CD review ENSLAVED ‘Utgard’

The Northmen return with a new album called ‘Utgard’, three years after ‘E’ was shipped from Norway to the rest of the world. ‘Utgard’, the outerworld, has its roots in Nordic mythology. There is with Midgard the area of humans and there is Asgard, where the Gods are at home. Utgard is beyond the two, the land of giants and trolls.

This is the mythological aspect but ‘Utgard’ can also stand as a metaphor on its own. It can stand for dreams and the subconscious, the world beyond of what you see. ‘Utgard’ as something you can’t control, which means danger and chaos, but at the same time giving space to creativity and fun.

Now, when it comes to ‘Utgard’, being the new album from Enslaved, I can conclude that the approach is more about creativity rather than chaos and danger, although it emotionally covers all the aspects.

Musically speaking, Enslaved builds on a rich history of stellar release and it’s each time a challenge to at least reach a same level of exquisite quality. The guys manage with ‘Utgard’ to live-up to the ambition and lifts the bar again a little bit. The Norwegian ‘Pink Floyd of Black Metal’ accommodate numerous influences in their music. The raging Black Metal outbursts from the earlier days are present on ‘Utgard’ as well as the band includes progressive elements, giving the album an immense depth. Last but not least, and build on heritage, the Folk aspect of Enslaved gains again on the new album.

‘Utgard’ is a record, that’s covered in a dark mood. Knowing that work on the album took place between October and December, and knowing that the Bergen fjord doesn’t allow a lot of daylight in this season of the year, speaks for itself, the perfect time for recording an album like ‘Utgard’.

Folkloristic chants start the longplayer, being an introduction to ‘Fires in the Dark’. An acoustic guitar joins the chant and atmosphere rules from start to finish, although the track gets heavier along the way. ‘Sequence’ is another track on the album I commend. The tune is atmospheric while unleashing the furious Black Metal beast along the way, showing in one track what Enslaved stand for.

Harsh and brute is what ‘Homebound’ brings to the plate, still equipped with a well-crafted melody that represents the poles of Enslaved’s musical spectrum, a range that also includes tracks like ‘Urjotun’. Keyboards play an important role in the beginning, before the song evolves to a gloomy anthem that reminds in parts of Fields Of The Nephilim. It’s a dark Rock’n’Roll vibe that comes with the track, being a highlight and distractor all in one.

Enslaved finish-off with a song called ‘Distant Season’. The band has chosen to go for a melancholic ending of the album. Although starting slow and calm the song unloads an emotional aspect that puts right away some heavy weight on your shoulders. It’s an anthemic way to end the longplayer, that honors the beauty of sound as well as it mirrors a soulful aspect in a perfect way. In one or another way ‘Distant Season’ is a starting point again, being the dark seducer for pressing the ‘Start’-button again and this cycle could take place more than once. I’ve not given a ’10-score- very often but ‘Utgard’ deserves it for sure.

Rating: 10 out of 10.

Tracklist:

  1. Fires in the Dark
  2. Jettegryta
  3. Sequence
  4. Homebound
  5. Utgardr
  6. Urjotun
  7. Flight of Thought and Memory
  8. Storms of Utgard
  9. Distant Seasons

Label: Nuclear Blast

Genre: Progressive Black Metal

Release Date EU: October 2nd, 2020

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