The newest album, In Times, by Enslaved released (their 13th if I’m not mistaken), so I decided to check it out. As far as I can remember, I really liked their last one, but honestly, I remember almost nothing about it. I searched and found some cop-out rapid review saying I liked it but nothing more.
If you haven’t heard Enslaved before, they are a bit hard to describe. They have black metal roots, but they’ve ventured into proggy territory and even have lots of clean vocals and power metal influenced parts. They also have some drone-ish post-metal things going on. Needless to say, hardcore BM traditionalists will probably not like this.
On my first listen, I was pretty excited to listen again, because I thought it had a lot of potential. There were a few stick out moments that I wanted to understand how they got to better. That should have been my first warning. If something “sounds good” on a first listen, it usually doesn’t age well.
I’ve enjoyed my time with this album. That’s basically the positive I can give it. The songs have some catchy hooks. They get into some neat grooves. They have some pretty stellar climaxes.
But honestly, many of these songs go on too long. They have a few chords or notes that get into a 4/4 vamp, and to create interest they add all sorts of things to the mix. Unfortunately, many of the things are purely artificial sugar that don’t add much complexity or interest.
I should be more precise about what I mean by musical sugar. It includes things like adding a keyboard to the mix or turning the reverb up or adding sounds of rain/atmosphere. The substance remains exactly the same, which isn’t good enough to not feel the repetition. It is repetition without a purpose.
Another thing that didn’t sit well with me is that some of the catchy hooks get a bit too sing-songy. It isn’t easily quantifiable, but when the chorus has that much bounce to it, it sort of ruins the mood of the other parts of the song.
I do congratulate them on making something that has that distinctive prog feel to it, yet remains fairly straightforward and simple. I don’t say this sarcastically either. They push their chord progressions, chromaticism, and playing with time signatures while remaining easily digestible and listenable.
This album succeeds best at its climaxes. Enslaved know how to write complex music where many disparate pieces come together to make a unified whole. Yet I feel too much time went into making parts that “felt good.”
This is why I leave this album with such mixed opinions. It is easy to succumb to the parts that feel good and think the album is really enjoyable, because in a casual listening sense, it is. Then one can turn to some of the proggier parts and justify the album as worthwhile in some deeper artistic sense.
Maybe the true test is that by mid next week, I probably won’t remember anything about this album. It was a fun experience while it lasted, but there wasn’t enough depth to make it a lasting part of my album rotation.
Overall, I give it a 7/10. Here’s a sample: