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The Blueprint (not the Jay-Z one) - 90%

flightoficarus86, January 19th, 2015

While I doubt anyone who followed Enslaved from the beginning could have guessed how much their sound would change over the next two decades, a few must have sensed that there was something special here. It’s 1994: Varg is in jail, Euronymous dead; and peers Darkthrone, Immortal, and Mayhem have released some of the strongest and most influential works of their careers. Yet from the very beginning, Enslaved forge a progressive sound that is wholly their own.

Sure, there are the trademarks of early second-wave BM all over this thing: repetitive tremolo hooks, under-produced howls, cardboard-sounding blastbeats. But similarities end here. Not even Burzum had the balls to average every track on the album above 10 minutes. VV does so without resorting to monotony. There are borderline points such as on “Vetrarnott,” but largely each track succeeds to engage through effective use of changing movements.

Consider the build on “Midgards Eldar” as an example. A soft acoustic intro, then a dreary riff emerges aided by creepy horns and arena drumming. Suddenly, an ugly bass solo and change in pace. Double bass, fills, new riffs, then a slower section. Few others were experimenting with the level of dynamics at play here, but the entire album is chock full of them. There are heavy bass guitar passages, phaser guitar solos, and plenty of instrumentals. The drumming is well above the typical blastbeat tropes and synth use is understated and effective.

While Enslaved would further tighten and perfect the ideas at play on later releases like Frost and Mardraum, VV is a blueprint that was unprecedented for its time and place. Its influences are apparent on various later BM acts such as Taake, Absu, and Wolves in the Throne Rome. If you call yourself a fan of Enslaved, you would be amiss in not at least giving this album a few spins. Those who are only fans of their later works will likely be less keen on what they hear, but without Viklingligr Veldi, there would be no Isa or Axioma to enjoy.