Enslaved – RIITIIR [10 out of 10]

By Andrew Bansal

Despite already being more than twenty years deep into their career, Norwegian progressive extreme metal band Enslaved continue to deliver new material that matches up to and surpasses previous efforts, and testimony to this statement is their 12th studio album “RIITIIR”, releasing tomorrow i.e. September 28th in Europe and October 9th in the US via Nuclear Blast. Its predecessor “Axioma Ethica Odini” was a very solid composition, and the new album builds further on its success. I’ve been listening to this album for the past week or so, and based on that, I think “RIITIIR” will turn out to be a fantastic offering for all fans.

The 67-minute opus starts off with “Thoughts Like Hammers”, a song most fans would have probably heard by now as it was the first taste of the album given by the band, in the form of a YouTube lyric video. Straightaway, it demonstrates just how dynamic the musicianship is on this album. Ranging from low-fi black metal segments to up-tempo prog-rock passages with clean vocals in the forefront, this track really has it all. The start of any album is extremely crucial, specially for people who prefer listening to entire albums rather than singles, and this track sets the tone for the rest of the album quite beautifully.

Despite the length of the album, the striking contrast between the extreme and clean segments and their fluid interaction is what keeps this album interesting throughout. If you’re listening to it for the first time, you won’t be quite sure what’s coming next, and the music maintains its grip. “Death In The Eyes Of Dawn” is a slow track for the most part, but offers things the first track doesn’t, including a great acoustic guitar piece which ends the track and leads into “Veilburner”. This is another song that’s already been out in public as a lyric video, and although it’s far from being the longest track on the album, it’s probably the most progressive, both in terms of tempo and the changing musical styles.

These first three tracks contribute to a nice buildup, and I feel the album really hits its groove on track 4. From then on, some of the songs will certainly bring a lot of satisfaction to the black metal fans. Songs like “Roots Of The Mountain”, “Riitiir” and “Storm Of Memories” are extremely dark, epic and crushingly heavy. These aren’t out-and-out black metal tunes either, but if you buy the album in the hope of listening to some black metal, the music on here is definitely more than worth your money. The musical story of the album develops with every track, and comes to an epic conclusion with the 11-minute long “Forsaken”.

Talking of “RIITIIR” on the whole and comparing it with the other 11 Enslaved albums, I honestly can’t think of an album better than this one. It’s a matter of opinion, but I feel “RIITIIR” is as good as anything the band has ever put out, if not better. I found it really interesting that the band adopted a free-flowing and uninhibited style of songwriting on this album, not worrying about the song lengths at all, thus composing one of their longest albums ever. In a way this takes the band back to the beginning, to the debut album on which four of the five tracks exceeded 10 minutes. They’ve written music with the same sort of freedom as they did back then, which is intriguing.

Besides the music itself, the production does complete justice to the album, and has an organic feel to it which gave me a feeling close to what I’d get while experiencing a live Enslaved concert. But the standout feature is the incredible clarity and balance in the mix, which allows you to clearly listen to every instrument and distinguish them from each other. In recent times, very few albums have done that so well, in my opinion. Dream Theater’s latest effort “A Dramatic Turn Of Events” is one of them, and now Enslaved’s “RIITIIR” is another.

In the past few years, I’ve often compared Enslaved to their fellow Scandinavians in Opeth, probably because the first time I saw Enslaved live was as an opening act for Opeth. While the Swedish band has gone in a totally different direction with their latest release “Heritage”, and might not return to their extreme metal roots in the near future, we must thank the heavy metal lords that we still have Enslaved putting out killer albums such as “RIITIIR”.

All in all, this new Enslaved album will exceed the expectations of those who’re already fans of the band, and in addition to that it will turn some heads and garner new fans for the band. This is a stellar effort. Pick it up as soon as you can.

Rating: 10/10

Related: Ivar Bjørnson interview

Record Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Dates: September 28th 2012 (Europe) / October 9th 2012 (US)

Track Listing:
1. Thoughts Like Hammers
2. Death In The Eyes Of Dawn
3. Veilburner
4. Roots Of The Mountain
5. Riitiir
6. Materal
7. Storm Of Memories
8. Forsaken