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An Extraordinary Album - 100%

Roswell47, March 23rd, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Nuclear Blast (Limited edition, Digipak)

Some don't care for Enslaved's recent style and won't be happy unless the band returns to its more straight-forward black metal days. On the other hand, I am a fan of all of Enslaved's work and have enjoyed watching the band's progression over the years. For me, the release of a new Enslaved album is a highly anticipated event since I invariably want to see what the band will do next. Luckily, Enslaved rarely disappoints.

Enslaved's latest, In Times, continues the band's evolution. The album belongs in the same family as Enslaved's two most recent full-lengths, RIITTIIR and Axioma Ethica Odini. While it's probably most similar to Axioma, In Times has a character all of its own. The songs on In Times seem somewhat subtle and not always in your face. The opening track, "Thurisaz Dreaming," is a solid but understated song that is not immediately impressive. It's actually quite a grower and gradually shows its strengths over time. However, the next track, "Building With Fire," is instantly likeable and combines all that is good about modern Enslaved. This sort of balance between songs that grow on the listener and tracks that are immediately stuck in one's head makes In Times an exceptionally strong album as a whole. There's more to discover with each successive listen, but there's also plenty to enjoy right away.

While there's an abundance of driving force provided by the band's black metal style and Grutle Kjellson's blackened screams, both clean guitars and clean vocals are heavily utilized on In Times. As in the past, Herbrand Larsen's singing gives many of the choruses an epic feel. Musically, what could be best described as the band's "prog" influences come to the fore on much of the album. This is especially evident in "One Thousand Years of Rain" and "Nauthir Bleeding." The progressive vibe usually is provided by unique rhythms and chord voicings. Acoustic and clean electric guitars contribute to a dreamy feeling on several of these songs, especially when combined with the clean singing. "Daylight" is a prime example of the dreamy vibe that Enslaved often conjures on the album, at times bringing Devin Townsend's more mellow moments to mind. In some instances, the clean guitars nearly cross the line into shoegaze / 90's emo territory. But fear not, the songs remain wholly Enslaved. While the tracks on In Times can be a little long and repetitive, they never become boring in the least. The expertly-layered instruments and vocals make each eight to ten minute track fly by. No single instrument dominates; each serves the purpose of the song, and thereby the album as a whole.

In Times is a more than worthy addition to the Enslaved catalog. Just when it feels like Enslaved might run out of places to explore or may not be able to maintain its level of quality, the band proves that there was no reason for doubt. In Times is an extraordinary album that has the potential to continue to grow on the listener for years to come. This is one of the best albums in a discography already brimming with stunning work.

Originally written for http://www.metalpsalter.com