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The Warrior That Was Me - 100%

AsPredatorToPrey, August 22nd, 2008

Mardraum - Beyond the Within was Enslaved's fifth full-length album and offered yet another reinvention and improvement of their already unique and mesmerizing style.

Overall, the lyrical concept of Mardraum brings to mind a Viking warrior who finds himself in a world where his familiar gods and culture are absent. He is confused and frightened by this unknown reality and begins questioning and re-evaluating his own identity and existence. This existential crisis could also be reflective of where Enslaved were at a creative standpoint at this time as this album stands enthralled upon the rainbow bridge between the vicious Viking metal onslaught of Blodhemn and the bizarre ethereal explorations of Monumension. As such, the chaos of Mardraum seems to represent Enslaved's own Gotterdammerung with its dissonant riffs, jagged rhythms, and soul-searching lyrics which led to their creative rebirth and progression as can be heard on their more recent albums.

"Storre enn Tid - Tyngre enn Natt" begins the CD with a jangly clean guitar melody that settles you into bliss until a harsh electric guitar riff startles you out of serenity only to be cut short before the clean guitar continues its lullaby. This brings to mind those occasions where you lie awake and sense yourself falling asleep only for your arm or leg to twitch just enough to shock you awake again. Soon, the electric guitars cut through the fluff to begin the song in earnest and thus conjure the nightmarish concept of this album. "Aeges Draum" begins with a groove reminiscent of the opening of Morbid Angel's "Dawn of the Angry" before morphing into a death metal assault. In an inexplicable shift at 1:11 this violent ecstasy becomes sullen apathy when the riffs make way for slow crashing chords as Grutle speaks in heroic clean vocals. As if that wasn't a dramatic enough change, an odd clean guitar segment plays a simple disjointed melody to further create a feeling of alienation. The song picks up again as waves of melody expand like heartbeats through a silent mosaic (the lyrics are great too) and leaves you guessing as to what Mardraum will explore next.

"Krigaren eg Ikkje Kjende" is the part of the story where the warrior confronts the shadow part of himself that he had avoided in previous songs as he attempts to slay an old man guarding a boat that he needs. Rich in symbolism, this is the song where it becomes apparent that all of the warrior's struggle has been internal and thus casts a new light on the psychological aspect of the lyrics in the previous songs. A restrained yet thrilling lead melody at 3:53 segues out of an equally rapturous clean vocal section before the song continues its earlier vein of brutality. "Stjerneheimen" then gallops and thrashes with passion and urgency before the soothing epilogue of "Froyas Smykke" brings this haunting, mystical journey to an end.

Enslaved's blistering execution of every aspect of the music is a monumental feat given the complexity of the strange accents in the riffs, thus the creativity required by the rhythm section to keep the songs flowing, and the raw emotion that must be conveyed in the performance to bring a concept as unpredictable as that on Mardraum to life. Weird, atmospheric, and brilliant, this is something that is not easy to understand upon the initial listen, but sounds better each time you hear it. Enslaved fans are already familiar with this wicked, distorted tower of an album, but if you're a fan of cryptic, mind-expanding, yet mighty metal and you haven't heard this yet, then this could be your new favorite CD.