album and direct successor to the “Vikingligr Veldi” mixed bag. Caught somewhere between the epic folk-inspired black metal genius of Neraines and Graveland and the unlistenable war metal of Conqueror, this album “Frost” suffers from the all too common disease of not even knowing what it wants to be.

Like the first release, “Frost” retains a large “black metal” vibe. But this is very surface level, and doesn’t do much beyond reproduce the aesthetics. The raw, enchanting quality of Neraines’ “Yggdrasil” or Burzum’s “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss,” for example, is transformed into a tamer, slower and softer piece of atmospheric proto-post black metal.

Not something you’d usually want to brag about.

Then there are the riffs, and the music on “Frost” in general. Simple and dull and repetitive and repetitive and repetitive. For the sake of being repetitive. Yeah, I get that black metal is repetitive, but this is just sad. Especially when the riffs are not interesting or memorable at all. As are the drumming and bass. Dull and duller.

The album just seems to be trying way too hard to be “different” for its own good, like the post rock of Satyricon that just can’t help but let the emo shine through like someone decided to apply “black metal shoe polish” to what is, essentially, Bullet for my Valentine.

Plus, the clean parts are really lacking as well. The “atmosphere” – and I use the term lightly – on “Frost” as no feeling or vibe to it at all. It’s just clean breaks for the sake of clean breaks. You know how when you listen to “Blood Fire Death” or “Hammerheart” you just want to go on a quest or something? Well, the clean breaks on “Frost” make you want to listen to something else. Like “Hammerheart.” There is nothing to them at all really. Just sound.

It would be nice if “Frost” didn’t suck, but unfortunately it does. Props on avoiding the gay “Hail Satan” boilerplate, but that’s about the only positive I can say about this album. Replace with “Following the Voice of Blood” and “Fallen From the Brightest Throne” for true black metal.

Enslaved - "Vikingligr Veldi"

Enslaved – “Vikingligr Veldi”

Enslaved - "Vikingligr Veldi"

Enslaved – “Vikingligr Veldi”

So, is Enslaved trying to sound like proto-war metal or what? Their debut album “Vikingligr Veldi” is often touted as their “only decent release” but even that saying is suspect, considering the music featured on this… thing… barely even manages to hold anyone’s interest for more than a few seconds before they doze off into deep sleep or just decide to cut the crap and turn off this boring shitfest. This criticism is oddly similar to that thrown at later Enslaved albums such as “Frost,” “Eld” and “E” for some reason. Could it be possible… no, it’s clearly not the c… but *hypothetically* could… no way, you gotta be serious in l… but what if it was, if not possible, perhaps conceivable, possibly, that maybe… Enslaved were NEVER good? That there’s no exact “moment” in time when they turned to shit because, essentially, they were always bad musicians? That’s just hypothesis, of course. Only an intellectual exercise… right?

Harsh as I may be with Enslaved and their “Vikingligr Veldi” abortion, there’s one thing positive I can say about this album. The lyrics and themes. Enslaved write about Vikings. Bravo.

No, seriously, I commend them for that. Where so many bands turn to retarded shock value subjects like “Hollywood Satanism” or retarded gore menstrual blood fetishism, at least Enslaved has interesting things to say about interesting subjects.

For that alone, they are kilometres above shitshows like Watain, Infernus’ Gorgoroth, Dark Funeral, Demonecromancy and Behemoth. Enslaved may be bad musicians, but they aren’t cucks who promote the “devil worship” media fallacy that has been used to smear ALL black metal bands by association.

So, ok, Enslaved’s music is pretty boring. But at least it’s still black metal, unlike so many of the “post-black metal” posers who try to shoehorn their shoegaze and alt rock with distortion into the black metal scene, ditto with the “orthodox black metal” tards who want their worthless nu metal to be recognised as “trve black metal” on par with the best of Darkthrone, Phantom and Burzum.

“Vikingligr Veldi” is a bloated black metal album, and it’s really not that hard to believe that it was recorded in an afternoon. Yes, there’s a lot “going on” on the surface, like on a busy subway station… but much like another overrated “legend” “Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk,” there’s really no thought whatsoever put into riff arrangement and song structure. Adding “soft” instrumentation like acoustics is a throwback to Bathory, and it’s a nice touch, but it gets old after three listens.

Enslaved is definitively better than 90% of modern “black metal” bands, if only for their non-retarded lyrics. But “Vikingligr Veldi” WILL put you to sleep, just like modern “black metal” music. Replace with Neraines’ “Yggdrasil” and Burzum’s “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” for some non-boring black metal.