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Hordanes Land is the first official release from Norway's Enslaved. This three-song E.P. was released by Candlelight Records in May 1993, later reissued as a split with Emperor. For many, this half an hour of music served as their introduction to the band. This effort is not too far removed from Yggdrasill, for the most part, though it does display Enslaved's more ambitious side.
Right away, it is obvious that the production has 'improved' since the Yggdrasill demo. It is clearer and a little more professional, while still sounding rough. However, for my taste, the raw sound of the demo tape was much better. Nonetheless, this was a necessary evil, as there seems to be a bit more going on here and the fuller and deeper sound allows for every element to be heard well, from the acoustic bits to the clean vocal passages. The drums are definitely clearer than before, and possess somewhat of a heavy echo. The guitars do not seem as effective since they lack the razor sharp tone and severely harsh edge as before. The keyboards are too loud as well. In this case, the band was better off with either the raw quality from the demo or the somewhat more professional sound of Vikingligr Veldi. This rests somewhere in between and doesn't quite suit the music as well as either of those.
As for the music, this is rather decent. "Slaget I Skogen Bortenfor" is a massive piece that serves as an early sign of the band's lofty goals. For those that followed their development from the demos onward, this must have come as somewhat of a surprise. Clocking in at over thirteen minutes, this was one of the first examples of Norwegian black metal really breaking with convention and going for something more epic. This even predates Burzum's "Det Som Engang Var", for what it's worth. That said, the songwriting is not quite as skilled and there are times when one gets the impression that the track could have been shorter, but Enslaved surely gets credit for pulling it off rather convincingly, anyway. The only real complaint would have to be the keyboards, which sound really ridiculous. Whoever thought the odd horn sound somehow added to the music should be beaten. The song is filled with a good number of high quality tremolo riffs and Grutle's absolutely vicious vocals, so such effects were simply unnecessary.
This is followed by a re-recording of "Allfaðr Oðinn". Right off, this is a bit of a letdown as they changed the lead solo at the beginning of the song, making it less memorable and nearly impotent when compared to the original. Otherwise, it still retains the opening moments inspired by Celtic Frost and then the transition to the colder tremolo melodies. Again, the vocals are possessed by a hateful and aggressive tone that really goes beyond what a lot of the other Norwegian bands were doing. The keyboards distract from the riffs, at certain points, but they are done a little more tastefully than on the previous track. All in all, there are not too many differences between this version and the original. The epic atmosphere may be more perceptible here, though the rawness of the demo recording is still preferable to my ears.
"Balfǫr" is a strange track, utilizing some odd riffs that kind of foreshadow some of the material from Frost. The vibe is definitely more relaxed as the song moves along as a slower pace. Here, the subtle synth touches actually fit the music better than at any other time of this E.P. A brief lead solo adds depth to the song, with somewhat of a sombre touch. The riffs are more thrash-oriented, for the most part, though the mid-paced parts of somewhat reminiscent of old Bathory. While this is certainly different, it makes for an interesting listen and is pretty memorable.
Hordanes Land is definitely an interesting release. It seems that it would fit more naturally between Vikingligr Veldi and Frost, rather than between the demo and the debut. Either way, it is filled with rather dynamic compositions that seek to create an epic atmosphere beyond what most of Enslaved's Norwegian peers were up to. Strange that, when considering the split release that featured these songs, Emperor seemed to get the most attention despite the Enslaved material being far more interesting and well-executed. At any rate, for those fans of the band's early period, this is an essential release.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
Hordanes Land is a key stepping stone in Enslaved’s development of the viking black metal subgenre. In contrast to the fast, attacking blitz of Yggdrasill, Hordanes Land slows down the tempo, inflates the song lengths and peppers the compositions with a little more variation. The EP consists of three bulky songs, each consisting of a small number of progressions, ranging from 8-13 minutes. While in some respects Enslaved bite off more than they are ready to chew, in other respects the band has already found its stride.
