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A return to the forest - 86%

darkmaster98k, September 25th, 2011

Enslaved are a very forward thinking band, that never seems to be content with keeping their sound as it currently is. They evolved from a pure black metal band on the tail end of the infamous Norwegian scene, to one of the leading forces in progressive black metal today. With that said, this EP is a far cry from their modern day output. Anyone expecting something building off of Axioma Ethica Odini should stay away. The A-side of this EP, Disintegrator, was written for the 10th Hole in the Sky Festival back in 2009, and played only once, at that festival.

This EP is a throwback to a time when Norwegian black metal was spoken of in hushed voices, and Enslaved were just a young band. The eerie atmosphere on this release reminds me a little bit of Hvis Lyset Tar Oss-era Burzum, except the recording quality is better. The production is very dim and grainy, which might put off some listeners at first. However, getting past that, it's clear that the production adds to, rather than detracts from, the music overall. The drums are sparse, echo-y, and sound as if they were played at the other end of a small tunnel. The vocals are very distant sounding, almost blending in with the rest of the sounds on this EP, almost sounding simply like faint bursts of static sometimes. The guitar is in a similar vein, and even seems to be absent at times. The dominant feature on both tracks is the keyboards. They are not complex, but rather, paint a very eerie, otherworldly atmosphere. It’s clear that the entire focus of this two-song release is about atmosphere and creating a very dark, gloomy, eerie picture for the listener. The notes on the back cover say that this was recorded in a forest. If true, then it certainly explains the production, when Enslaved are know for very slick, clear production.

The songs themselves are very droning, slow-paced, almost ambient black metal, somewhat akin to their early releases, but far rawer. The drum pattern changes only once in Disintegrator, about halfway through. As previously mentioned, the keyboards are the most prominent thing about this track. The lyrics are unintelligible and the vocals themselves blend in with the guitar at times. The B-side, Striker, features keyboards more heavily, and I’m not even sure if the guitar is playing at certain parts. Both tracks feel like walking through a cave, with only a few glow worms

This is a very solid release, from one of the few remaining names in the Norwegian scene who still play good black metal. It is almost a return to the demo days of the band, and feels absolutely drenched in gloom. The graininess of the production adds to the overall atmosphere of the haunting keyboards, sparse drums, guitars and vocals. Is it for everyone? No. Only fans of true Norwegian black metal should look into obtaining a copy of this EP (of which there are only 1000). Fans of the modern Enslaved will most likely turn away. But, I like it. It’s not what I expected, but it’s as good as I expected from these masters.