Review Summary: A true masterpiece of the now legendary Norwegian Black Metal scene.
It was 1993 and the Norwegian Black Metal scene blazed on forward through the fire of burning churches, with every music record released by a band being followed by a criminal one, constructing the now legendary controversy that still to this day surrounds Black Metal. However because of this large amount of controversy, the music was often overlooked as a side note, a soundtrack if you will to the crimes being committed in Norway. But, when the bands weren’t being questioned intensely by Norwegian police, they were making amazing records, and this split is no exception. Hordanes Land, Enslaved’s side of the disc, consists of three songs that display black metal in all the glory of its finest hour.
The disc kicks off with the symphonic rampage of Slaget I Skogen Bortenfor, which begins with a chanting choir that breaks up into an ocean of blast beats and distortion. The song proceeds to take you on an epic journey combining all the best aspects of the black metal genre, the aggression, the symphonic touches, the undecipherable screams (well you wouldn’t understand them anyway, they’re in ancient Norwegian) and the sheer beauty that kinds behind the powerful dark exterior. But the real triumph of Enslaved of this song (and the whole EP) is the real triumph of black metal in general, it creates an amazing atmosphere, all the elements that the band puts forward blend perfectly to create black metal bliss. Every single detail is thought out to add to the atmosphere, even the spoken word passages fit perfectly into the madness.
After the mind numbing experience that is the first Enslaved song on the split comes Allfadr Odin, another majestic work, that shows the roots of the “progressive black metal” style the band would adopt on later recordings, traveling fluidly through its various riffs and passages, each more powerful and haunting than the next. The drum work of the legendary Trym Torson is, as always, amazing, and the songwriting is very complex and powerful, especially when you take into account that guitarist and keyboardist (and thus the guy in charge of all the intricate symphonic parts) Ivar Bjornson, was only 15 when this was recorded.
However it’s not until the last track that the album’s truly best moment comes. The pitch black Balfadr, with its deep piano chords, creates an atmosphere that is simultaneously dark, haunting, epic and beautiful, and they setting the standard for all future black metal to try to reach and at the same time beating every black metal that had come before them. And though there would be other bands that would certainly achieve a similar atmosphere Enslaved stand among the miniscule circle of bands to have pulled it off perfectly, influencing many an important act along the way (just look at the change in Emperor from their side of this split to In the Nightside Eclipse).
Enslaved never burnt any churches or killed any innocent homosexuals, and as far as my knowledge goes they were never a part of the “inner circle”. Sadly enough it is because of this that their role in developing black metal is often downsized or even ignored, however, as this release proves beyond even the slightest shadow of a doubt, they were an impeccable musical force crucial to the evolution of extreme music.