ENSLAVED: HEIMDAL, REVIEW15th February 2023 0 By Malli "Metalhead" Malpass
Imagine if you will, a clear, bitingly cold Welsh morning. I’m late for an appointment and I’ve neglected to take scraping the car windscreen into account. I’m chilled to the bone and not in the best of moods but I realise that I’ve got the forthcoming Enslaved record, Heimdal to blast in the car. “That’ll warm my cockles, Well, at the very least my ears”, I think to myself optimistically. However, as soon as the LP opens with Behind the Mirror, I swear the temperature dropped by another 13 degrees. I’m in a Scandinavian winter now, an impossibly long, dark frigid winter. One of roaming mists, glass smooth iced fjords and the imposing moon cast shadows, where Behind the Mirror, welcomes me with a Doomy groove I hadn’t expected, only to be knocked sideways by a heavy blast of atmosphere. tom driven prog, with heavy effects on the clean vocals, evocative of Cynic’s Paul Masvidal’s vocals on 1993’s Experimental Death Prog masterpiece, Focus. Behind the Mirror seamlessly moves between the core Black Metal of Enslaved to the more complex progressive mix and beyond. It serves as a brilliant opener for what I hope is an album that continues to deliver at this high level.
That’s the seal broken on this CD, so let’s dive a bit deeper to see if Heimdal is a welcome winter warmer for the ears or whether it will leave me otherwise cold.
Track two, Congelia smashes in hard with racing drums which are joined a few bars in by bestial discordant, multi-tonal Black Metal, guitars, that still feel raw and authentic on a release that is expertly and cleanly produced. Congelia is far from one-dimensional Black Metal. Amidst the roaring guitars, pounding, frantic drums and guttural vocals, there’s ambience and nuance that fill one’s ears and the room. So far Heimdal is running hot, like a sauna before the shock of a sudden ice plunge, so how will it progress?
The third track Forest Dweller is probably my favourite track of the record. A slow, moody intro slides into a calm melodic verse which (I shit you not), sounds and feels like fellow Norwegians and pop pioneers Aha. The melody gives way to scathing Black Metal, which creeps up behind the calmness like a DJ is mixing in a different track. I think the juxtaposition works so, so well, and if that wasn’t enough to float your Longboat, Enslaved blends a hypnotic, semi-psychedelic Hammond organ solo into the track.
I think it’s safe to say that what I’ve already heard on Heimdal, is enough to warrant a purchase for existing Enslaved fans or for new ears that want something immersive, which ebbs and flows like a ship on a stormy winter sea but I’ll give you a flavour of the other four tracks by saying, the framework is set early on in this release and what you hear is what you get but that’s not in the least to Heimdal’s detriment.
If the kind of genre is your “thing”, there’s plenty to keep you engaged throughout but it’s worth taking the cold, dark journey to experience the ride, even if you aren’t the biggest fan of Black Metal (like myself). There are so many flavours on the EP that it feels like Willy Wonka got lost in a Norwegian forest for a month, returned bare-chested, in corpse paint, and then made a thousand confections inspired by his haunting experience. I have to give a special mention to the guitar tone on the title track Heimdal which is tuned so low that it sounds like a cave troll prolapsing granite. It’s its own beautifully grotesque monster on a truly exciting winter adventure of a release.
1. Behind The Mirror
3. Forest Dweller
5. The Eternal Sea
6. Caravans To The Outer Worlds
Release – 3rd March 2023
Label – Nuclear Blast
About the author
I'm Malli 'Metalhead' Malpass. I've been Metalhead on five seasons of BBC2's The Ranganation and have been a front man and performer in Metal bands for years. Music has been my passion for as far back as I can remember and tends to dominate all aspects of my life and personality. I've been fortunate to have been asked to share some of that passion through All About The Rock