Enslaved, ‘In Times’ – Album Review
Enslaved are back with their 13th studio album, In Times, marking their first album in three years. The gap between discs ties their longest since the span between Frost and Eld. A lot has changed since then as the band has been blending their fondness for '70s progressive rock with lengthy black metal songs remaining at the core since the dawn of the new millennium.
At first glance, six songs may not seem like much for a new album by the modern standard, but the Norwegians echo the sentiment of quality over quantity. Five of the six songs clock in between the eight and nine minute mark with the title track being the lone exception at nearly 11 minutes in length.
The opening track "Thurisaz Dreaming" tricks the listener by fading in with a sound that seems to be setting the tone for a lengthy and progressive introduction. Instead, Enslaved go for the throat as Grutle Kjellson shreds his in a matter of seconds with shrieks that alleviate any doubts that the band has strayed far from their black metal foundation. As quickly as Grutle presents himself, he sits back resigned to his bass, content letting the soothing clean vocals take over for a bit as the band embark on another journey revering the sacred runes.
With each passing album, keyboardist Herbrand Larsen has become a more integral part of the band utilizing his soothing clean vocals to contrast and compliment Grutle's uncompromising rasp. This is true again on In Times as the duo continue to vie for center vocal spot, creating a playful atmosphere where the listener can feel fully absorbed by both the progressive and black metal facets of Enslaved.
The best demonstration of this can be heard on the masterful "One Thousand Years of Rain." A true conquest among the entirety of the band's catalog, this song sees each member of the band contribute a performance that transcends their individual duties. This is also where Cato Bekkevold's drumming starts to truly stand out as the kick drum anchors In Times, often stitching together the disharmony.
"Nauthir Bleeding" continues the experiment of clean vocals intersecting with the blackened side of the band and vice versa with astonishing results. This ambidextrous-like quality rounds out their most progressive aspect, allowing them to excel and innovate in both genres independently.
With successive listens it becomes quite evident that In Times is written to be listened to as a whole. Each song flows into the next so seamlessly that it can be easy to forget where one song ends and another begins. Certain songs will always stand out more than others, but that isn't what this album is about. The ever-consistent Enslaved have churned out another album to cement their legendary status in a style the continue to call their own.