With Utgard, Enslaved have created a mixture of their collective talents and musical influences to produce and album that is startling in its complexity and hugely impressive with the musicianship. To be doing this after 30 years in the game is testament to their talent and craftsmanship.
With ‘Utgard’ Enslaved are looking behind the mirror, tracing the origins of the well-known fables of the northern world back into each and every one of us. A band that have always been more than a black metal band endlessly turning out the usual and expected. Enslaved are happier when pushing the boundaries especially into the progressive zone. ‘Utgard’ demonstrates that expertly.
“I sat down in my living room with my acoustic guitar and suddenly it happened all at once”, an almost bewildered Bjørnson remembers.
The album opens with some viking chanting and an acoustic you would be forgiven in thinking the band may have moved well away from their metal comfort zone. But just under a minute in and its as metal as the Norwegian bands get. It’s Enslaved to the bone make no mistake. However its when they combine elements outside the metal sphere that the magic happens. One listen to the techno inspired ‘Urjotun’ shows this.
Something that sticks out from this album is the bands use of vocals. First track, ‘Fires In The Dark’ is a mix of clean and growling and sums the album up perfectly with its blend of vocals and mixture of genres.
Second track ‘Jettegryta’ with its head banging riffing and growls steps the album up and is one of my favourites. The rolling drum beat propels the track in to monster, and the addition of the clean vocals from Håkon Vinje and hammond organ again shows the bands ability to add elements from outside the black metal spectrum.
More catchy riff with ‘Sequence’ which has some great vocal interplay with pop harmonies and some of Iver Sandøy’s finest drumming on the album. The pop melodies carry over into ‘Homebound’ intro before growl interrupts bringing the drums and allowing the metal to take over again.
‘Flight Of Thought And Memory’ with its stadium rock intro that blends into thrash/black metal progressive epic-ness before ending in some jazzed up dream. ‘Storms Of Utgard’ features the bands progressive side with some more brilliant drumming sounding like a coming storm.
Album closer ‘Distant Seasons’ feels like an indulgent piece from the band with its bluesy guitar and ballad like clean vocals and maybe a taste of things to come.
There is dominant musical strand on this album. The use of clean and death metal vocals, acoustic and electrical instruments have made an interesting album and the band have chosen the various elements well. Experimentation well paid off. The band states “Creating this album was truly special.” Listening to it is also truly special.
Check out track Urjotun, below: