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Classic!! - 90%

dismember_marcin, May 8th, 2017

Enslaved is definitely one of those few Norwegian bands, which I like to listen to from most of their albums. And that's despite the fact that they went through such a drastic style / sound change ever since their formation. These last 25 years were spectacular for them, I think, they recorded many fantastic albums and whether we speak of their early, more raw black metal releases or their newer progressive stuff, it always sound excellent. Enslaved music gives me a special feeling, especially their older releases have atmosphere and style, which is so damn unique. And obviously I like their early recordings the most. Such "Hordanes Land" is a real jewel from those early days and really significant recording, an important piece of the Norwegian black metal history for sure. It was released on May 1993, through Candlelight Records, first on 12" vinyl (very collectable item nowadays) and later also as a split album with Emperor's self-titled EP (one of the best splits ever!).

Obviously when compared to later Enslaved, "Hordanes Land" may sound quite archaic, but it's such a strong black metal release and surely one of the best from those old days. From the very first seconds of "Slaget i skogen bortenfor" the music builds incredibly cold, dark and epic atmosphere, which is impossible to resist. And from the beginning it's also obvious how great step forward Enslaved did when comparing this EP to the insanely raw sounding "Yggdrasil" demo. The production is so much better, but also the performance and compositions are incomparable. The band entered studio called Lydloftet and improved their sound hugely. The songs sound powerful and monumental, but harsh also, so it's a perfect sounding black metal release.

But let's be honest, this improvement of production quality was absolutely necessary if Enslaved wanted to show the real value of their music. if they were to keep that raw and most noisy production of the demo then none of these songs would be able to impress so much and unveil the incredible potential, which is in Enslaved. Actually the same happened to Emperor at that time. They improved so much when comparing "Emperor" EP to "Wrath of the Tyrant" that it's incredible. And they were all just damn kids at that time, what makes even bigger impression nowadays.

Anyway, I love how "Hordanes Land" sounds and the songs are super amazing. The keyboards started to play very important role in the music of Enslaved and I have to say that they do complete these songs in great way. They may be a bit too loud sometimes, but they sound great and add darker and more monumental feeling to the music. Even more I like how Enslaved started to use acoustic guitars. And it all worked very well. The music builds proper atmosphere and Grutle screams like possessed some Norwegian lyrics... The balance between fast and slow parts is also done very well, although I have to admit that I like these slower fragments the most. And let's not forget about the diversity of the music! "Slaget i skogen bortenfor" can be 13 minutes long, but so much is going on there that it never gets dull and repetitive. Great change of rhythms, lots of ideas and interesting arrangements, fantastic parts all over it... This song is simply a masterpiece on its own.

"Allfaðr Oðinn" (which was also featured on the previous demo) and "Balfǫr" complete the EP. First song is quite harsh and aggressive sounding, while "Balfǫr" is more close to some viking era Bathory at first, but later shows a bit different approach. The keyboards are the most active in this song and I have to say that sometimes the result is quite odd and a bit different to the rest of the EP. It even has that progressive touch, which will become a trademark of the future Enslaved.

Oh, as you probably noticed, I rather prefer to call "Hordanes Land" a black metal release, even against the band's statements from those past days. I just don't like that viking metal tag or even more the battle metal tag, which is how Candlelight described this EP. For me this is the essence of atmospheric Norwegian black metal! I do realize that the band wasn't satanic and their lyrics were dealing with Norse old pagan gods and myths. And I love this theme, but musically this is black metal. And "Hordanes Land" is a Norwegian black metal classic!

Standout track: "Slaget i skogen bortenfor"
Final rate: 90/100