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  ENSLAVED
'In Times'
(Nuclear Blast Records)


jools green

Jools Green



enslaved

The superb quality of composition and delivery across 'In Times', the thirteenth studio release from Norwegian progressive black Metal maestros Enslaved will come as no surprise to anyone who has listened to their last five releases, which have all featured their current line-up.

However, how their sound has grown and developed since their 1992 demo, the black Metal classic 'Yggdrasill', is even more remarkable. I don't believe any other band bends and blends elements of black, psychedelic and progressive Metal in quite this way; they are both unique and inimitable.

'In Times' has less tracks than the pre 'Rittiir' albums, six this time, but of a longer length, again like 'Rittir' all between the eight and ten minute mark and there seems to be more clean singing than previous releases but there is something quite exceptional and almost captivating to Herbrand Larsen's cleans this time around. He has certainly upped his game tremendously, a shining exception to my "no clean singing for me!" rule and they make, as always, a superb and well balanced contrast to Grutle Kjellerson's brutal yet legible, shrieks and guttural, scathing growls.

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The defining factor about 'In Times' is that overall balance, between the black and the progressive, the brutal and the harmonic, achieved across all the tracks which are just so superbly constructed and executed that each track is a breathtaking audio journey.

They have gone for the high impact opening style, as on 'Rittiir' with first track, the lyrically surreal, although there is an enticing ambiguity to all the lyrics of the album, 'Thurisaz Dreaming', arriving with an intense wave of blackened riffing and brutal shrieks, then a drop in the pace and following a flourish around the drum kit from Cato Bekkevold the mood changes with superb cleans and a gentler dirty edged melody and psychedelic discordance in Arve "Ice Dale" Isdal's first solo of the release, with the latter part cleans being the best I have ever heard from Herbrand.

'Building With Fire' has a superb flow, with the black elements merging seamlessly with the lighter progressive elements, becoming darker and more intense as it progresses. There's an early solo and a break just after mid point where bass and keyboards dominate briefly and Grutle's latter part harsh vocals and the spoken lyrics are just so atmospherically sinister, before ending on one of the experimental sound-bites collected for this release.

enslaved

If the album wasn't so superb as a whole, 'One Thousand Years Of Rain' would be my favourite track, opening on guitars sounding like sonic raindrops, sinister spoken vocals, punctuating drum beats and cymbal crashes to open, then a fast tempo repeat riff forms the core and sets the pace, the dominating harsh vocals punctuated with segments of clean singing and the overlying guitars taking on a progressive, blackened slant and overlaid by superb drum work. The pace drops slightly after midway, making way for folk chants, before resuming that intense and catchy pace to the close.

After another sound bite 'Nauthir Bleeding' takes on a slower hauntingly melodic pace to open before elevating rapidly, punctuated with punchy riffs, the keyboards adding a superb blackened progressive quality, a track that is on one hand ambient and progressive, the other dark and intense, together making a superb listen.

Title track, 'In Times', is mesmerizingly good, a pulsating repeat riff and distant haunting vocals, overlaid by Ivar Bjørnson's lead, which has a superb, discordantly experimental edge to it and gives the brutal vocals all the more impact when they arrive at the two and a half minute mark with regular switches between the up tempo with cleans and the brutal vocals with intense riffing, then great midpoint vocal harmonies before a dropping to a reflective tranquil break, with one final, brutal breakout towards close, before tailing off with haunting riffs and chants.

Final track 'Daylight' has a slow deliberate pace overlaid with vocal harmonies to open, a keyboard laced spiralling build, the arrival of the brutal vocals and a strong black metal edge, however there is a subtle underlying psychedelic element coming from the keyboards and midway it really feels like dawn breaking as that progressive black intense sound gives way to a very reflective mellow one, clean haunting vocals alongside guitar a solo from Arve followed by spiralling riffs that build the pace back up, beautifully overlaid with some more great drum work, with a few traces of that underlying psychedelic edge returning.

'In Times' was recorded at Duper Studios (Bergen, Norway) and Solslottet Studio (Bergen, Norway).

Additional recordings were made at Conclave and Earshot Studios (Bergen, Norway) and Peersonal Sound Studios (Bergen, Norway). Additional experimentation and sonic exploration appearing on this album was conducted deep in the woods of Valevåg south of Bergen where a mobile studio recorded additional sounds. The production was "in band" by Bjørnson, Larsen and Kjellerson who were joined by Iver Sandøy. The mixing was handled by Jens Bogren and mastering by Tony Lindgren at Fascination Street Studios (Örebro, Sweden). Norwegian artist Truls Espedal, was once again responsible for the striking cover art.

'In Times' is a mind-blowing, compelling listen that is nothing short of utterly superb. I love it more and more with each listen; it is Enslaved's finest offering to date.






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17.3.15















 


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