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“Eld” by Enslaved is one of the better “black metal with progressive influences” albums of all time. Sure, “Eld” is not pure black metal like “Frost” or “Vikingligr Veldi” but it still crushes just the same.
Vocally, this album is near perfect. Grutle Kjellson uses his nasty blackened snarls and his Viking style singing voice. His screams are top-notch on “Eld” like they always are. Sick, demon-like, guttural rasps with a force of power that is sure to blow the listener away. His clean vocals are typical Viking chants utilized by so many Enslaved clones today. The vocals are a low baritone style. They are weak and very much in the background. So much so that they are almost inaudible. However, the frail clean vocals do not spoil the atmosphere of the album; they actually enhance it. I believe that if Garm (Arcturus, Ulver) sang here, it might sound a little over the top mixed in with the angry drums and guitars. Grutle’s drowned out clean vocals definitely add to the Viking atmosphere.
Guitars are pretty cool on this album and any early Enslaved album. They are very aggressive and harsh. Angry style riffing dominate “Eld” and they fit nicely with the rest of the music. They are distorted, but in a more “Viking” approach. I mean that they are not raw, like Darkthrone, but half distorted with a more melodic tone. If you have heard Hades (Nor), then you have heard this style of riffing.
Drums on this album are provided by a man known as Harald Helgeson. He is one kick ass drummer! I don’t know of any other projects he has participated in, but he really knows how to play black metal. His blast beats are raw and seriously hostile sounding. These are ugly blasts even for black metal! This is the perfect drummer for the angry sound of the music.
The few problems that lie in this album are the progressive elements. For the most part it works, but sometimes it fails. For example, “793…” is sixteen minutes long. This would not be a problem if it was a well executed song with a lot of variation, but “793…” does not vary much. It starts with an excellent ambient piece that runs about four minutes. Mortiis-like snyth is present and fits the Viking atmosphere. The song is very good, but Grutle songs the whole time. No harsh vocals on this song! Sure it worked for Ulver’s “I Troldskog Faren Vild” from “Bergtatt” but Garm is considerably better than Grutle at singing. “793…” should have contained more vocal variance and more musical variance. The music is very repetitive and drags on and on. It can start to get stale if your not in the mood for it.
The highlights on this album are every song including “793…” even though I negatively commented on it. “The Man from Hordaland” is an amazing song worth mentioning. It has nasty riffing and sick drum work. “Eld” is the best song here. It has a regal opening that reminds me of a king approaching his people. Then it turns into anger with aggressive guitar riffs and violent drums. It slows down for a nice clean sung part giving the listener’s ears a break for a while. Then it goes violent again followed by the regal riff to close. This is the perfect ending to this album.
“Eld” is probably Enslaved’s best effort to date. It beats out the previous two albums due to aged musicianship. I highly recommend buying this album. I did and have not regretted yet!