One area where Enslaved really find their form is in the production department. Though the thin production of Yggdrasill captures the young band’s energetic spirit, it lacks the depth and texture needed to fully conjure the ancient, noble spirit Enslaved is aiming to recapture. Hordanes Land remedies that by producing a massive, echoic environment that lends itself to images of viking boats traversing rough, oceanic terrain. The rhythm guitars and bass are low and thick, creating a rumbling tone like the rolling of waves. The drums are similarly deep and thunderous. These low, heavy sounds provide a great foundation for the high pitched shrieks, symphonic keys and melodious guitar solos. While the guitar solos and vocals are strong, the keyboards often sound quite cheap. This is especially true of the dinky organ and choir samples.
Enslaved will liberally repeat a captivating hook for several minutes. Sometimes this is done to a flaw, especially on “Slaget I Skogen Bortenfor,” which tips the scale at 13 minutes. The song contains one too many repetitious sections that lack the substance to justify the duration. The next two tracks are little more concise and satisfying. “Allfadr Odinn” (a rerecording of a track of Yggdrasill) has an inspired, uplifting chorus full of shimmering choir and organ samples. It’s an early sighting of Enslaved’s psychedelic tenancies and distinctly recalls early Pink Floyd. “Balfǫr” is the strongest track; its foundation is a dark, serpentine riff and groovy rhythm, which at different points accompanied by piano, acoustic guitar and strings. The band uses the multiplicity of instruments to create exquisite harmonies.
While Hordanes Land has its flaws, it is still a highly enjoyable recording. Enslaved’s ear for an epic melodies is evident and every song has numerous quality riffs. Furthermore, the EP contains quite a bit of variety. There are harsh and gritty passages but there are also passages that are quite elegant. While this EP is heavily (and rightfully) overshadowed by Enslaved’s first few full lengths, fans will enjoy hearing this key step in the development of Enslaved’s sound.
(Originally written for deinos-logos.blogspot.com)
Three lengthy songs of epic, dynamic black metal make up Enslaved’s debut EP, executed with a high level of proficiency, thematic urgency, and masterful orchestration of pace in harmony with the conceptual context. These grand songs inspired by tales of secret wisdom and dark mystery derived from Norwegian folklore are constructed out of a handful of inventive, thematically- perceptive riffs which are like folk melodies played with the speed and energy of black metal, with occasional acoustic backing, phrased in extended passages representing a long, meditative journey through harsh conditions, interrupted with sections of blasting mayhem to portray anticipated yet unpredictable encounters of violent confrontation.
Though the production is ambiguous to instrumental detail, particularly the drums, one can still be amazed at the sheer intensity and skill of these blurred passages of frenzied violence in which riff-shapes discover a freedom within open-ended distance of sound to emphasize the full range of tonal noise emerging from each chord. The extension of phrases allows a gradual development of elemental unity, in turn supplying each passage with its own meaning as an essential aspect to the substance of the entirety.
In each song we hear extended passages of contemplative beauty, moved by an energetic rhythm as defined by a measured tempo and lead guitar melodies of reflective character, sometimes accented by simple, dramatic keyboard patterns; these slower, more meditative movements alternate with passages of breathtaking attacks of violence, marked by chaotic, fast riffs in powerfully unrelenting rhythmic surges, enhanced in hostility when Grutle’s berserker screams emerge to provide a quality of wild aggression and bloodthirsty vengeance. The music is mighty and beautiful, powerful and mysterious in its sense of adventure and communication of the ancient wisdom and warrior spirit of the Viking age applied to modern life.
Like its partner, the s/t Emperor EP, Hordanes Land was probably exposed to most as a component of the split release organized by Candlelight records, who had also sold both independently in a more limited run. To that extent (and I mentioned this in my review of the 1993 Emperor EP), I feel like this is the 'natural state' in which to experience the recordings. Granted, this is the age of the .mp3 and a lot of people don't even listen to full albums anymore, much less a split recording or compilation, but the strings of nostalgia pluck too heavily upon my heart to ever want to listen to them in twain. That said, for the purpose of this review, I shall do my damnedest to stick with just Hordanes Land.
