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They made it seem effortless - 95%

bkuettel, December 30th, 2015

The opening seconds of “Thurisaz Dreaming” are possibly the fastest and most chaotic introduction to any album in Enslaved’s massive discography. While the opener of In Times progresses like most of their recent cuts, it eventually gives way to one of their most atmospheric and dreamlike outros to date. Even thirteen releases in, they’re not afraid to continue pushing the musical boundaries of progressive rock, psychedelia, and experimental music under an extreme metal backdrop. Recent albums have had varying amounts of black metal influence, but In Times subverts expectations by being their most varied and diverse release since 2001’s Monumension. Despite having arguably reached their peak with 2010’s Axioma Ethica Odini, Enslaved continue to prove that progressing is more important than attempting to repeat past successes.

At this point, it’s hard to build reasonable expectations for the band. Their modest birth in the heart of the early Norwegian black metal scene eventually gave way to widespread recognition. Each album soon had its own voice, with ample experimentation and a sense of large-scale concepts and themes of the mythological and otherworldly. In Times is yet another testament to their penchant for evolution and personal growth, exhibited significantly in “Building With Fire.” It builds mid-tempo melodic black metal verses with one of their most drearily effective melodic choruses of their career, sounding like it could come straight from an Alice In Chains album. Eventually they climax with an atmospheric guitar solo, later breaking with a bass solo, building again, then returning to the chorus. No single song runs under eight minutes, and each one really feels like a journey as they flow into each other, giving the impression of a concept album.

Ominous atmospherics in “One Thousand Years of Rain” quickly explode to life in a flurry of rapid fire alternating vocal styles of demonic shrieking and beautiful harmonizing, constantly battling with each other throughout the maze of guitar riffs and drum work. Each track largely continues in the same vein, with melodic choruses journeying throughout the stunning variety of beauty and brutality. The diverse instrumentation of riffs and arpeggiated chord changes takes notable influence from bands such as Gorguts and Opeth, exhibited most in the album’s second half. “Nauthir Bleeding” is the most adventurous and diverse cut of the album. It manages to be ferocious and simultaneously atmospheric thanks to a dazzling, dissonant middle section and perfect use of apocalyptic synths. “In Times” follows similarly, and contains one of the most poignant and meditative sections of the record before exploding into a screaming frenzy of blasts and tremolo picking.

The album’s highlight is saved for the closing track “Daylight.” After a few minutes of mid-tempo guitar riffing, it changes to an extended musical passage reminiscent of post-rock as layers of guitar chords paint a celestial picture over soaring vocals. A minimal but effective use of keyboards adds to the dredge of instrumentals as a truly epic guitar solo jams out, becoming the album’s catharsis and one of the most surprising moments of Enslaved’s career. It quiets down again, and the listener is forced to ask if this is the same band, before the heavy guitar riffing suddenly returns. The song continues as if nothing had happened, and just like that, it’s over. In Times exhibits Enslaved’s ever-evolving use of dynamics and soundscapes with a mature understanding of the alternating effects of ferocity and beauty. The sound of the apocalypse can change to peaceful skies within seconds. Their command over contrasting elements is so reliable and self-assured, that it wouldn’t be difficult to believe that they have twenty-five more years of musical greatness ahead of them.