Sound — 9
Enslaved originally formed in 1991 as part of the burgeoning black metal scene in Norway at the time. The remaining founding members, Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson, were 13 and 17 years old at the time the band formed, and were both former members of the black metal band, Phobia. They released their first album, "Vikingligr Veldi," in 1994 and then began slowly changing their sound with each release. They used ambient sounds as well as keyboards and even mellotrons at different points in time. They experienced a lot of lineup changes for the next decade after their debut release, but since that time they've had a stable lineup for over the past decade. "In Times" is the band's 13th album release, and is being released 24 years after the band's formation. There are 6 tracks with a total runtime of approximately 53 minutes. Five of the six songs on the album are between eight and nine minutes long, with the exception of the title track, "In Times," which is almost eleven minutes.
The album opens up with the track, "Thurisaz Dreaming," which is over 8 minutes long and consists of tremolo picking and blast beat drumming for the intro, but later in the track transitions to a more laid back sound, including clean vocals and a dark psychedelic vibe. The song transitions between those sounds a few times during the track, and definitely manages to keep my interest. "Building With Fire" is the second track on the album, and starts out much more like a progressive rock or metal song. This song also includes, primarily, clean vocals as well as a guitar solo. "One Thousand Years of Rain" starts out with a quirky melody on guitar, then with black metal vocals but more like hard rock or progressive musical backing, and with clean backing vocals. It actually creates an interesting vibe. There is a very infectious riff that repeats periodically throughout the song, as well. There is some creepy choir-like chanting in the latter half of the song.
"Nauthir Bleeding" is next up, and it barely feels like it belongs on the album at first, being extremely clean guitars, clean vocals and laid back percussion with small bursts of intensity in the music. There is also a great guitar solo in "Nauthir Bleeding." The song still finds some time for blast beats and screeching extreme metal vocals, though. The title track, "In Times," starts out like a progressive rock song with a cool little bass line playing a kind of sub-melody. It stays instrumental and kind of groovy until about 2.5 minutes in, where the metal vocals and heavier instrumentation comes in. From there it goes between heavy and brutal to kind of trippy and prog. The album closes out with the track "Daylight," which has some cool riffing going on right out of the gate. The track goes on to capitalize on both an extreme metal sound and vocals, as well as cleaner trippy passages.
Lyrics — 8
The vocals on the album are primarily provided by Grutle Kjellson and Herbrand Larsen. Grutle provides the screamed black metal style vocals, while Herbrand provides the clean vocals. There is a lot of variety using the in the vocal styling, just like the instrumental styling of the album, which gives me a lot to enjoy about the album. The lyrics are sometimes dark, but other times seem more focused on pondering the unknown. As a sample of the lyrics, here are some from "Building With Fire": "Facing fear, facing birth/ The emptiness, the void, the dreams/ Unfold/ Burning shrouds, the air is cold/ The memories of time and space/ Unknown/ Sleeping tight in rising flames/ A mind evokes, the self returns/ Unhurt/ Seeing life, through the clouds/ Abandoning the womb, a seed/ untouched/ Like a sea of hope/ Assembling forces of old/ By the betrayer's funeral pyre/ Building with fire/ Like a field with endless harvest/ The first breath we take/ Uruz awakes, reaching higher/ Building with fire/ Like a hammer of thoughts/ Our minds reborn/ What the inner I desire/ Building with fire." I like the abstract nature of the lyrics.
Overall Impression — 8
There is a lot to like about Enslaved, and their newest effort "In Times." The musicianship is excellent and the style is diverse enough that it doesn't become boring to listen to with subsequent listens. I have a chip on my shoulder with the over-use of blast beats in metal, but Enslaved has a pretty balanced approach. My favorite songs from the album would probably be "Daylight," "Nauthir Bleeding" and "Building with Fire." Compared to their earliest work, the band has really come a long way in carving out their own sound in the world of extreme metal.