Enslaved, Utgard review (Nuclear Blast 2020)

The incredible 15th album from the Bergen, Norway metal band Enslaved is Utgard, another impressive achievement in their long career.

The most recent previous studio album was E in 2017, and the songs on that album were generally long (most around eight minutes or longer), which is the usual way Enslaved creates music. On Utgard, the band’s compositions are tighter and yet every bit as creative as earlier releases. The band is now made up of long-time members Grutle Kjellson (vocals and bass), Ivar Bjørnson (guitars and effects), and Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal (guitars), along with newer recruits Håkon Vinje (keyboards and vocals) and Iver Sandøy (drums). The confluence of these musical elements is an alchemy all its own.

“Fires In The Dark” opens with an acapella treatment (in Norwegian), followed by an acoustic guitar moment, sudden heavy riffs, wispy atmospheric sounds, then a narrative element. Sort of a heavy version of Andrew Lloyd Weber in that it is a big production and a complex construction. The melodies in the guitars have a very magic carpet, djinn feel to them in the second half – a mystical desert vibe. The integration of diverse elements is the mainstay throughout. “Jettegryta,” the next song, does this too, in a very different way. It is not simply the variation of coarse and clean vocals but also shifts in musical cadence and style, sometimes perpendicularly, that throw you off cliff after cliff then lift you up on hurricane winds. We hear Epic Metal then Prog then a classic metal riff, here and there and all around.

On side two, “Urjotun” is a peppy straight-up prog rock song that is taken over by darkness as it progresses. “Flight of Thought and Memory” wells up feelings of sorrow and regret, while “Storms of Utgard” is more confrontational with amazing lead guitar work. The closing song is “Distant Seasons.” You can feel the curtain falling when it begins in its quiet and gentle way, but the power wells up soon enough. The relatively brief nature of the songs is a departure in a way for the band, but all the elements we have come to expect from Enslaved are nevertheless here in full force. Recommended.

Out now from Nuclear Blast, you can get Utgard on CD and vinyl and of course as a download – Bandcamp is best place for the digital.

Links.

Band: http://enslaved.no/

Band Bandcamp: https://enslaved.bandcamp.com/album/utgard

Band Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/enslaved

Nuclear Blast Shop: https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/products/sound/vinyl/lp/enslaved-utgard-black-vinyl-.html

Enslaved, Utgard review (Nuclear Blast 2020)

Grendel’s Sÿster, Myrtle Wreath / Myrtenkranz review (Cruz Del Sur Music 2020)

The Myrtle Wreath EP from Grendel’s Sÿster gets a well-deserved broad re-release with Cruz Del Sur Music.

Everybody knows that Grendel’s mother was the one to watch out for, but nobody knows what to expect from his sister. That’s how I felt dropping the (virtual) needle on Myrtle Wreath / Myrtenkranz. – I hadn’t heard any of the band’s work before. They are a Folk Metal trio from Germany. This EP came out in 2019 and is getting wider distribution now. They also released an EP in 2018: Orphic Gold Leaves/Orphische Goldblättchen.

The thing about Folk Metal for me is that I have a short list of bands I like. Korpiklaani, Finntroll, Týr, a few others. I am not a deep diver in these waters, so I do not have a learned opinion. I just know whether I like what I hear. I really like Myrtenkranz.

There are seven songs and an intro bit, and they are presented in two versions each – one in English and one in German. I have a strong and abiding preference for the versions in German. No, I don’t speak German. To my ear singing in German simply sounds better with the music. Grendel’s Sÿster does not sound anything like the bands I listed, really. They are very much on the Folk side of Folk Metal. Plainly, it is like listening to folk songs that employ (fuzzy) electric guitars for instruments. The vocals are beautifully melodic and clear. Beyond traditional Folk constructions, many of the songs have the epic and march urgency heard in music from bands like Falconer, but not as loud. Lead guitar expressions are also low key and tastefully executed. This is a great album for when you are not in the mood to have your block knocked completely off. Recommended.

The physicals start shipping September 25, and the digital is available now at Bandcamp and elsewhere. The first EP Orphic Gold Leaves is not on Spotify (last time I looked) and the hardcopies are sold out, but you can still get the English vocal version as a download.

Links.

https://grendelssyster.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/cruzdelsurmusic/

https://www.cruzdelsurmusic.com/blog/

https://cruzdelsurmusic.bandcamp.com/

Grendel’s Sÿster, Myrtle Wreath / Myrtenkranz review (Cruz Del Sur Music 2020)