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As most of you know, Enslaved is a big name out there in the Metal scene. Along with Dimmu Borgir and Satyricon, they are a second-wave Norwegian Black Metal band that has received exceptional popularity in recent years. Like the other two mentioned, they accomplished this by branching out and fusing styles. Enslaved, even from the start, had a progressive edge over their more predictable countrymen. Many BM stalwarts hail their debut Vikigligr Veldi as their first and finest hour. Balancing that out are the prog fanboys going gaga over their latest outputs.
However, it is the middle of the spectrum that deserves the most attention, and Blodhemn is the least appreciated of this transition period. It’s deeply rooted in the harsh, Viking-themed Metal of its three predecessors, but it hints at the unique progressions (and dilutions) of its posterity. This is not ambiguity. This is the peak of their power, before the future digressions watered it down.
The production is clean and sharp, like a storm of razor blades backed by thunderous artillery. Gone is the murky atmosphere of the past, but that merely turns up the barometric pressure, and you’re breathing fresh air, charging across the battlefield in broad daylight. This top-gun production is also necessary to showcase the complexity of every second of music. But even with clinical production, you can still lose yourself in a monolithic wall of sound.
Not one musician underplays his role, from the unique drum patterns, to the mind-bending riffs, to the hypnotic clean vocals interplaying with Grutle Kjellson’s vitriolic growls. This album is consistently fast, and takes a few listens to keep track of what’s going on. Pleasing from the start, and forever enduring, are the quality riffs, such as the opener to “Eit Auga Til Mimir” (one of my favorite riffs of all time), which has a resemblance to Mayhem. The melodies are evocative and overwhelmingly triumphant.
I’m baffled by how underrated this album is. Its songs are rarely played live, as if this were a chapter the band soon forgot. Perhaps the gratuitous amounts of energy required to record this album simply couldn’t be matched in a live setting. All the Pink Floyd-related substances must have weakened their Viking resolve.
Whoever said that Black Metal died in the late 90’s has likely never heard Blodhemn.