Enslaved // RIITIIR
Rating: 2.5/5.0 — Not quite death rites yet.
Label: Nuclear Blast [EU | US]
Websites: enslaved.no | facebook.com/enslaved
Release Dates: US: 10.09.2012 | EU: 2012.10.03

Enslaved - RIITIIREnslaved has really secured its position in the highest tier of metal bands in the world. Though they started out long ago in the second wave of Norwegian black metal, nothing they’ve done since the late 90s has really represented that fraction of their existence. Instead, they’ve become one of metal’s shining examples of a transition from the extreme to the progressive. While doing more to maintain their extremity than a band like Anathema or Katatonia have done, the band’s last full length Axioma Ethica Odini and their EP The Sleeping Gods both lacked extremity while pushing out the borders of the band’s progressive bona fides. I wasn’t sure of what to make of Enslaved‘s RIITIIR when it first arrived – but while the record is ostensibly different than the band’s previous work, that mellow, bong-water stain of ’70s progressive rock continues to push further and further from their black metal roots. For the better?

“Thoughts Like Hammers” opens the record off with a cacophonous introduction that lasts too long. At first I was taken in; the plodding strains that followed stunned me and coursed their way through my veins. The clean vocals that we’ve all become so accustomed to flow in and out of the picture like flashes of color that break up the sepia riffs before dropping the listener right back into IZZ-like stoner rock. “Veilburners” Yes vibe at the beginning and “power” chorus again broke the repetitive grays of my autumnal existence and made me grin. But only after about the fourth listen when “Roots of the Mountain” kicked in with its black metal riffing, blast beat and Below the Lights keyboards did it occur to me what I was missing. Where’s the heavy?

As I’ve listened to RIITIIR time and time again I have stopped being impressed and started being bored. There are moments throughout the record that really stand out – cool riffs that stand out like on “Veilburner” and “Roots of the Mountain,” the beginning of “Storm of Memories” is maybe one of the coolest sections I’ve ever heard on an Enslaved record before bursting into something that truly felt like black metal. But gone are the tight songs, the brilliantly subtle writing that could sustain a single riff for longer than one would expect based on the kind of groove and atmosphere the track had. Instead the record has 5 tracks over the 8 minute mark, and the other songs aren’t short either. But without the depth of material to support these songs, they often cause one’s brain to go out wandering.

Enslaved 2012And sure, when the band really nails those cool moments they totally nail it. I’ve listened to this record dozens of times and have been repeatedly impressed with various parts here and there. But this record – an hour and 7 minutes – could have had 22 minutes cut off it easily and been a fantastic record. The continued bloating of the writing means that the best riffs are only scattered here and there as opposed to being back to back kicking your ass. It means that the clean vocals, which were only used to punctuate songs previously, take up too much space with melodies that are forgettable and should have been left on the cutting room floor (see: “Storm of Memories”). “RIITIIR” may be the only “complete” track on the whole album – strong from start to finish with the subtle and cool writing with the tight-wound grooves that had me in awe of this mighty mountain of metal that is Enslaved. Other than that, every song has weak moments, riffs that overstay their welcome, atmospheric simplistic parts that serve no purpose (“Forsaken” is a great example of the latter).

And so it is my sad duty to tell you that this record just isn’t that good. Sure, there are good moments and there’s a great song, but all-in-all it suffers from bloat and unfocused writing. On top of that, the production feels so polished that there’s nothing really heavy about the album. Instead, it’s very much music to chill and zone to – and I don’t smoke pot, so I don’t really need music to chill and zone to. I am disappoint. Enslaved and I appear to have grown in different directions.

Share →
  • Woah! I didn’t expect you’d dislike this (a bit). To me, the clean vocals on Axioma were one of the best moments of the songs, so this album really gots me (even more). You are right about the long stretched out songs, but I’ve already been seeing that as an aspect of Enslaved in general. As in most Axioma songs, the great riffage was mainly in between the longer atmospheric parts, in Riitiir the songs has less atmospheric parts (heavier parts as you call them), but more progressive parts. I don’t see that as a bad thing. Good well build review though (like Im used to see here).

