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Since the creation of Enslaved in the early nineties the guys have never failed to release a new album within one or two years – and what is even more important: they have never disappointed their fans although the sound of the Norwegians never stagnated throughout the years. Dead sure, this has not changed with RIITIIR, the latest opus by Grutle, Ivar and co. The beautiful cover artwork was again done by long time co-operator Truls Espedal, who has done every cover since 2001′s “Monumension”.
As pretty much every other album by Enslaved, RIITIIR (which approximately translates to “the rites of mankind”) is by no means easy listening. This time the overall length of the songs has even increased, most of the songs are eight to ten minutes long. That gets already obvious when listening to the colossal opener “Thoughts like Hammers”. A short, disturbing introduction soon gives way to a very doom-like riff with Grutle’s vocals as evil as imaginable, alternating with a very melodic part featuring some of the best clean vocals ever heard in Enslaved. Speaking about the vocals, that is truly one of the best features of the whole album: in my opinion, the clean vocals have never been better, which includes both Grutles performance as well as the composition of the vocal lines.
“Death in the Eyes of Dawn”, another 8-minute epic, comes up with a very catchy and melodic theme in the beginning (later to be repeated as chorus, again with superb clean vocals). The rest of the song contains many interesting riffs and variations that manage to create this special mood the whole album displays. Enslaved find just the right balance of progressive and experimental parts and conventional song structures. Each and every song has these progressive parts, but just before it gets out of hand (as it is often the case with “progressive bands” – at least in my opinion) they return to a catchy chorus or riff that has been established before. To me, that is actually a very good approach to interesting songwriting.
My personal favorite on the album is track number four, “Roots of the Mountain”. The brutal and old school intro riff fluently goes over to an atmospheric and melodic part. That again is one of the great advantages of this band: They are able to combine seeming differences into their songs without making it sound alien whatsoever.
RIITIIR contains no bad songs, yet I couldn’t really make heads or tails out of “Storm of Memories”, even after listening to it so many times. The last track on the album, “Forsaken” is not only the longest song, but also one of the best. After a very harsh beginning, a very interesting slow part rises the tension until it bursts in a climax of a melodic doom riff. Then, RIITIIR ends with an atmospheric four-minute part of clean guitar, clan vocals and piano. Atmospheric and open-minded songwriting doesn’t get much better that this.
When I first listened to the songs, I had difficulties finding into the music. As pretty much the whole album is very progressive, it is not easy to get along with all the song structures (especially as the total running time is about 67 minutes). Yet, I dare say, after listening to RIITIIR about three times the songs will be stuck in your ears, leaving you no chance but to listen to it again and again. RIITIIR is so much more that the average metal release nowadays; it challenges the listener with lots of different moods, riffs and progressive parts, but it also rewards those who are patient with an album that grows every time you listen to it. RIITIIR has become a heartfelt piece of art that will guarantee many hours of honest feelings. Of course it is no party soundtrack or elevator music: only if you concentrate on the album, you will find that it holds much beauty and has quite a lot to say.
Originally written for www.northwind-promotion.org