Home > Music > Enslaved – Blodhemn (1998)

Enslaved – Blodhemn (1998)

folderGiven the occasional symphonic flourishes of the band’s oldest material and the “post-rock” orientation of the new stuff, Blodhemn is basically the opposite of the typical Enslaved sound for being so relentlessly loud and aggressive. Why’d they decide to do this? Why’d they decide to stop? I guess even I can be a bit arbitrary as a musician, so don’t think of it as a complaint. Still, it’s a uniquely aggressive installment in this band’s long and storied career, and interesting contrasts are certainly eponymous at the best and worst of times.

Blodhemn‘s loudness does come off as a calculated decision, to its credit. Once the synthesizer intro wears off (it’s admittedly pretty intensive by its own standards), you’re immediately hit with a Peter Tägtgren mix and all the stereotypical sounds that implies. Enslaved comes off heavily compressed, trebly, and otherwise potentially pretty hard on the ears. In addition to that, the songwriting is more direct than either of the albums bookending  this one; beyond shorter durations, the band members spend a greater percentage of their time in full blast mode. I don’t know how differently the new drummer (“Dirge Rep”) approaches the kit from any of the other drummers Enslaved has had over the years, but the songs here would give any of them more room to dominate the album than usual. The other instruments also come off as more frenzied, but not to the same extent, perhaps since there’s less room for them to increase tempos before they hit a point of unintelligibly. Despite everything, that is not Blodhemn‘s goal.

Given the genres we’re dealing with, it’s not a surprise that Enslaved manages to retain a sense of melody and structure despite expanding their aggression. It’s also to be expected that they’ve sacrificed a lot of the subtlety of previous albums in the process of amping everything up. One thing I liked about these older albums (Vikingligr Veldi in particular) was that there was a lot of gradual but steady development going on; while it took me a while to pick up on a lot of it, it makes revisiting the older material quite rewarding in the long run. Blodhemn, on the other hand, blows its load immediately, and some of these tracks actually come off as a bit haphazard because of it. On the other hand, that it’s accessible and has its share of hooky songwriting does give it a unique pop-equivalent-of-extreme-metal sensibility that is rarely at best matched by albums that are more obviously aimed in that direction. Maybe that’s worth your time, but metal music has plenty of gateways with or without Blodhemn.

Highlights: “Urtical Gods”, “Ansuz Astral”, “Nidingaslakt”

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