Formed in 1991, the Norwegian band Enslaved have often been considered among the first, and most inspirational of black/viking metal bands. Originally, they were stereotypically black metal, mostly shown in their breakthrough album, “Frost,” which was 40 minutes of relentless brutality, mixed with lyrics mostly based around old norse mythology. The follow up to the album, “Eld,” began a transition for them. Though still retaining much of the black metal roots, it introduced a more progressive side to the music, which would be expanded upon further with the release of “Mardraum,” and each album that followed.
However, between “Eld” and “Mardraum” they briefly went back to an album more similar to their earlier works. In a sense, Blodhemn
is like the average black metal record. It clocks in at just under 40 minutes, and other than the stunning 1 minute intro, and the closing song on the record, the listener is crushed under a flurry of aggressive drumming and tastefully done lead work, as well as the harsh shrieks of Grutle Kjellson.
This is not to say this does not have any progressive elements at all. In fact, there is a good deal to be found. The one minute intro Audhumla [Birth of the Worlds]
is all spacey and ambient noise (much in the vein of Pink Floyd), and it opens the album brilliantly. I can’t say I’ve ever heard a song of such minimal length be so beautiful, it actually feels like you’re witnessing the world being created just by listening to it. Ansuz Astral
also features some psychedelic and progressive influences, mostly featured in it’s middle section.
Production-wise, this album is very well produced, especially for a black metal album. We have mostly clear production here, (the guitars are a bit thin, but it doesn’t detract from the music one bit) a definite step up from the muddy production found on “Eld.”
As for the actual songs, between the intro, and the unfortunately lackluster closer, there is very little breathing room. As the introduction fades out, we are hit with the first real track on the album, I Lenker til Ragnarok.
(english translation “In Chains Until Ragnarok”) The songs hits you like a tank, with furious machine gun-like blast beating and speedy riffing, before Grutle’s epic clean vocals are introduced. As the song ends, the next one, Urtical Gods
begins almost immediately after. I like to think of this track as a miniature version of the previous. It’s very fast throughout, and features both mournful clean vocals, and frantic shrieking. Expectantly, this isn’t as much of a standout as “I Lenker til Ragnarok,” and is one of the weaker tracks on the album. On another note, this was the first, and at the time, only song by Enslaved that featured all english lyrics. (which would be expanded upon with each subsequent release)
The previously mentioned Ansuz Astral
starts off more mid tempo, with an interesting groove going on. The song picks up at about 1:20 and becomes more like the others, before featuring the albums first guitar solo, and some spacey effects similar to those found on later releases such as “Below the Lights.” Nidingaslakt
is another 3 minute track in the vein of “Urtical Gods,” only this one I find more interesting. It has a very epic feel to it, and I can’t help but think about vikings going out to battle when I hear this song. This song features more melody than the previous tracks, and has a few melodic licks played after the verses. My personal favorite of the three 3-minute songs here.
The album’s real highlights are featured in the next two tracks. Eit Auga til Mimir
(english translation “An Eye for Mimir”) begins with a bone crushing, yet melodic and epic riff. After t he first minute, it slows down a bit and features Grutle’s beautiful clean vocals yet again, before closing with a guitar solo, and the same riff that opened the song. The best song on the album, and classic viking metal.
The album’s title track is next, and almost as good as the previous. An almost thrashy riff opens the album before it becomes similar to “I lenker til Ragnarok.” Once again, a guitar solo is featured, and this one is definitely the best here. Both guitarists trade off mid-tempo melodic licks before the opening riff is played again. Brisinghamen
(much like Urtical Gods) reminds me a lot of he track that precedes it, only two minutes shorter. One of the catchiest album riffs opens the song, before it slows down for the clean chorus. Again, not a highlight, but a great track.
Unfortunately, the album ends worse than it could’ve. Suttings Mjod
is a relatively boring track. The first three minutes is all clean guitar, with a bit of a folk vibe going on. The distortion does kick in after, but isn’t anything special. The song ends with the clean guitar again. No harsh vocals are featured here.
+Grutle Kjellson is one of the better black metal vocalists out there
+Epic, viking atmospheres and lyrics that would make Quorthon proud
+Lightning fast drumming, yet stays interesting
+Both guitarists lay down some incredible riffs and when they solo, they do it well
-Album should've had a better closer
-Maybe a little more variety in the songs
Eit Auga Til Mimir
Il Lenker Til Ragnarok
Final Rating: 4.5/5