EP Review: ENSLAVED, Caravans to the Outer Worlds

by Nikita Alekseyevich Khrenov

Enslaved has never released a bad album, that’s it. No matter what this band does musically, whether it’s dripping in 70s prog or coated in a frostbitten Norwegian sheen, their output always exudes quality. It’s astounding that a band that’s been around for 30 years has been able to be so consistently good — and in honor of their three decades of being an active band, they have graced us with this short offering along with an upcoming live box set.

A raging wind opens this EP as a somber bass line drones on, joined quickly by soft chords, synths, a gentle pattering on the hi-hat and post rock-esque melodies. Before you know it the band kicks it into the next gear with blistering riffage and quite a tasty solo. Immediate comparisons are drawn to the bands much darker and heavier early material. Riffs and growls that would fit right into Frost assault the ears though they manage to fill in the sonic landscape between verse lines with the organ doubling up with the guitars, a very modern Enslaved stylistic choice. The chorus is filled with droning chords and blast beats as clean singing juxtaposes the heavy nature of the instrumentation. Another verse and chorus keeps the head banging before the band slows all the way down with a deep voiced monologue accompanied by acoustic guitars haunts the listener and the band crescendos with layers of sustained guitar notes, strings, tribal drums, and chants are layered upon one another and transports us to the outer worlds.

The first interlude piece is pure prog goodness. Synths and organs creep around the palm muted chugs of the guitars as the drums keep a steady and subdued pace for a time before the band slams the power chords down. This song alone feels like an excellent throwback to a song like “Havenless” off of Below the Lights, just a marching head bobbing tune that you wish wouldn’t end.

The second main track is Ruun II – The Epitaph. Starting with dual acoustic guitars it sets a bleak and ominous tone for what’s to come. Electric guitar and organ come in with melody and add to the suspense as the drums arrive and Grutle Kjellson’s enchanting voice greets us in the dark. The song title is incredibly apt as one feels as if they’re being indoctrinated into a Pagan ritual. The subdued nature of the instrumental aspects of the song entrances the listener and the mind just melts into the music.

The closing instrumental song possesses quirky piano work reminiscent of their most recent works, very much inspired by 70s prog like King Crimson. It’s a charging metal track with a steady double bass pattern holding down the tempo as both guitarists stay to the same melodic riff and keyboards whirl around the listener like the winds on the mountain.

Caravans to the Outer Worlds is a near perfect snapshot of Enslaved’s career up until this point. It has everything, heaviness, beauty, intrigue, complexity, simplicity, growls, beautiful singing, the Pagan aspect, literally everything. The mix is excellent and perfectly balanced providing a clear sonic landscape and an excellent listening experience. The only downside is it’s only an EP, the quality of the material here makes on yearn for this to be expanded into a full-length record, though even as an EP it would not be surprising to see it in many end-of-year discussions.

Stream and purchase the EP here: https://bfan.link/caravans-to-the-outer-worlds

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