Thursday, 15 March 2018

Enslaved - Blodhemn

ENSLAVED - Blodhemn (OSMOSE Productions LP 1998)
Enslaved has already been active for more than 25 years and I can't believe how fast time flies. It seems like yesterday, when I first heard "Frost"! And through all these years Enslaved went a long musical journey, from the atmospheric and harsh black metal (yes, I don't care if the band never called their music black metal, but "viking metal"), which often was also incredibly fast and vicious, to the progressive, atmospheric "norse metal music". In many ways, the old Enslaved has just nothing in common with what this band started from such albums as "Mardraum", "Below the Lights" or further, from "Isa". I even wonder how someone, who started to listen to this band from such "RIITIIR" would react, when confronted with "Frost" or "Hordanes Land". Or with "Blodhemn", which in many ways is the most aggressive and vicious sounding Enslaved album! This record is like a furious blizzard. Or like berzerker, which swings his axe in cold frenzy and cannot be stopped. 
"Blodhemn", with all its gathered aggression and ferocity, is a great example for how varied the catalogue of Enslaved is. It came out after the epic and very lengthy "Eld", which for me is the best Enslaved album; an album, which is like an epitome of the norse black / viking metal. When compared to it, "Blodhemn" is shorter, more ferocious and very straight forward, without that epic feel so much present here. It's a sign of constant change in this band's style - because you cannot also compare "Blodhemnto Enslaved's earliest recordings, full of harshness, keyboards and dark, cold atmosphere. I suppose that "Frost" is the closest album to compare "Blodhemn" to. Both have similar raw and aggressive style, with quite similar riffs, tempos, occasional atmospheric parts and these killer and so characteristic vocals of Grutle, who often combines his harsh scream with clean vocals. They actually became one of Enslaved's most recognizable characteristics and I cannot imagine their music without these sublime choral vocals. 
Funny thing is that occasionally, especially in the opening part of "Eit auga til Mimir", the riffs and that fast tempo are quite similar to Swedish black metal and bands like Marduk. Even the drumming reminds me that from Friedrik Andersson hahaOf course Enslaved is not Marduk and their music is much more sophisticated and varied, so "Eit auga til Mimir" changes into slower and very "Frost" like kind of playing, where Grutle's vocals also change into clean singing I mentioned before. It definitely is the best song on this album and I really love this one. The title track uses very similar pattern, reminding me the old classics like "Jotunblod". Fantastic, savage riffs, great powerful sound and just aggressive, yet atmospheric black metal. "I lenker til Ragnarok" is another my favourite part of "Blodhemn" - so you can see that I mostly enjoy these fastest tracks from this record, but to be honest, I don't think there's a bad song on it. Even slower songs like "Ansuz Astral" are just fantastic, I love riffs and arrangements on it, especially from the ending part. Damn, I even like "Suttungs mjød / Perkulator", especially the epic part of it. Song I like the least is probably "Nidingaslakt" written by Roy Kronheim. But it's still a solid and worthy, integral part of the album. 
So, "Blodhemn" may not be mentioned among Enslaved's best albums by many fans, but for me it surely is somewhere in my top five, together with all their early records, which I'm big fan ofThese guys are great composers, they always have so many amazing ideas and riffs to show... Maybe their music has lost a bit for me after "Blodhemn", but I like to think that it has more in common with the general condition of Norwegian black metal scene from 1999 and further - which then lost its primeval magic and atmosphere – instead of with the quality of Enslaved music (which was always top notch and this band never recorded a bad album). "Blodhemn" is a berzerker, killer record. 
Standout tracks: "Eit auga til Mimir", "Blodhemn", "I lenker til Ragnarok" 
Verdict: 85/100 

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