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In the old day, before the prominence of the internet, there were times when one had to make a judgment of an album based on the cover art, hoping that it would serve as an indication as to whether or not the music was any good. Sometimes it worked, yet every now and then this method would fail. In the case of Enslaved's third full-length, the ridiculously lame cover should serve as a warning to not bother listening to this. Released in March 1997, Eld came a few years after Frost and showed that the band had acquired new interests and had returned to the scene with a somewhat different approach. Those that were hoping for a continuation of the early material were sadly disappointed.
Where does one start with such an irritating record? The production is terrible and not in a good way. It is difficult to believe that Pytten had anything to do with this, as the sound is all wrong for this material. There is too much open space between the instruments, as if they are somehow not connected, properly. Even on tracks where they go for a full-on black metal assault, the mix seems more geared for a simple rock band and the whole thing is just totally neutered. The drums are too loud in the mix, which makes the disconnect all the more noticeable. The guitar tone is not all that bad, but the overall sound does not match the style of music that is being played.
As for the material itself, Enslaved really lost their way on this one. Either they failed to accomplish that which they set out to do or they were actually trying to make something totally horrid and bereft of any value, whatsoever. The opener, "793 (Slaget Om Lindisfarne)", clocks in at over sixteen minutes and doesn't feature a single enjoyable moment. Right from the onset, the band decided to challenge the patience of the listener, bombarding you with all of the new elements that they chose to embrace; i.e. an overflow of clean vocals, acoustic passages, more of a folk-like vibe. This is usually a sign of a band that was not that committed to what they were doing in the first place, having run out of ideas and needing to find some sort of gimmick. In this case, all of the new additions helped them gain praise from those that see such nonsense as progressive and thoughtful. Some tracks, like "Hordalendingen" and "Alfablot", try to inject some of the old intensity into things, but the execution and production really prevent this from ever happening. And, of course, the use of keyboards and clean vocals has to be ever-present. There doesn't appear to be a single pure black metal song on the album, which is really what they needed since their brand of 'Viking Metal' is so disappointing.
Eld represents the exact moment when Enslaved became completely irrelevant to the black metal scene and began to belong to some faux-progressive movement, populated by musicians that had utterly lost any and all sense of purpose and were content to start throwing things against the wall to see what stuck. There were certainly hints that this might happen, particularly on Frost, but it is doubtful that anyone could have predicted such an atrocity. Avoid this.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com