Review Summary: The most consistent band of the last ten years.
A band is fortunate to have one masterpiece, one album that demonstrates their abilities and showcases their best attributes. Enslaved have the better part of a dozen of these. What started as a couple of young friends getting in on the local black metal scene in Norway in the early 90's has transformed into one of the most successful and consistent careers of the progressive genre. No other band from that era (save for Opeth) have had as much praise or longevity. The transition from straight black metal to something more progressive spanned entire albums, beginning somewhere around 2000's “Mardraum - Beyond the Within”. From that album and on, Enslaved have grown more and more experimental, more eager to step outside of the restrictive black metal genre. They continue this with their latest effort “In Times”, which is a culmination of everything Enslaved have worked at for the past decade.
Right from the beginning of the album, we see Enslaved have not forgot about their past. "Thurisaz Dreaming" gives a nod to the band's black metal roots while retaining the transitional style of dark and heavy to light and melodic we have come to expect. Grutle's guttural vocals remain in top notch form, giving the album the heavy edge it needs, while Herbrand's clean vocals add to the melody and variety. Yet, the guitars remain the most inventive aspect of the band. Ivar Bjornson continues to amaze with riff and solo alike, piling more than a few into each song until the listener finally gets lost within the music. Combine this with a subtle use of keyboards and a drum performance that is not to be missed, and you have every cog of the machine.
Just like every Enslaved album, "In Times" is layered with epic and intense moments, with the glorious intro of “One Thousand Years of Rain” being one example. But the band also has a soft spot for more mellow Pink Floyd-like moments as heard on the opening moments of “Nauthir Bleeding". Enslaved remain an instrumental roller coaster of a band, keeping the listener guessing the entire way. Repetition is a foreign concept to them, because the riffing and vocals remain so varied, and despite the average track length being well over eight minutes, the album is much more streamlined than "RIITIIR" was, with a shortened overall length of 52 minutes. This adds to the already high replay value.
While the band has evolved instrumentally over the years, so have the lyrics and overall concept. It's not only about ancient Nordic beliefs and ways of life anymore. It would seem that the lyrics have taken on a more relatable style, dealing more with the inner working of the human mind than ancient gods and vikings. Of course, it has never truly been about vikings and gods for the fans. The music has always taken precedence over these things.
Each track has so much material layered within, that it's easy to miss some subtle parts. Upon each subsequent listen, expect to hear things you may have missed, as this album will most likely unravel over the course of time. "In Times" is more of a grower, awarding listeners who have the patience to endure repeated listens. If you have never heard an Enslaved album before, you should check "Axioma" or "Isa", because this album is more suited for the hardened fan than the fledgling newcomer.