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First step in the wrong direction - 70%

Kruel, November 9th, 2008

It is often said that Enlsaved's classic era ends after Frost. But the truth is that it ended after Vikingligr Veldi. There is a clear disparity, both in terms of quality and style, between that album and this, that it is only logical to draw the line between these two.

Let's start with something minor, or at least what should be minor: the production. A change in production value from one album to another is only natural, and it shouldn't play much role in determining the era into which the album in question falls, but the difference between the production on Vikingligr Veldi and Frost is so drastic that it deserves some analysis. The production on Vikingligr Veldi was not very raw, but it was still typical of black metal; on the other hand, Frost's production feels digital, with a mechanical or industrial touch to it. It is like the production on Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, but much more mechanical. But it also has a machine-generating-cold-steam feeling like that of Mysticum, so while the production job is far from ideal, it is not significantly flawed in itself. Unfortunately, this is not industrial black metal like Mysticum. This is Viking black metal, and such a mechanical production is the last thing one can want in such a case. The follow-up to Frost, Eld, actually has a production that is more typical, but it is still reminiscent of Frost's production, so it is reasonable enough to use the production style as a standard of differentiating between two eras.

The composition is, of course, the biggest determinant. Frost first introduces the loss in subtlety. While the pre-frost Enslaved focused on conveying the emotions of the Vikings, Frost begins to center around depicting the Vikings themselves. Vikingligr Veldi and Hordanes Land were heavily concerned with the inner aspect of Vikings, of what they feel like after a battle or in the vast cold wilderness, and delivered it through smooth riff progressions and subtle manipulations; but Frost just screams "Viking!" right in front of the listener's face with its clean vocals, exclusively acoustic riffs, and keyboard solos, making the folk influences too overt. This problem is complicated because most of the riffs actually obscured the folk influences. The riffing is too thrash/heavy styled, with some chugging and technical overtones. There still are some brilliant tremolo riffs (though not all tremolo riffs on this album are good) that could have been on the earlier works by the band, but even such riffs do not work well here because they hardly make sense in the context of the surrounding riffs. With some parts of the songs being too blatant and some parts simply not sounding like folk at all, the songs lack the strongly unified feeling that was present on pre-Frost Enslaved. With Frost, Enslaved had already embarked on their "progressive" journey. From this point, it was only a matter of how many more influences they could throw in and how obvious they were going to make those.

Conversely, though, it means that they had not yet thrown in many random influences or made those so painfully obvious on Frost. It is still an enjoyable album, and when they do make a coherent song, such as Wotan, the harsh, evil vocals and the intense drumming which are more emphasized on this album than on previous works shine through, making the piece more ominous than anything they have done. But overall, Frost is far from being a classic, and it should be considered the beginning of the end rather than the end of the beginning.