Roundtable Review: In Times by Enslaved
Posted by RiffRaff
Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: 6 March 2015
Length: 54 minutes
Genre: Extreme prog/Viking/black metal
Studio Albums: 11 previous
Location: Bergen, Norway
WarpRider – It amazes me I am still discovering bands, even ones that have been around more than 20 years. I feel like there is much to learn in metal. In Times is my first taste of the band and ultimately it leaves me wondering what the hell have I been doing with my life? Why have I never given this band a try? It probably has to do with my own assumptions that because they are labeled as Norwegian Black/Extreme metal, I assumed I wouldn’t like them because I am not particularly a fan of the genre overall. But, there are exceptions.
Without fully understanding the band’s evolution, their recipe for black/extreme metal isn’t as harsh as I expected. Perhaps it was at one point in their career. Currently, it borders between mostly coherent and utterly incomprehensible which fits my own personal musical needs nicely. I am typically not one for extremes…again, there are exceptions. The scale doesn’t dip too unforgiving (extreme) or too easygoing (80s hair metal). An album of near extremes, both the clean singing and the growling vocal style provide a tempo variance that keeps things interesting and ever changing. The transitions work nicely as well, so the shift from one near extreme to the next doesn’t jostle your brain’s perception of what should happen next. It’s pretty smooth considering there is black metal on the table. Though, I can only imagine what they sounded like in 1994 when Vikingligr Veldi hit the store shelves. For now, I find In Times an enjoyable experience. My black/extreme metal door opened a little bit further, but that’s because as I mentioned earlier…it’s not too extreme on the metal spectrum. And, the clean signing seems quite right! 3.0
RiffRaff – Enslaved is an odd band for me. I got into them when they released Axioma Ethica Odini around 2010 which is already well into their quite long career. Loved that record, yet somehow never spun it too often for how much I enjoyed it. I even went and picked up a decent amount of their backlog, which I also loved, yet didn’t listen to as much as I should have. 2112’s RIITIIR is fucking amazing and blows me away every time I hear it, yet… Same old story. In fact, while prepping my ears for the release of In Times I gave it a spin again and had to ask myself why I don’t listen to it more often. Same story with In Times. Outstanding release with tons of outstanding space Viking prog metal and some outstanding songwriting to boot.
I particularly like the ‘poppy’ Building with Fire which drives with an alt. metal beat and tosses in punchy sections of visceral black metal. It all melds together wonderfully and shows why Enslaved have had such a long and quite successful career. These guys write sets of diverse songs packed with great riffs, solos, vocals, rhythms, and each one is quite enjoyable. And there in lies what I think my problem is. They write great songs, yet album flow, which is really big for me, is a bit lacking.
Taken track by track there is not a single bad song on In Times with Thuriz Dreaming being all blackened prog vitriol and One Thousand Years of Rain (one of Enslaved best songs ever imho) exploring the more mystical properties of black metal without having to rely on any of the troupes the genre is known for. However, the pacing and sequencing hinders me from really falling into complete listens. Each song is contained and doesn’t really work to lift it’s surrounding ones up very much; it doesn’t hinder me from either hitting repeat on One Thousand Years of Rain or skipping to a different album. Maybe some nice interludes and segues or editing would have done this record wonders. The production is also a tad loud and I think some songs really could have been better if more punch was added to certain sections or left underscored with some whispers. Contrast and dynamic and all that jazz.
In Times is well worth your time and I’m happy to return to it from time to time though I may not be spending long amounts of time in In Times at a single time. Also, I love the album artwork on this one! 4.0
Irmelinis – Despite Enslaved’s music mixing bits and pieces of several greats like Katatonia, Pink Floyd, Radiohead and Dimmu Borgir it has never managed to catch my interest. There aren’t enough extremes for my taste here; Enslaved are playing safe, creating a pretty bland and neutral mess in the middle. No stand out grandiose highs, or pitch black lows, like they are holding back. On the good side: the album flows with grace, presented with a glimmering production. Each song is quite long and has its own style, going through many folk-y moods from evil and fast to psychedelic and dreamy, sometimes spiced up with proper Viking gang vocals. Overall an okay album. 2.5
ChristopherMammal – Pure black metal is often too harsh and brutal for a delicate and gentle little person like me. The more expansive forms of black metal, however, fill my veins with endorphins and saturate my brain with dopamine. There are quite a few black-rooted bands which, like Enslaved, have been around for a while and keep adding to their quality discographies. When I look back though my year-by-year lists of favourite songs and albums, the names of Borknagar (folk black), Thurisaz (atmospheric black), Dimmu Borgir (symphonic black) and Keep of Kalessin (thrash black) keep popping up. If I’d known Enslaved better over the years, they would be on more than a few my lists too.
The warmth and comfort I draw from their music balances the visions of dark, foreboding forests they conjure up. The artistry of the musicians is a joy to my ears. The alternating between excellent clean singing and gritty dark vocals is splendid. I shall duly charge off and delve through all of Enslaved’s previous albums. I love this one. 4.2
A Metal State of Mind Score – 3.5 out of 5