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Enslaved- RIITIIR - 40%

stenchofishtar, March 23rd, 2014

In the context of black metal in the early 90′s, Enslaved were in their own right ‘progressive’ by definition and ahead of their time. Aesthetically their re-telling of ancient Nordic myths gave a more overt sense of romanticism to a style of music where the thematic orthodoxy had a more macabre and occult basis.

Taking lyrical and peotic inspiration from Bathory and the Eddas, they combined the savage, complex rhythmic structures of death metal with the epic tonalities of black metal, making subtle hints to Berlin School electronica (as did Burzum, more overtly) and the traditional ethnic music of their native Norway. Best illustrated on ‘Vikinglr Veldi’ and ‘Frost’ this exhibited a band at the height of their powers, putting out work that was not only wondrous in its sense of expression, but also in its knack of stimulating the imagination of the listener.

On ‘RIITTIIR’ we get a modern re-packaged take on the British progressive rock of the 1970′s. Behind the layer of thick, crunchy guitars there are psychedelic keyboard runs not out of line with Pink Floyd and Genesis, and brief, dissonant jazzy noodlings reminiscent of King Crimson, with aesthetic nods to modern progressive metal such as Dream Theater and Opeth, being rather apparent in the use of lead vocals.

The manner in which they pay homage to these older sources almost parallels how Darkthrone have taken to worshiping punk rock and 80′s underground metal obscurities in recent years. To some this is ‘moving forward’, to some it’s the sign of a band ‘enjoying themselves’, to some purists it’s ‘selling out’. Personally, I find for all its effort, that it’s just rather dull.

Being somewhat familiar with some of the more recent work of these Norse veterans, yet skeptical, I was nonetheless expecting something quite special here. This album comes as a disappointment. I will not doubt for a moment that their musicianship and ability to compose is highly skilled, and that they even possess a strong sense of conviction in what they craft, but what is fundamentally lacking is the youthful enthusiasm that defines what made their earlier work so great.

There are times and moments on ‘RIITTIIR’ where a particular moment, be it a riff, a sequence or break, grabs your attention and has the potential to sustain excellence, but sadly gives way to the next part of the composition, rendering the work as a whole unmemorable and unfulfilled.