Let’s face it, when Enslaved began experimenting with progressive music at the turn of the millennium, it wasn’t to everyone’s taste. The Norsemen had the balls to genetically alter their rawer black metal roots and the creativity to launch into unheard technical, progressive territories, reincarnating themselves in epic fashion.
It was a brave move, but the transition would not only prove to be a natural curve in the five-piece’s career, but it would pave the way for an essentially superior sound and some mind-blowing releases. They’ve set their own insanely high standards of musicianship of late, but have the confidence to consistently match them time and time again. 2008’s ‘Vertebrae’ was a refined progressive masterpiece and 2010 follow-up ‘Axioma Ethica Odini’ was yet another timeless piece from the prolific prog assailants. ‘RIITIIR is no exception; it shows clear evidence that Enslaved are an inventive machine working at full capacity and enjoying a megalithic peak in their career.
Cracking off this 12th full-length with the near-ten-minute ‘Thoughts Like Hammers’, the band create plenty of suspense with a sporadic introduction before hitting a barrage of slug-paced riffery and minimalist head-bobbing percussion. ‘Death In The Eyes Of Dawn’ is as catchy as it will get and the best track on record, with huge fluctuations of trademark Enslaved vocal harmonising. The song epitomises the band’s seemingly effortless transitions from hooky melodic chorus to pulverising black verses led by Ivar Bjørnson’s ground-shaking growls. Those chaotic BM parts let themselves be known from the off in ‘Roots Of The Earth’, but the difference from the Enslaved of old being that the mad tremolo fury charismatically parts and another gorgeously catchy chorus rips open like a glorious streak of light in a moody grey sky. There’s even room for a lovely post-rockish bridge to conclude the standout track. Production is again paramount to their success on ‘RIITIIR’. As per, the prolific Norwegians have handled the duties themselves with the only adjustment being the addition of engineer Iver Sandøy, who dusted off the edges and refined the record. It makes for a crystal clear production that gives plenty of power to the chunky riffage and reverb fuzz throughout. The only little disappointment is ‘Storm Of Memories’ which – despite the pre-listening hint that it’s going to be good because of its title – lacks ideas, purely in comparison to what is an insatiable album for the best part. Your average band will still kill to pen a track like that.
Sitting on a grand throne of their own, Enslaved are actively sending out a message that they’re the ‘go to’ act for a stimulating record – the full package. And there’s no stopping them. 9.5/10
Reviewed by Calum Robson.