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- Heimdal review



Reviewer:
8.3

401 users:
7.96
Band: Enslaved
Album: Heimdal
Style: Progressive black metal
Release date: March 2023


Disc I
01. Behind The Mirror
02. Congelia
03. Forest Dweller
04. Kingdom
05. The Eternal Sea
06. Caravans To The Outer Worlds
07. Gangandi [bonus]
08. Heimdal

Disc II [The Otherworldly Big Band Experience Blu-Ray] [digipak bonus]
01. Ruun II - The Epitaph
02. Bounded By Allegiance
03. Sequence
04. Caravans To The Outer Worlds
05. Havenless
06. Slaget I Skogen Bortenfor
07. What Else Is There? [Röyksopp cover]
08. Hiindsiight

On their first album of the 2020s, Utgard, Enslaved made a break from the elaborate long-song prog that had dominated their 2010s output in favour of shorter, more compact, and arguably more accessible songs. If it were another band, perhaps one might have braced for subsequent simplification on future albums, but this is Enslaved we’re talking about, and Heimdal is absolutely not an extension of the trajectory Enslaved went in from E to Utgard.

On this, the sixteenth full-length entry into what I feel is probably the most consistently excellent metal discography out there from such a veteran act, the progginess has definitely been dialled back up again; of 7 tracks here, 4 are longer than any that were on Utgard. It’s not just length, though; there’s a meandering explorative vibe to a lot of the writing here, and there’s also less immediacy in even the more overtly melodic portions of it, with instant hookiness clearly down the list of priorities. Also, not necessarily ‘extremity’, but the intensity is higher again; the ‘blackened’ portion of the ‘blackened Pink Floyd’ reputation they’ve acquired over the decades is a bit more prevalent this time around. I made no bones about my affection for Utgard when it came out, so I had no clamouring for Enslaved to go in this direction, but they accomplish some great stuff in the process.

I don’t feel that Heimdal necessarily sees Enslaved recapitulating the sound of any of their 2000s records in particular, but there are moments that perhaps go closer to some of those albums than they have since Axioma Ethica Odini. Arguably the most striking moments in this vein for me is in “Forest Dweller”; the peculiar synergy of the acoustic, distorted and lead electric guitars in the intro to this song, plus the brash Hammond organ-style keys later on, are more of a recent Enslaved prog slant, but the way that pounding drums build within an acoustic passage and suddenly redirect it in a rampaging blackened direction is eerily similar to a comparable transition in “The Crossing” from Below The Lights.

Another song that reminds me a bit of that era is “Congelia”, which for me is the highlight of Heimdal. For large portions, this is the most extreme song on the album, with a frenetic first half filled with all-out drum attack and jagged, contorted proggy black riffs, but as it progresses, some showmanship is incorporated into that fury, most notably with the trumpet blasts and spacey sounds integrated about halfway through. Where “Congelia” shines brightest, however, is in its final third; while it’s not the exact same vibe, the triumphant determination of the huge, emphatic climax of this song leaves me thinking of the similarly all-conquering conclusion to the song “Ruun”, which I consider arguably the band’s finest achievement, so it’s no surprise that a song that delivers the same feelings has me so keen to laud it here.

I don’t think the album’s progressive inclinations always work out perfectly for it; some of the songs have quite meandering introductions or other passages that struggle to make quite the impact Enslaved presumably intended (and I’m also still not sure whether a strikingly exuberant guitar solo on the title track is genius or just a major misstep). Arguably the most detrimental of these is the first couple of minutes of “The Endless Sea”, which never feels like it really knows where it’s headed. Perhaps compounding this is how the transition later in the same song into an up-tempo, rampant blackened passage feels quite unnatural; there’s strong moments in this song, but overall I’d rank it as the weakest on Heimdal.

Just as much as the album’s progginess defines it, though, its riffiness also merits attention; pretty much every song finds a moment to get stuck into a gnarly riff or lively groove, culminating in the closing title track being rounded off with an understated yet fun riffy jam, in contrast to the more grandiose or mellow conclusions the previous few albums ended with. Probably the most riff-heavy song here is “Kingdom”, also the album’s shortest; not all riffs are equal, however, as a slightly middling first half evolves via an ominous tension-building bridge into a proper headbanger (the drumwork in this bridge, by the way, features a spectacular tom workout).

This isn’t my favourite Enslaved album; it’s arguably their least overtly compelling one since at least Vertebrae, if not since before their landmark record Below The Lights. Despite its imperfections, however, it’s still a really impressive blackened prog record, and quite a bold one as well in several places. I’m not the kind of person who loosely defends disappointments by my preferred bands with statements such as “even a ‘bad’ album for them would be the highlight of most other bands’ careers”, but I do feel that the consistency Enslaved have accomplished, where any fluctuations in quality between records are basically tiny blips, is pretty much unparalleled, and Heimdal is a continuation of this; any small issues I have with certain moments on it are dwarfed by the pleasure that it provides in many other moments.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 8





Written on 19.03.2023 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments

Comments: 13   Visited by: 188 users
20.03.2023 - 00:51
Rating: 9
Tuonelan
Agree with pretty much every point, save that I really like the guitar solo in Heimdal. That solo makes for an interesting contrast with the slower, dissonant backing. My wife got that same slightly pained look she always gets when a solo gets too jazzy for her tastes when it came on, but it hits me somewhere between a Holdsworth solo and a Thordendal-doing-Holdsworth solo from Meshugga's Nothing era and I look forward to hearing it in the song.

