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Enslaved- Vikingligr Veldi (Album Review)
Album: Vikingligr Veldi
Enslaved is actually one of my favorite bands within the black metal genre. Despite being relatively popular within the scene, they are underrated when compared to bands like Darkthrone and Mayhem. Vikingligr Veldi was the first album from Enslaved, and has become one of my favorites from the band- perhaps second only to the mighty Frost.
The song "Lifandi Liv Undir Hamri".
Vikingligr Veldi does contain some of the clichéd elements of black metal, such as the harshly screeched vocals and tremolo picked riffs. However, the songs are more majestic and grand when compared to the minimalistic style of bands such as Darkthrone or early Immortal. Enslaved seems to be more open to the use of melodic guitar lines and moody synthesizers. The opening song, “Lifandi Liv Undir Hamri”, is a good example of all of these things. It’s built upon subtle melodies and gives an overall feeling of ancient grandeur. The synthesizer part at the beginning is absolutely addictive and the guitar riffing halfway through the song is just amazing. The former keeps making appearances throughout the song, and even duels with the guitars. Another notable aspect about Vikingligr Veldi, is the immense length of the songs. The album runs for just over fifty minutes, but it only has five songs (four are over ten minutes long). Sometimes this becomes tiresome, and is the only true reason that I have not given this a perfect rating. The album still retains the rawness of early black metal, which certainly works to the music’s advantage. I’ve already used the word ‘ancient’ to describe the sound of this album, but the production really does give the album a sort of primordial charm not unlike Satyricon’s Dark Medieval Times (although it’s more ‘viking’ metal sounding than ‘medieval’ sounding).
The song "Heimdallr".
Instrumentally, Vikingligr Veldi is an album that has ideal instrumentation for what it is. Obviously, being a black metal album, it’s not a technical masterpiece. However, the instruments are performed well and actually lean towards the more progressive side of the genre. The guitars are fairly melodic, in a way that is completely unique to the album. There are also a few places containing acoustic guitars, but the vast majority of the guitars are electric. The bass is mostly nonexistent, except for some brief parts where it stands alone from the other instruments. There’s actually a lot of value in these short bass parts- they add to the distinctiveness of the release. Truthfully, I find the drums to be very good. They mostly play in the typical black metal style, but they are still nicely done. The synths are decent, as well. There are a lot of memorable synthesizer lines, although the actual sound of the synths is kind of cheesy and of low quality. Finally, the vocals are great for this style. Clearly, they will not be enjoyed if one is not already into black metal. However, they are nicely done and sound like a slightly raspier version of Abbath (Immortal).
The song "Norvegr".
I’ve already mentioned the brilliance of “Lifandi Liv Undir Hamri”, and there’s really not much more to say about it other than it’s a mighty piece of music. As mentioned previously, the synthesizer/guitar parts are surprisingly memorable and catchy (in an almost non-black metal way). “Vetranott” is no less good, but it’s more reminiscent of traditional black metal (especially at the beginning). It’s a bit of a droning song, although it does have its fair share of changes throughout. The riff that comes in at 3:53 is perfect by my standards- it’s a good thing that they repeat it a lot. “Midgards Eldar” has a surprisingly prominent bassline, and is a far more progressive song than “Vetranott”. It features excellent synthesizers and some cool acoustic parts scattered throughout the lengthy eleven minutes that the song lasts. “Heimdallr”, the shortest song, begins with an effective drum intro before launching into a raw black metal track. However, the use of a synthesizer riff under the guitars makes it stand out from what most bands were doing at the time. “Heimdallr” is also home to some truly excellent guitar riffs that are surprisingly memorable. “Norvegr” is an instrumental song that closes out the album. It’s genuinely beautiful, and serves as a perfect way to close the album out as it does encompass most of what makes Vikingligr Veldi such an awesome release.
The song "Midgards Eldar".
Enslaved’s debut full length is a brilliant piece of black metal art. I do not see how anyone into the genre could fully dislike this. It leans towards some progressive tendencies, mainly identified by the use of synthesizers, melodic guitars (both distorted and acoustic), and excessive song lengths. The follow up album, Frost, is slightly better and a more straightforward release. Both are essential for anyone who enjoys the genre, but I would recommend Frost over Vikingligr Veldi to those that are new to the genre as it’s a bit more accessible than this album. Those who are already fans of Enslaved and haven’t heard this should go ahead and try it out. The commonly found CD version of the album also comes with the Hordanes Land EP which is nearly as good as this (and somewhat similar in sound)… so it’s a great package, overall.
Best songs: “Lifandi Liv Undir Hamri” and “Midgards Eldar” are my favorites, but they’re all really good.
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