By: Alex Phillips
Label: Nuclear Blast
Available: March 6
No matter how long you listen to heavy metal, you will never hear everything. This holds especially true with bands you should have listened to years ago, but for whatever reason never got around to it. Enslaved—whose debut demo, Yggdrasil, rode high on the second wave of black metal—is one of these bands. Why haven’t I been listening to Enslaved all these years? What else have I been missing?
Black metal rears up from the abyss throughout In Times, though its face is masked in progressive shadows: clean-sung passages, sudden but precise time changes, and layered arrangements that upon each other until they’re soaring. These passages are carefully crafted, building up with the patience that comes from accomplished musicians who have the confidence to write the songs they want to write, not the songs they think people want to hear. But the black metal roots run through every song, intertwined, feeding off (and feeding into) the band’s energy.
In Times opens with a roar, on “Thurisaz Dreaming,” hooking you with the old black metal assault before pulling you in with a subtle shift in tone and melodic vocals at the exactly the right moment to keep you listening. “One Thousand Years of Rain,” aside from being an amazing title, keeps the surprises rolling in. The fast acoustic opening suggests the first drops of rain pattering the earth, before the deluge rolls in and washes away any remaining doubts, pausing only around the 4:40 mark with a gorgeous breakdown, chanting, a lull in the storm.
This is an album best experienced from beginning to end. Despite average song lengths of eight-and-a-half minutes, In Times seems to pass quickly, as pleasurable experiences tend to do. And yet the album doesn’t feel short, compressed, or clipped; it carries you along at its own pace. The combination of pacing with Enslaved’s fluid, genre-shifting approach allows the band to appeal to metal fans’ notoriously snobbish tastes—there’s something here that any metalhead can hold to, from the Trve Kvlt to the proggy to even the doom-minded—but at no point does Enslaved compromise.
I can’t wait to dive into the discography, see what I’ve been missing.