Review: Enslaved - RIITIIR

 Truly a band that boasts the most infamous elements of Norway's musical culture in the most glorious of ways, Enslaved have been a pivotal force within the country's metal scene over the past 20 years with consistently interesting, engaging and thrilling works of metal at it's most evil and most progressively thought provoking. The fact that the band's main leaders Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson started this aged 17 and 13 speaks volumes of how much passion and constant intelligence this band has to offer. And it's reflected perfectly on their twelfth album RIITIIR.

 Because Enslaved are such a truly eclectic proposition as bands go, you never really know what to expect as you approach every corner of the album. Sure, you're always going to find yourself being drawn closer into the jaws of death, but you'll do so with utter wonder felt around you, feeling encased within the powerfully blackened and doom laden performance of the band.

 And with this idea that your journey through RIITIIR will be nothing short of epic in a deathly sort of way, the buildup of cathartic screams and chunky riffs on Thoughts Like Hammers is a good way to set listeners off into the apocalyptic charges of frantic riffage from Bjørnson and Arve Isdal and ever dynamic vocal performance of Kjellson, which on the album's mass opener alone transpires from morbid growling during the band's performance at it's blackest and finding itself progressing along with the music into a 
 dirge-based performance alongside the rest of the band, achieving the sense of melancholy so perfectly.

 Along with he first song, such an analogy is mirrored perfectly for the desolate ending of the album on the major Forsaken, a perfect progressive journey from metal at it's most extreme to it's bleakest. But in between these songs there's much to uncover by a band that have progressed so much over their twenty years to such a sophisticated musical proposition.

 We will be indeed treated to the intense charges of this band's history since they and their Norwegian black metal peers first started making kvlt music, through the delirium of Roots of the Mountains to the bashing Death In the Eyes of Dawn, one of the occasional moments of this album paying tribute to the band's early days of setting themselves up as a viking metal band. And of course with Kjellson's most cackle-like vocals on Veilburner bearing a reminiscence to the silliness of Immortal's Abbath, there's always enough hints to the past years of black metal floating around this album.

 On more occasions, Enslaved regularly tread the line between the characteristics of black metal and doom metal on RIITIIR. Cato Bekkevold's tolling drum beat at on the intro of Materal is perhaps the perfect example of such a nature of doom as the full band crashes in with what can only be described as the sound of hopelessness. While the album's title track fairs no better hope of sounding like a summer hit, it's opening of Bjørnson and Isdal's riffage filled with bizarre signature switches sounds more akin to something Neurosis could have composed than anyone from the black metal scene. The doom can't even stay away from the more adrenaline packed moments of the band's playing. The moments that show a power metal influence sound at best like Iron Maiden and Blind Guardian on a severe downer while any dreamier progressive moments sound like the best of Pink Floyd's nightmares.

 And if you wanted something that was uplifting, then maybe you should have thought better than approaching a band that everyone likes to call a black metal group, because with this prolonged misery, bleakness and blackened fury, Enslaved have created an opus of misery for 2012, that may never make you smile again, but proves that after nearly 20 years, Enslaved are still one of the most creative, challenging and thought provoking names in the wave of a genre that meant only trve bands could be respected. And if making the perfect metal album is all about dwelling int he darkness and bitterness then RIITIIR could be one of Enslaved's most trve releases so far. Intelligent, nightmarish and uneasy to handle at first, this is what black metal is all about. This is why Enslaved are legends among the scene.

Enslaved's RIITIIR is out now via Nuclear Blast. The band will tour the UK in March.