  • once again, after Opeth’s Heritage, I have to disagree with your review… merely for a problem of personal taste, as your review is well written as usual. so, what you point out as flaws became the strong points for me: the clean vocals, I find epic, clear and crystalline. the interplay with harsh vocals is masterfully done, and the result is never cheesy. the lenght of the majority of the songs allows them space to breathe, while the previous record felt frenzied and cramped to me, albeit still very good ones

    that said, I deeply respect your opinion. sometimes tastes are just different =)

  • If the rest of the album is anything like ‘Thoughts Like Hammers’, I think I’m going to love it. Intertwining clean and harsh vocals is tricky, and when not done right it can trigger the failure of most bands (IMO).

    Like Borknagar with ‘Urd’, Enslaved does it beautifully here. It sounds awesome!

  • Patrick

    Finally. Someone that doesn’t like this album as well. It seems most in the ‘Critque/blogesphere’ are too scared to say what they really think about this album. And it also seems as if this band has hypnotized all Metal lovers into sucking their dicks no matter what they do. I am into multiple Metal genres and appreciate bands being brave with branching and fusing styles, but this band is just not that interesting. The music is boring and predictable. They ‘fuse’ correctly, but the music just lacks. Not inspring. Its the truth, sorry…

    • How is an opinion the truth?

    • Well, I’m glad you found someone who agreed with you. I’m a huge Enslaved fan – at least their older stuff – so I can say that this is a disappointment for me. I don’t like giving bands I love bad reviews.

    • Steelhead

      So true. It’s a kind of everlasting problem with prog-related stuff. Some albums are masterpieces and some – plain shit. But if there is a consensus among public (at either side) all the following reviews always try to stay with the majority like they’re afraid to look silly or incapable to understand progressive music.
      I’m glad AMG has his own independent opinion. I rare listen to music I don’t like more then 2-3 times, so that is why his reviews are so useful for me to double-check I’m not missing something.
      RIITIIR is 3/5 or 3.5/5 album at best. To call it “piece of art” or “masterpiece” is a big exaggeration.

  • I have to disagree, I loved it. I agree that I have difficulty listening to the whole album and get bored but I still have that with Axioma which I also love. Larsen is one of the few vocalist that can give my chills without fail on every album he’s been on with Enslaved and I thought Death in the Eyes of Dawn, Thoughts Like Hammers, Forsaken and Materal were fantastic songs. Having said that, AMG has made a reputation for saying things that most people don’t wanna hear or say themselves and for that I have to give you credit, while I love the album, it does bore me in parts.

  • Rich

    Its ok…as most of their other albums have been. Just because they have the audacity to have become progressive, people have expected great things from them. They always were and still are a fairly average, over-blown metal band with one…two, maybe three decent songs on each CD. Next!
    *Edit – love the cover art though, the colours remind me of Heartwork!

  • JJnetZach

    Well written review as always but I have to disagree with your opinion for the first time since Primordial’s “Redemption..”. I guess it all comes down to whether you’d prefer some metal in your prog, or some prog in your metal. Enslaved just crossed that border.

  • fredrikaas

    Did you hit the play button?

  • Dordeduh’s new album kicks Enslaved’s ass big time!
    P.S. Nicely reviewed.

    • Gonna check it out, actually. Got the promo but never got around to it.

      • basenjibrian

        I would probably rate this as a 3 out of 5. Love the clean vocals and some of the melodies but it can drag. Would agree that Dordeduh is stunning. Although, and the kult kids will kill me, the remnants of Negura Bunget put out a nice EP as well last year.

  • Jonas Hansen

    You have betrayed my trust, AMG! I am heart-broken and will never forget this!

  • Beau Kemp

    Loving this album just as much, if not more, than Axioma. I agree they could have trimmed the fat a bit, but to say that the album “just isn’t that good” is lunacy. As in all things subjective, to each their own.

  • Got to disagree, I found the first half of the album amongst the best stuff released this year, the second half sags a bit and does get slightly unfocused sounding but it would still earn a 4/5 for me.

  • this is the best record of 2012, no me parecio tan largo como o cara dise, para mi se pasa volando

  • storms of memories its the best son of 2012

  • Ondrej Susa

    I agree. It intrigued me at first, but then it became boring. The tracks are too long and the clean vocals basically killed the record for me. A well written review.

  • innn

    I agree with this review I too find latest album boring lengthy with pretty much nothing to say, nothing epic, clean vocals like you can find in Porcupine Tree albums not Opeth like are saying. I moved on.