There are three compositions here, one which seems excessively long (over 13 minutes) and the other two not exactly qualifying as 'slim', for a total of over 30 minutes of content. Like their following full-length works Vikingligr Veldi and Frost, this is savage and frenetic Viking black metal with lyrics based in Norse mythology, but the forceful, thundering metallic ingredients are also saturated through keyboard orchestration. The keys are somewhat cheesier sounding than on the ensuing works: for example, the epilog to "Slaget I Skogen Bortenfor" feels like you are slumming around some sacred temple in a 16-bit video game, but this isn't really a problem for me, since the guitars are so vibrant, and Trym's drumming so damned consistent and punishing. What I also really like about this EP, even more than Vikingligr Veldi in fact, are the vocals, which seem much closer upon the scent of carrion as they knife through the stormy atmosphere.
Also, strangely enough, I feel like despite it's massive size, "Slaget..." is a more emotional stirring track than any of its 10-11 successors on the full-length debut. The guitars are more barbaric, even if part of that is that they feel like a carnal substrate to the dorky keys. The bleeding fingers of tremolo melody at the finale are excellent, and I also like the slower paced breakdowns with the escalating chord pattern. Next to this, "Allfadr Odinn" seems more influenced by epic heavy metal, with a straight shot of predictable melody alongside the louder, pumping bass. It too becomes rather cheesy in the bridge with the layering of the synthesizers, but it's not a bad piece, and neither is the closer "Balfadr", which has a few curious traces of the band's future progressive intentions through the mixture of piano, acoustic guitars, and bass that surround the pumping black/heavy metal of the verse riffing. Grutle here sounds far bloodier and more effective than anything on Vikingligr Veldi...
Hordanes Land is a pretty charming release, from the snowy mythic battle on the cover to the tendrils of variation found throughout the music, and if we WERE to place this in the spectrum of its split release with Emperor, I'd certainly favor it, at least over the reworked demo material that Ihsahn and Samoth included. Ultimately, you'll want the split, but even by its lonesome, the Enslaved material is adequate. The guitars are not always the most memorable, and the contrast of the amateur synth tones might turn out some potential listeners, but it was a solid introduction to a band that has never ceased to grow its sound and thrill its audience.
The early 90s Norwegian black metal explosion was, if nothing else, a completely spontaneous occurrence. Unlike many other scenes that started out fairly unique and then quickly organized themselves into distinct stylistic schools, there was no real emulation of sound, but instead a really intricate blending of a similar spirit with varying viewpoints on what was the most salient aspect of the sound. Enslaved was one of the bands who decided to really delve into the technical and progressive possibilities, and along with Emperor, introduced the concept of Black metal being a symphonic venture.
Though projects such as Darkthrone, Immortal and Burzum had embarked on fairly technical endeavors in the 2 years prior to 1993, at this point Enslaved was the most epic and virtuosic among the rawer sounding bands. This rather lengthy EP is an accomplishment of both bold structural adventurism and gradual minimalist development, stretching a series of well thought out ideas to their fullest extent. Various outside styles come in and out of play, ranging from the typical mix of tremolo melodic passages and thrash riffs, to some subtle progressive rock influences, particularly during the heavy keyboard passages.
There are so many unique aspects to this music that it is difficult to really nail down one defining trait of this band to constantly harp on. There isn’t really any concept of stylistic limitation to be heard anywhere on this entire album. The whole time through there is this middle ground between catchiness, epic scope, and progressive development that is constantly maintained. It remains entrenched in the black metal style mostly by the primal goblin shrieks of Grutle Kjellson, the raw and reverb heavy production and the frequent use of blast beats, but you can also see where the concept of blending melodic and extreme styles of music together explored by the likes of Children Of Bodom, Skyfire and Ensiferum came from.
