Enslaved – Utgard

Enslaved Utgard

When it comes to influential and monumental black metal acts that are constantly challenging themselves and the very sound, Enslaved is a name that should absolutely be coming up in every conversation of the topic. Their work has been no less than extraordinary over the years with each album having something special to call its own without exception, and a higher form of quality being just the beginning of what we’re to enjoy from such works. But, like any band that has been around for a while, the overall sound is bound to change at least a little over time in some form whether because that’s just how to work happened to come together or the band was actively going for a fresh apporach. Which of those Enslaved was going for I have no idea, but it’s with “Utgard” that we’ve gotten something that is beard-strokingly interesting by all accounts.

What instantly reaches out to me with this record is the simple fact that it’s not as up-front with the aggression or raw power that we might expect from Enslaved, but it is absolutely still present throughout the album with it being used almost sparingly to achieve maximum impact and effectiveness. Surrounding all of that is a great menagerie of melody, natural talent that we’ve only come to expect from Enslaved, and a tremendous sense of musical exploration that always holds the listener’s attention because it is a true task to try and guess just what precisely “Utgard” will offer next. And it’s throughout the entirety of the record that Enslaved constantly delivers on every single occasion no matter what form it comes in as their clear musical prowess is shown in full force yet again here with parts of this record dipping its toe into something that could be considered prog-rock territory that I never thought I’d see Enslaved go into, but they pull it off with both surprising and unsurprising success.

The whole of “Utgard” is a tremendous journey the likes of which works best with a band like Enslaved simply because of the retrospective that we have of the band with the future potentially being given to us in small droplets throughout this fusion of past excellence and future prospects that Enslaved may pursue further in later releases. It’s fantastic to witness how well this album flows together with the extreme talent behind Enslaved not being ashamed to be shown at any given point whether it’s to deliver a vicious riff or allow the heaviness to give way to an electronic performance that somehow fits all to well, and all nine tracks of “Utgard” offer us something that we can really sink our teeth into without a single morsel disappointing us with immense flavors along with multiple layers of glory to constantly disect at any given point. It’s a large boast to even attempt to call “Utgard” one of the best that Enslaved has done in their storied career and certainly not a boast that I will be making here today, but there is no way to deny that this record has effortlessly earned its place among the other stupendous works that adorn Enslaved’s staggering discography with “Utgard” having plenty of worthy additions in every way.

It’s anyone’s guess to say whether or not Enslaved will fall into any of the non-extreme styles that are present here on future releases, and I could honestly care less since I know that the power and glory of Enslaved will be present no matter what, and I can say that without a problem given how well it’s all done here throughout all of “Utgard”. Regardless of that outcome, all of the inclusions for this record have made it something that absolutely must be heard by any and all fans of Enslaved for it’s just even more excellence to lap up for years to come, and if you’re not wanting at least a second listen after you finish what this work has to offer then I have several questions for you regarding your sanity.

“Utgard” releases on October 2nd via Nuclear Blast Records! You can pre-order “Utgard” via multiple sources here, and stream the singles from the album on Bandcamp here.

Track Listing:
1. Fires in the Dark
2. Jettegryta
3. Sequence
4. Homebound
5. Utgarðr
6. Urjotun
7. Flight Of Thought and Memory
8. Storms of Utgard
9. Distant Seasons