Enslaved
Heimdal

In 1994, I was a twenty something working at Best Buy. We had received a copy of the Emperor/Enslaved massive split Hordanes Land and it caught my eye. I had no clue what Black Metal was, had never heard of the genre at all. Of course, Emperor comes first, and those four tracks alone had me hooked and wanting more, more, more. Enter Enslaved and “Slaget i skogen bortenfor (Epilog / Slaget)” made me an instant fan in just thirteen minutes.

The albums to follow continued to show their progression; Frost, Eld and Blodhemn; the split with Satyricon in ’95 was another meeting between two Norwegian Black Metal heavyweights.

A change in sound and approach echoed in the 2000’s with Mardraum (Beyond the Within). The instruments got beefier; the clean vocals became more pronounced. Throughout the 2000’s they continued to grow this sound with powerful, enormous as a fucking frost giant choruses and Progressive ingredients started showing up more and more until they just started using a fucking Hammond organ around the time of Ruun and Vertebrae.

It’s been 3 years since the fantastic Utgard was unleashed and here I sit with this blistering, assault on the senses called Heimdal. The opener “Behind the Mirror” washes ashore with the soothing sounds of water hitting the earth. The track expands with the sound of a Gjallarhorn and the song kicks into a galloping stride, the vocals soaring like a raven over the mountains. This 6.25-minute track introduces Heimdal so well, this is the Viking Black Metal, album of the year.

“Congelia” comes ripping in with a twisting riff over the harsh as-hell, but completely understandable vocals. Around the three-minute mark, it goes fucking insane, the keys bouncing around the guitars like Valkyries in Valhalla. “Congelia” strides like a giant across a battlefield and when the final solo and push to the end happens it’s in such a triumphant way that you can picture it (probably not the way I did, but I’m the guy with a keyboard), it’s easily my first favorite song on Heimdal.

“Forest Dweller” starts off with stunning harmonies and an acoustic guitar before this massive organ solo and it rages from there till almost the song’s end when the raw guitar does this awesome riff and the clean vocals from the beginning come back. The single track “Kingdom” starts off right proper with a bombastic intro. Jesus fucking Christ, Enslaved knows how to write a song. Around two minutes in it hits this striding beat with this Black ‘n’ Roll riff that marches with the drums. The production on Heimdal is impressive, everything is clear as a bell and I cannot enjoy this record enough.

“The Eternal Sea”, the instruments mirror the crashing waves of the North Sea. They rise to the soaring vocals which mix within to create a magical track that I find myself typing in rhythm to it. “The Eternal Sea” is my second favorite, it’s like a York Peppermint Patty because five minutes into the song you get the sensation of snow on your face, and the blisteringly cold wind embraces you in its icy grasp.

“Caravans to the Outer Worlds” starts with a longing solo bass, reminiscing the awesome In Times album, and it’s at the three-fifty mark that the first blast beats rear their head, it’s brief but then it goes this whole other direction and, I wouldn’t say slow down; but Enslaved do this funky beat at the six-minute that is utterly uplifting to hear and it is what makes Enslaved the titans they are, because each song has it’s own identity while fitting perfectly with each other, like the cracks in the Arctic ice. At the end of it all is the incredible title track. “Heimdal” takes your ass on an eight-minute journey, changing time before hitting a beastly pace, at the six-minute mark that continues to crack skulls until the marvelous outro.

Heimdal is enormous. It’s synonymous with a boat ride across the vast, frozen seas to unknown lands; an album filled with sorrow, rage, revenge and the indomitable spirit of humanity. If you’ve never heard Enslaved, maybe you’re one of those “y’know, I’ve always heard of them but never really listened to them” sort of person… you need to hear this record, and then go back and listen to their discography and smack yourself for not doing this sooner. This is a pure, Norwegian Black Metal Viking Metal album that bristles with mighty riffs and pounding drums, goddamn, the time change at the five-six-minute mark in “Heimdal” is colossal which is why this is such an exciting album, it’s like an aural battery pack to fill the soul with courage and honor.

Obviously, I cannot recommend Heimdal enough. It rises like a dragon from the endless sea, trapping ships in its thrashing jaws. So, for fans of… let’s see; Satyricon, Emperor, and Amon Amarth (only by the Viking aspect though). At this point in their stellar career, they have nothing to prove, every album is an exploration into what Black Metal can be. Expanding on the spirit of the 90s, while cracking into 2023 with an album this phenominal.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jeremy Beck
March 6th, 2023

Comments

  1. Commented by: J. Mays

    Hell of a review, Jeremy! I’m not digging it on an “album of the year” level… yet. Enslaved albums always take time to reveal their greatness to me.


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