Fourteen albums into their career is perhaps not exactly when you’d expect a band to change up their established sound and take musical risks, but if there’s an exception to this unwritten rule, it’s Enslaved. The band’s 26-year career has been lined with a consistent string of albums that have kept things interesting enough sonically. Indeed, new album E is not the first time the Norwegian group has taken a good look at their sound before rebuilding it brick-by-brick, but it is one of the more noteworthy times, bringing new life to an already accomplished act that seem unwilling to rest on their laurels like so many of their peers.
Where 2015’s In Times seemed almost nostalgically inspired by the band’s history, this time around, guitarist Ivar Bjornson’s meanderings with Wardruna main-man Einar Selvik in Skuggsjá have seemingly subtly woven their way into his work with Enslaved. The likes of ‘The River’s Mouth’ are slightly more remedial slabs of straightforward brawn, sure, but E proves itself much more grandiose than it may at first appear.
Extravagant psychedelia weaves its way into ‘Sacred Horse’, a stunning addition to the group’s discography that peaks with an elegant organ solo from newcomer Håkon Vinje. Elsewhere, ‘Axis Of The Worlds’ takes cues from Mastodon at their most expansive and closer ‘Hiindsight’ experiments with doomy stylings, placing them alongside shimmering shoegaze textures and squalling saxophone. Fans of the band’s early fondness for all-out wrath will no doubt feel affronted by the continued use of more catchy clean vocals and prettier melodies but it, in no small way, aids in the continual expansion of their once dingy sound.
Plenty of classic bands continue to tirelessly pump out decent albums, but few are able to do so with such renewed vigour. Enslaved escape the usual predictability of new releases from well-established acts on E, making yet another declaration of independence that refines their sound whilst maintaining focus on offering something new and original. Their 25th anniversary shows last year now seem to have signalled a fresh stage in the band’s evolution, and E is perhaps only the introduction to an exciting new chapter in the Enslaved saga.
E is out now on Nuclear Blast. Purchase here.
Words: George Parr