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Selected & Dissected: Enslaved ‘RIITIIR’ track-by-track review
So, everyone is eagerly waiting for the new Enslaved album to land. “What will it be like?” they ask. “Will it be better than ‘Axioma…’?”. “I hope it’s more black metal…,” and so on. Well, being the privileged bastards we are, we have heard the Norwegian proggers’ 12th album. YES!!! It’s pant-wettingly awesome. And to whet your appetites, we wanted to share our own track-by-track review with our headbanging legions. Enjoy!
‘Thoughts Like Hammers’
After a massively heavy and chaotic 36-second intro, the lead-off track settles into a lumbering groove highlighted by a descending melodic riff, which then segues into some serious King Crimson-esque syncopation underscored by organ. Get used to a lot of these tempo shifts; there are loads on this record. At the same time, those changes never feel arbitrary, the flow of the record – and this song especially – is very natural. Herbrand Larsen, who becomes more of a central band member with each new album, takes the helm with his smooth singing. It’s perhaps the most accessible track on an otherwise challenging album.
‘Death in the Eyes of Dawn’
More guttural vocals, even by by bassist Grutle Kjellson’s standards, kick off this dusky track, its moods shifting subtly from murky to shimmering. The expressive guitar solo midway through is a highlight. After a crashing climax an acoustic coda brings the song to a close.
Progressive rock and swaggering Viking metal meet halfway on this track, shifting from fist-pumping verses to swift double-time sections, Larsen’s singing more sombre than soaring. Book-ended by a nifty little intro and outro lovingly derived from the late Voivod genius Denis ‘Piggy’ d’Amour.
‘Roots of the Mountain’
‘Veilburner’ segues immediately into ‘Roots of the Mountain’, which in turn explodes out of the gate with the fastest, iciest black metal we have heard from Enslaved in years. Typical of present-day Enslaved, though, the song is a lot more than that. Larsen counters Kjellson’s trademark growl with his more introspective singing, a mellotron creeps into the song before settling into a more metallic stomp, a crisp fast pace, and – what’s that? – a bass solo by Kjellson. The two-and-a-half-minute coda is Ivar Bjørnson’s pride and joy. (You’ll know more on this soon). This is one of the best songs on the entire album.
That’s “ree-teer”. And roll both ‘R’s like a proper Norwegian. Got it? Neither do I, but anyway, the title track kicks off at a wonky 6/8 pace, which then shifts into a more stately verse. Sixteenth beats on a hi-hat, that little-used percussion gimmick in metal, pops up lending the track some welcome grooviness.
Cato Bekkevold’s toms-and-snare beat at the beginning will have a lot of people quoting ‘We Care a Lot’. But instead of a cover of Faith No More’s seminal alt-metal track, it’s the most unconventional song on the album, very enigmatic lead vocals – essentially Larsen and Kjellson singing/growling together – leading into an ascending, tremolo-picked melody atop those thunderous, double-kick-accentuated drums. By the solo the song settles into a seriously hooky second half.
‘Storm of Memories’
Ready for some serious Voivod worship? From the drumming, to the bassline, to the guitar triplets, to the space rock touches, the intro has ‘Nothingface’ written all over it. Even the melody and phrasing Larsen’s cleanly sung verses have a touch of Snake to them.
A slightly demented piano solo starts off the final song on the album, Larsen hammering on the keys with an intentional combination of madness and grace. What starts off as a fairly rote Enslaved jam incorporates the last big Voivod moment, that being an atonal chord at the 1:40 mark. Vintage ELP (that’s Emerson, Lake and Palmer, kids, not El-P) synths enter the fray four minutes in. Palm-muted guitar and snare syncopations gradually add tension before the song bursts into a shockingly graceful climax, Kjellson’s deep growl making the song feel even more majestic. The song downshifts for its final few minutes, that haunting piano riff returning, Larsen’s singing tired and forlorn, concluding the exciting and unpredictable ‘RIITIIR’ on a downcast note.
‘RIITIIR’ is out September 28 on Nuclear Blast
Words: Adrien Begrand