Friday, September 28, 2012
Perhaps in Bergen gps doesn't work when you find yourself lost in a forest of Porcupine Trees. This is particularly discouraging considering how high my expectations were for the new Enslaved. It is not news to long time readers that I would hold this album to meticulous scrutiny considering Enslaved has been one of my favorite metal bands. But it took little examination to hear they need to give Steve Wilson his guitar back and find the eq setting they used on "vertebrae".
On their full length album I was prepared to stop calling them a black metal band, the "sleeping gods" e.p helped me come to that conclusion and here the ship to Sweden has long set sail. I'm not being the cvlt police here, I was fine with the more progressive turn which in truth took place all the way back in 97 with "eld" though I think "isa" is where their current sound took root. On the messages boards I have read people telling me
" oh don't worry they are heavy again."
This statement is untrue...unless you don't know what heavy is, in that case of listen to the new Winterfylleth or the last Taake album. Enslaved in all fairness is to relying on heaviness when they wrote these riffs but tempering it with more melodic finesse. So it's not their approach that's the problem here, but based off their body of work both the song writing and the drumming on this one are lazy. Then times when they do revert back into blasty mcnasty are not delivered with conviction because the guitar tone is so thin.
This is my initial reaction to my first listen, I'm going to keep the album playing as I write and maybe it will grow on me. There is the possibility that from when I started listening to these guys seven years ago I have progressed into a need for darker and colder black metal like a junkie who is chasing the dragon. So its possible this is a totally acceptable Enslaved album and just sounds wispy washy and middle of the road to my blackened ear drums. So the only way to test this is to give a closer listen so we are going to break it down track by track.
Thoughts like hammers ... The opening thirty seconds of chaos makes you think shit about to break loose and then they trudge into a riff that's more vicodin than Viking. It breaks up into something a little more kinetic and they do get ambitious and go into a few different places on this one leaving me confused as to if this is a good song or just a few cools parts creating a smoke screen. When the double bass comes in this albums mix doesn't do it an justice. After repeat listens this song did grow on me but didn't blow me away.
Death in the eyes of Dawn...blends in from the first song though I like it better as its darker and creepier even if there's some recycled Tool riffs going on. Bassist Grutle Kjellson has expanded upon his croaks encompassing a wider spectrum of grunts to help create the spookiness in that dept. the clean vocals handled by the keyboardist have even more of an Akerfeldt feel to them.
Veil burner...has a little more of a stomp to it the drums pick up pace in the chorus but a very straight ahead in delivery , which for the progressive element dominating Enslaved's sound they could do more to compliment it. Three minutes into this one and it's boring until the very Opeth guitar breakdown, despite it's tempo it comes across as very generically them.
Roots of the mountain ...the blast surfaces here, but the guitar sound is so thin and obscured by key boards that it's effect is diminished, the clean vocal melody actually comes in and saves the song. The modulation in the guitar helps when the blast returns and the guitar solos on here are all foot on the monitor masterpieces. At the four minute mark I was sold on where they were going so when the bass break happened I forgot I had heard it the first time around so that's a good thing on their end. It gets king crimson by way of Opeth. The harsh vocals before the final three minutes almost remind me they use to be black metal. They really begin to find the court of the crimson king all on their own by the end.
Riitiir...the drummer wakes up at the songs start. They go into a trademark shuffled gallop, with the keyboardist vocals doing what they do.it doesn't set the harsh vocals up as they fall into the comfort zone here. The lyrics are the first discernible ones I have heard sound like cast offs from the secondside of "power slave" . The chanted back ground vocals before the guitar shift are cool and the last minute of this one is all around rocking.
Materal...has a very Alice in chains beginning , just with out the harmonies, the harsher chorus like section is no surprise but not so color by numbers that it offends my ears. The harsh vocals here even prove capable of being some what hooky. Check off anthemic guitar solo . This song is pretty fun. the last minute of this song has the first decent guitar tone on the album as well.
Storm of memories...proggy from the word go, the bass playing on this album is much improved. This intro turns into a rather indulgent jam until the song kicks in blasty at the three minute mark. At one part it sounds like he croaks..the unicorn is sacraficed ...which would rule , then it gets typical good cop bad cop on the vocal trade off. While it got an impressive start this song kind gets boring even though the drumming improves here, but the tremolo picking and blasts here feel like trying to jack hammer fuck with a half limp dick.
Forsaken...weird piano intro, this songs has a much better sound not sure why the entire album wasn't mixed with these levels. I like this song even though the riff at the two minute mark instead my favorite I like the punch after that part. The drumming gets a needed pick me up to restore my faith. The space keyboard break lingers a little long but what what follows is the albums only real black metal moment. It's too short lived before going into a melancholy vocal section where the song glumly dissolves as an outro but it works for me.
So this album gets an 8, so keeping with this weeks theme of setting the bar an 8 eight is the highest score an otherwise great ban scan reach when they just dial in their song writing and have a weak guitar tone, though this might seem high when you take those factors into consideration , this is a band you expects a ten from, but may grow on me if you are going to just get overly excited by the fact this is an Enslaved album and not really listen to go ahead and add a point.