Enslaved is releasing their sixteenth (yes that IS true!) effort “Heimdal” this Friday March 3rd through Nuclear Blast. I’m in the camp of how good this band has become with age and enjoy each release more and more. Sure I love the younger days of how heavy they were and their straight to the point black metal sound they had. Objectively, some bands age better than others and these legends decided to spice up their sound to stick around longer. I for one, have been enjoying that the last few releases and are getting another interesting batch of new Enslaved. While still staying true to their black metal roots, they expand on their progressive sound with folk and Nordic vibes/themes. It is heavily layered track wise and there’s even more singing than some of the most recent efforts by Enslaved. It’s epic and still very musically interesting; not many bands with long tenures in the music industry can still achieve that. Some groups and artists have a creative peak releasing a few good albums and fade out. Enslaved reinvented their sound , tried some new things but still haven’t lost their core sound while adding cool elements and styles along the way. “Heimdal” is a culmination of that and then some.
“I had a pretty clear sense of direction with Utgard,” says guitarist and songwriter Ivar Bjørnson. “It really felt like the start of something. It felt like we were taking quite a leap into the next album so that’s where the idea for the EP came up, because that’s a format you can play around with more. So, there were two main songs, and there were two experimental tracks. But it also worked conceptually, like a launch from one orbit to another. It just felt natural to have that sort of slingshot.”
Heimdal is named after arguably the most mysterious entity in Nordic mythology. Most famously known as the gatekeeper between the nine Norse realms, he’s a source of constant speculation, as scholars continue to offer new interpretations of his origins, and his purpose.
“It’s the weirdest concept,” says Ivar. “I’m not sure entirely what we’ve done on this album, but I was pulled towards Heimdal mythos from very early on. ‘Heimdallr’ was one of the first songs we ever wrote for Enslaved, and it was an entry point for us into the world of Norse mythology. There are contradictions in who are his parents, and there are wonderful theories that he could be Odin. There’s one theory I found particularly interesting, and a lot of the album is based on this, that after the Ragnarok that is coming, he will be the new main god after Odin. And this leads to all kinds of further speculation. So instead of taking a concept and a framework and filling it in, this is more like going down a rabbit hole. We’re chasing all these ideas that we just started with, and are still fascinated by.”
Enslaved still makes black metal interesting, considering the many styles they blend is a serious treat to the ears. The singing is great between the classic black metal shrieks, beautiful singing especially at the mellowest of sections. I honestly forgot this was a March release and got a promo reminder and couldn’t pass it up since it’s releasing soon. So much music releases at once it’s tough to keep track of everything honestly. The guitar work is great and very diverse, I didn’t expect anything less as it’s always been a strength of Enslaved. Clocking in around between 50 to 51 minutes at 7 songs it’s quite a dense journey to comprehend musically speaking. The more I listened to the album, the more it clicked. The keyboard work is phenomenal and adds a lot of emotion to the songs.
Between so many cool rhythmic and tempo changes, “Heimdal” keeps you on your feet with all sorts of cool twists and turns. It’s bound to please many fans newer and older. A legacy band that has been around since 1991 (almost as old as me!) still putting out good albums in 2023 is nothing to overlook. Enslaved keeps proving how original and unique they are as one of the best metal bands of the last 30 years. It is a great musical pallet cleanser so to say. It’s an album worth opening your ears to and don’t forget to take that journey March 3rd with Enslaved.