If you really wanted to look for some sort of historical point of reference for what actually is going on here, there are a number of differing places to look. Bathory is the first and most obvious example, though unlike many other band of this time Enslaved has decided to incorporate elements from both the early black metal albums as well as the Viking era that followed, resulting in the large scale epic “Slaget I Skogen Bortenfor / Prologr / Slaget”, which is half “Under The Sign Of The Black Mark”, half “Hammerheart”. Things get a little bit more untraditional with “Allfadr Odinn”, which goes through varying sections that resemble Running Wild, Destruction, and Venom. The closing “Balfadr” gets much more keyboard oriented, employs a lot of acoustic guitar work mixed into the arrangement, and is a good bit slower to the point of being doom-like, not really sounding like anything well known before this point in history.
Enslaved, like many others, basically came to where they were at this point by getting bored with established conventions of playing death metal. This boredom resulted in a very different and new direction within the extreme fringes of the metal world, putting even their fellow virtuosic contemporaries Emperor on notice. For an EP in this style, it is well produced and pretty easy to follow, but definitely not accessible to anyone who thinks a song isn’t a song unless it’s less than 5 minutes in length. But regardless to what you’re preferred blend of black metal is, if you suffer from an acute sense of boredom with how so many bands box themselves into a formulaic style of songwriting, “Hordanes Land” will cure it really fast.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on March 4, 2009.
Enslaved is a band that should be familiar to anyone into Norwegian Black Metal. They can easily be considered to have been a part of the famous "second wave" of Black Metal that took place in Norway along with genre pioneers such as Burzum, Darkthrone, Immortal and Mayhem. However, they were still different from the other bands that shared their role in developing the genre, being far more interested in the old Norse culture, particularly the mythology, rather than darkness and evil.
Musically, Enslaved have a distinct and individual interpretation of Black Metal, just like other noticeable bands of the genre in this period. This EP is semi-legendary, the reason being that it later that same year was re-released as a split with Emperor's self-titled EP and was through Euronymous (Mayhem's frontman) released internationally through Candlelight Records to promote Black Metal. This was in 1993, so we are dealing with a work of historical significance here.
The album starts off with "Slaget i skogen bortenfor", which has a low-key synth and guitar build-up before bursting into traditional raw, energetic and fast Black Metal at its finest. Now, "epic" is such an overused word in music reviews, but it is a term truly fitting here; the song is brutal, fast and raw while still retaining an aura of being really spectacular and majestic. Not in the way Emperor achieves it with unique atmospheric interplay between riffs and synthesizer orchestration, but rather through the ambience created by Ivar Bjørnson's unique guitar playing style, which is enchanted by the other instruments. Also noticeable to the listener is the simple and sparse but very effective use of synthesizers, which is for, the lack of a better term, catchy.
The song mostly retains its intensity with the exception of two strategically placed interludes slowing things down a bit before bursting forth again with short, but effective sections of spoken, clean vocals, leaving the listener with a mighty and commanding impression. The song stops as abruptly as it started, leaving the listener gasping for air from its 13 minutes of pure intensity and rage.
"Allfadr Odinn" has a different feel to it, which is in good contrast to the pure intensity of the opening track. It has a simple, but effective main riff, and the chorus is very memorable, with Grutle Kjellson screaming the title of the song along with a dark, mysterious melody played on the synthesizer.
"Balför" is more slow-paced and has a great, solid combination of a riff of majestic melody together with piano-simulated synth sounds. The song has a quality similar to that of a band jamming and making a great, spontaneous piece of music that works, which is rare in Black Metal.
To sum this review up, I will state that if you are looking for a less synth-based sound than early Emperor but an equally great combination of epic and raw music , look no further. If you like Emperor's self-titled EP, you will almost certainly like this as well. The split is actually still available, but as for Emperor, I would rather recommend getting the latest re-release of the "Emperor" EP, which includes the very good "Wrath of the Tyrant" demo. As for Enslaved, get the "Vikingligr veldi" re-release, which includes "Hordanes land" as a separate CD.