Enslaved are a progressive black metal band from Norway, that has its roots in the early 90s, where they started out as a “true Norwegian Black Metal” unit. What set them apart from the rest of the scene in the beginning was their use of keyboards, later moving on to the mellotron or similarly sounding keyboards, as well as a heavy lyrical focus on northern mythology and culture.
In Times constitutes their 13th studio album and despite me already forming a solid opinion on this record shortly after it came out in February 2015, I held off on reviewing it for a long time, since I was only familiar with their 2008 and 2012 releases Vertebrae and RIITIIR at the time, which prompted me to get a solid understanding of the rest of their discography first before writing this review.
Overall, In Times is probably one of Enslaved’s most atmospheric albums, especially when compared to their more recent releases. This album just has a very mystical, primeval, “sunny Winter morning” vibe to it, crafted through well utilized reverbs, guitar layering and subtle ambient sounds, mostly at the start and the end of a track.
The songwriting retains its progressive tinge throughout all of this though and the band mostly puts an emphasis on long, riff-driven compositions that shift and develop in the interplay of harsh sections with Grutle Kjellson’s unique, raspy screams, Ivar Bjørnson’s deep growls as well as the occasional blastbeat and sometimes almost post rock-ish interludes, most prominently in the fourth track Nauthir Bleeding.
Especially the more mellow parts on this album brim with strong clean vocal melodies, at times with group vocals, and elaborately arranged guitar layers, creating the aforementioned very dense, bright and mysterious feeling that makes this album so immersive.
Something that I initially criticized this album for was that the songs seemed too static, with too little diversity considering that all of them are at the very least eight minutes long. However after spending more time with the band’s discography I realized that this kind of songwriting with vast amounts of room and slowly progressing structures is what this band really specializes in.
Their songs are something to get lost in, something that the listener just has to immerse themselves into and it has grown on me a lot.
In the end, this album offers a very consistent level of quality, which is something that I personally felt was lacking after their last big change in sound on their 2004 release Isa, which is where Enslaved’s music started to be really hit and miss for me.
In Times basically signifies a small return to form in my eyes and I wonder where the band will go from here.