Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

More than just amazing - 100%

Lord_Jotun, October 6th, 2003

Enslaved have always managed to kept themselves somewhat apart from the rest of Norway's metal scene thanks to a very skillful and original approach to their heavy art. Heralded among others as the forefathers of Viking Metal, the band took a more progressive direction with their 1996 offering "Eld" and the subsequent assault "Blodhemn", which also saw the band expanding to a four piece with the addition of guitarist Roy Kronheim and former Gehenna skinthrasher Dirge Rep. (now in Orcustus), along with founding members Ivar Bjørnson (guitars, keyboards and a whole lot of different stuff) and Grutle Kjellson (vocals and bass). The same line-up would resurface 2 years later as the winning team behind "Mardraum - Beyond The Within".

"Beyond" is indeed a term which suits the album pretty well. Beyond Black Metal, beyond Viking Metal, beyond Enslaved's previous outputs in any way. This is one of those albums which elude the grasp of any definition and stand tall and proud as something of their own. Obviously, the band took (yet another) considerable stylistic turn with this, and inevitably disappointed several long-time followers. However, "Mardraum" is not an album which should be easily overlooked.

Despite the severe musical detour Enslaved retained the old Icelandic language for their lyrics - except for one song - but once again they added English translations in the booklet - and an Icelandic translation for the English song. Great move, because these lyrics are worth much more than just a casual reading, dealing with abstract themes which fit the music perfectly. Enslaved have never been that "Hail Satan" kind of band, but this time they surpassed themselves.
And then there's the music, of course. The first word that comes into my mind to describe it is "otherworldly". Intricate, non-conventional, obscenely varied, this is art from beyond for the beyond.

"Mardraum" (which translates to "Nightmare") opens with the choing clean guitars of "Større enn tid - Tyngre enn natt" ("Larger than time - Heavier than night"), an immense epic which evolves several times in its first minutes alone before the "actual" song begins at around 4:30. Enslaved's trademark heaviness is brought to the extremes here, thanks to the top notch Abyss Studios production which gives an even sharper cutting edge to the guitars and power to the drums, leaving at the same time a distinct bass sound and the vocals just at the right level. Oh yes, the vocals. As the first verse kicks in, we are greeted by Grutle's dual voice chanting, which in turn switches to his trademark shriek, and then all over again, while the music paints a desolate landscape with an almost doomy palette, slow and incredibly heavy. Then comes the chorus, still slow but pushed forward by buzzsaw tremolos and double bass drum drive, with Grutle shining by turning his deep growl to a fierce scream at the very end of every verse, before the speed really grows for a powerful middle section, with the dirgelike slow tempo coming back in for the final. The song clocks in at some seconds over 10 minutes, but it's far from drawn out. In complete contrast, "Daudningekvida" ("Deadhymn") is a flat-out headbanger, completed by insane leads and a great work from Dirge Rep. In just two songs Enslaved have shown ideas and influences which would be enough for other bands to fill a full length. But it's only just begun...

"Entrance - Escape" ("Inngang - Flukt") is the only song with English lyrics, another slow and abstract epic with a percussion driven middle section and the Bjørnson - Kronheim duo experimenting a lot of guitar sounds and techniques, while Grutle shines both as a vocalist with his clever harmonizings (the song, although mostly instrumental, is sung entirely with clean vocals) and as a bassist, his distorted licks being the real subterrabean force beneath the cool surface of the song. "Ormgard" ("The Hive") opens with a bizarrely filtered intro to explode into a pummeling symphony for razor sharp strumming and more double bass earthquakes. "Aeges draum" ("Aege's dream") manages to create that unreal feeling by alternating aggressive assaults with sombre interludes; the contrast the band creates by turning a clean guitar riff to a full speed attack shows how much care Enslaved have put into arrangements as well as songwriting. The tile track comes next, a real nightmare for pounding percussions, fierce guitars and distant screams.
This abundance of experimentalism is counterbalanced by "Det endelege riket" ("The ending empire"), a groove injected crusher where Enslaved show they haven't lost their old drive, the excellent solo section after the second chorus being probably the catchiest moment "Mardraum" has to offer. "Ormgard II - Kvalt i kysk høgsong" ("The Hive II - Strangled by purity") continues the brutality, although it inevitably seems to lack a bit of a direction after the quite accessible "Det endelege riket", but it's a very well crafted number anyway. The brutal factor is brought at its peak by the blasting "Krigaren eg ikkje kjende" (translated as "Warrior unknown", although title literally means "Warrior I do / did not know", which fits the personal and inrospective nature of the lyrics better), which destroys anything in its way before giving may to more relaxed riffs and more clean chantings. "Stjerneheimen" ("Starhome") doesn't match the aggression of the previous numbers, relying more on its outworldly atmosphere although the rhythmic drive is extremely effective. The short and very good instrumental "Frøyas smykke" (Freya's necklace") ends the album with a further touch of melodic elegance.

What more could I say about one of the greatest albums I've ever heard? Approach with care, as it's of course very weirdand hard to get into, but don't skip it without some good listens; you'd be missing an unique experience.