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A masterpiece both raw and epic - 100%

daudeskald, October 3rd, 2006

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.