Enslaved is simply one of those bands where you could fill hours discussing everything they’ve done over their incredibly diverse career. Since their more extreme black metal days of the early 1990s, they have solidified themselves in an extremely unique category of progressive viking metal, culminating in 2012’s Riitiir. While I was excited for the release of their new album, In Times, I was also curious with how the Norwegians would follow up what I consider to be one of the best albums to come out in the past decade—in any genre. And ultimately, the bottom line is this: Enslaved have given us yet another captivating listen.
As I briefly alluded to, Enslaved have covered just about everything since their inception in 1991. I’m not going to touch on much, but for the sake of a frame of reference I will say that their transition to a more atmospheric style of viking metal was a brilliant one. I know the progressive, borderline galactic, feel of albums like Vertebrae may not be for everyone—the sound is out there, and may not be what one is looking for in black or viking metal (after all, who would think Pink Floyd and black metal could go together?)—but you cannot deny how enchanting it is. It’s deep, it’s immersive, and it takes its listener on a journey few bands can match. With In Times, Enslaved departs a bit from the solemnity that made Riitiir so mesmerizing and instead delve further into this cosmic side of their sound.
In Times covers 53+ minutes with only six tracks, none shorter than eight minutes. What that means is that Enslaved are giving themselves ample opportunity to explore all the sounds they’ve grown into over the years…within each track. And they take full advantage of it. The whole thing starts off unexpectedly aggressive and dark with “Thurisaz Dreaming,” which introduces us to an absolutely relentless early pace. Yes, the track departs that style quickly and yields to those classic spaced-out clean sung choruses we’ve grown used to on their previous few albums. But the tribute to the heavier and faster side of the genre is a good one. We see a similar personality on “One Thousand Years of Rain” and “Nauthir Bleeding,” but with a different take on their extreme metal tendencies on each. These occasional trips to the more throttling side of the genre definitely does In Times some good.
But we’re not done. I told you this thing was trippy and progressive, so I have to get into that at least a little bit. And it doesn’t take long to get into this on the record, either. Within the first two tracks — “Building With Fire,” especially — you’ve already found yourself tapping your foot and swaying to very Floydian riffs and wonderfully meandering vocals multiple times. It’s this atmospheric progressiveness of these songs that brings In Times full circle. Personally, I find these transitions from progressive to aggressive a little rough around the edges early in the album, but as we move through each track they begin to weave about each other a little more cohesively and blend to form a whole new take on the sounds altogether. This all comes full circle in the impressively epic closer, “Daylight,” which I simply can’t get out of my head…despite it being over ten minutes long. It makes for an ambitious fusion of sounds, but one that ends up working out relatively well.
My knee-jerk reaction to In Times is that it is simply another great release from Enslaved. It lacks some of the fluidity that past albums have demonstrated so well, but who knows….that may end up being something I grow to appreciate over time. It’s a commendable listen from start to finish, one that reminds us of all the reasons we have grown to love Enslaved over the years. This is a band that’s made their name on albums that are both immediately addicting and show a remarkable amount of staying power year after year, so for me, it’s not simply a question of In Times’ quality (that much is undeniable) but more of its longevity. How well will it hold up in the years to come? I’m confident that it will do just fine.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”