Eh, tastes...
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Hopepunk living on a grimdark timeline
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20.03.2023 - 14:39
Rating: 8
Netzach
Planewalker
Staff
I listened to this album like 10 times and still had no idea what to make of it. Great review, it's a tricky album to write about. I think I preferred Utgard, honestly, but Heimdall has higher highs (the three-punch of Congelia, Forest Dweller and the absolutely excellent Kingdom is fantastic) and lower lows (the meandering opening track, and the fact it never reaches the height of Kingdom following that track).
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20.03.2023 - 14:54
Rating: 8
musclassia
Staff
Written by Netzach on 20.03.2023 at 14:39

I listened to this album like 10 times and still had no idea what to make of it. Great review, it's a tricky album to write about. I think I preferred Utgard, honestly, but Heimdall has higher highs (the three-punch of Congelia, Forest Dweller and the absolutely excellent Kingdom is fantastic) and lower lows (the meandering opening track, and the fact it never reaches the height of Kingdom following that track).

Yeah no real arguments against any of these points
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20.03.2023 - 22:16
Rating: 8
BitterCOld
The Ancient One
Admin
Thanks for writing this up! Seriously - somehow so focused on other things I wasn't even aware the new album was out!

Great review, has my psyched to listen to it. Intrigued in more complex or longer songs.
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get the fuck off my lawn.

Beer Bug Virus Spotify Playlist crafted by Nikarg and I. Feel free to tune in and add some pertinent metal tunes!
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21.03.2023 - 13:54
Daniell
_爱情_
Elite
Enslaved is like sex and pizza. Even if it's not great, it's still pretty cool anyway.

I agree that this album leans toward the less spectacular end of Enslaved's musical spectrum. But, unlike Utgard, this one seems to grow on me with consecutive listens. I'm sure it won't soar to the stratosphere occupied by the likes of Isa or Below The Lights though.
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21.03.2023 - 15:44
Rating: 8
DarkWingedSoul
I feel greatness, but cannot manage to touch it... somehow.
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21.03.2023 - 17:52
Rating: 9
Tuonelan
It's an esoteric album through and through. The concept and execution are grand, but the concept and execution occasionally push the compositions in directions that make the album feel less certain.

The opening track is a good example of this. The chord progression wanders around looking for a direction. It fits the concept of the song and its place in the overall narrative of the album, but that choice undercuts the usual role of a lead off song to set the tone for what is to come. So it's no wonder to me that there are mixed feelings about it and about the album as a whole.

My head loves it. My gut is less sure. My head understands why my gut is unsure, but that isn't always going to convince my gut.
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Hopepunk living on a grimdark timeline
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22.03.2023 - 09:50
Daniell
_爱情_
Elite
Written by DarkWingedSoul on 21.03.2023 at 15:44

I feel greatness, but cannot manage to touch it... somehow.

Maybe it isn't there?
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22.03.2023 - 09:56
Rating: 8
DarkWingedSoul
Written by Daniell on 22.03.2023 at 09:50

Written by DarkWingedSoul on 21.03.2023 at 15:44

I feel greatness, but cannot manage to touch it... somehow.

Maybe it isn't there?

evryone says its there... could they all be wrong???
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23.03.2023 - 06:25
Rating: 9
Written by DarkWingedSoul on 22.03.2023 at 09:56

Written by Daniell on 22.03.2023 at 09:50

Written by DarkWingedSoul on 21.03.2023 at 15:44

I feel greatness, but cannot manage to touch it... somehow.

Maybe it isn't there?

evryone says its there... could they all be wrong???

nah, just me =D

this album's ambiguously, precariously 'uncertain' meandering-vibe is what has me hooked here... which is partially what attracted me to RIITIIR's approach to their brand/s of songwriting (but did not work out as convincingly for the abandoned stylistic-scout who couldn't very well turn back after Mardraum's proclamation of intended detour-di-vorce [you can't spell 'punishingly-unfunny without 'pun'... unpunny? pununny? ughh misfired n autobuzzkill'd...]... they couldn't find their stalwart path hence(kVaR)forth till it was illuminated 'below the lights'.... seriously, I have an endless supply of popsicle buh-dum-tssicles and fortune cookies with proverbs in full-color sanskrit. you can't bitch about that shit. yea, I don't know what I'm yammerin about anymore, either....

last 3 rekkidz spun
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Skin Tension - Celebrant
Babymetal - The Other One
Liturgy - 93696
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No one can fend off 100 multi-colored Draculas
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23.03.2023 - 07:21
Rating: 8
DarkWingedSoul
Hehehe, nicely put
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24.03.2023 - 06:51
Daniell
_爱情_
Elite
Written by prnzokoshiroltra on 23.03.2023 at 06:25

this album's ambiguously, precariously 'uncertain' meandering-vibe is what has me hooked here... which is partially what attracted me to RIITIIR's approach to their brand/s of songwriting (but did not work out as convincingly for the abandoned stylistic-scout who couldn't very well turn back after Mardraum's proclamation of intended detour-di-vorce [you can't spell 'punishingly-unfunny without 'pun'... unpunny? pununny? ughh misfired n autobuzzkill'd...]... they couldn't find their stalwart path hence(kVaR)forth till it was illuminated 'below the lights'.... seriously, I have an endless supply of popsicle buh-dum-tssicles and fortune cookies with proverbs in full-color sanskrit. you can't bitch about that shit. yea, I don't know what I'm yammerin about anymore, either....

I'm not sure what it is you were on while writing this, and I'm not sure I want to find out
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10.05.2023 - 07:20
Rating: 8
tintinb
Love the song Kingdom. Such a great feel to that song.
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Leeches everywhere.
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