Enslaved - In TimesLongtime readers of this blog know that I have a fraught relationship with Enslaved. Once one of my favorite bands, these Norwegian Viking metallers’ releases between 2003’s Below the Lights and 2008’s Vertebrae make for one of those unbroken strings of heavy metal glory that few bands ever unleash. Unfortunately for me, since 2008’s masterpiece, the band has released two records (Axioma Ethica Odini and RIITIIR) which left me cold. While I liked Axioma at release, I have returned to it basically never since then, and RIITIIR was a nut I never cracked. The band’s transformation from black metal to proggy post-black metal hasn’t been something I frowned upon, but their latest material has really sent me moss gazing. So I guess you could say that the anticipation for me has been a little tough to get up to a fever pitch with In Times. Sure, it’s a new Enslaved record, but it’s hard to keep my expectations high after having been so disappointed over the last few years.

I’m going to get this out of the way right away: In Times is not a great record. It suffers some real problems, and the biggest one is uniformity. The album has six tracks and they are all over eight minutes long, three of them clock in at roughly eight minutes and 15 seconds, two of them at roughly eight minutes and 50 seconds and the final one clocks in at ten minutes and 45 seconds. While the music is littered with time changes, dynamic ups and downs, and what I am tempted to call a progressive sensibility that is long post-black metal at this point, I’m not sure that this record ever changes volume. With a dynamic range rating of 6, In Times becomes monotone. There’s no meaningful variation in volume, moderate variation in feel, and despite some bright musical moments, I have trouble sitting through this record from start to finish.

In Times does have some great songs, however. As I have listened to the record more actively to try to pinpoint where the disconnect was, I discovered that there is only one song—”Nauthir Bleeding,” which mostly just bleeds into a uniform mass—that I consider to be genuinely uninteresting. Other than that, the songs on here are good. Opener “Thurisaz Dreaming,” rips out the gate with a blast (like, y’know, black metal), and while it goes over to a more modern Enslaved groove, the cleans are catchy and interesting and the song benefits from a remarkable and epic bridge. Title-track “In Times,” has two minutes too much intro, but once the two-thirty mark is crossed the listener is regaled with classic riffing, with Ivar and Isdal using bar chords instead of just straight power chords to make a wall of sound that’s proggy and dense. “In Times” is especially enjoyable towards the end—the harmonies and nearly Gazpacho-like progressive sound suits these aging black metallers well. The real highlight on here, though, is “One Thousand Years of Rain,” which is a top-tier Enslaved track. This track feels like a blackened viking metal track, doing what Enslaved does best: hypnotic, memorable riffing backed by keys. Whether it be black metal rasps or the Norsky choirs, everything feels in like it’s in the right place.

But I can’t help but be a bit disappointed. Sure, Enslaved is checking all the boxes that I have traditionally loved about them: expansive tracks (if not as heavy as they once were); interesting, dynamic writing and the post-Vertebrae melodic work; hypnotic groove and post-black metal progressiveness. Yet, listening to In Times as a whole is a chore. I find my ears becoming fatigued, my eyes glazing over, and I can’t keep myself on task. Between what is an uniform sound, because the record is so compressed that the softs and louds are essentially on the same level, and a production so laden with reverb, the album hardly feels heavy. Even when the kick drums are pummeling away and Grutle is screaming at me about Odin, In Times isn’t heavy; it’s just loud. And when everything is loud, nothing is.

Enslaved2015d-web

In Times is the perfect name for this record, though the band probably won’t see it quite this way. This record is demonstrative of how the excesses of the modern recording industry can take perfectly serviceable-to-good music and turn it into something tough to swallow. Instead of highlighting Enslaved‘s strengths In Times makes them sound tired and uniform. So even if I love different moments, and appreciate a lot of the songs, I can’t give this whole record a thumbs up. I really hope there’s a dedicated vinyl master of this, because I can’t see owning this in any other way.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: V0 mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast
Websites: enslaved.no | facebook.com/enslaved
Release Dates: EU: 2015.03.06 | UK: 2015.03.09 | US: 2015.03.10

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  • DG

    Great write-up. I’m more partial to this album than I was to RIITIIR, but there is definitely still some “blubber” on this album in the songwriting department, especially in the title track, like you mentioned. I’m really glad you mentioned the mastering on this album, though – it is SLAMMED, and running the CD through the DR meter indicated that there’s some clipping in there too (peaks showed as over on all songs). RIITIIR had a dedicated vinyl master, so hopefully this one does too; it definitely needs it.

  • Eddy Ferreira

    I felt Axominia and RIITIIR had too much fat not enough meat, and it felt kinda like a drag for me, i Didn’t revisit those albums since i bought either of those, i do revisit there older stuff though, but this is definitely a skip for me, i heard it on interwebs and was not impressed, i hope Sigh’s New Album doesn’t suck either -_-.

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    Great, honest review. I admit that I haven’t come back to this album after three listens (which saddens me). I definitely do enjoy it more than Axioma (which really didn’t do anything for me at all) but I think I prefer RIITIIR over this.

  • Patrick

    I feel the same way. I don’t think the new material worked live either, not like their older stuff does.

    • I was interested to see them when they were here a couple of weeks ago, but I spent the whole time wishing they’ve brought YOB along

  • Andy_0

    Great review, and as my favorite band of all time it’s unfortunate I feel largely the same way. The first three tracks are among the best they have ever written, but as you said the album basically falls apart after that. Such a shame.

  • Pimpolho

    Oh snap, i was waiting a solid opinion on this one so i could compare to my own(opinion). I feel the same, thankfully. Great review, as always.

  • RuySan

    while I love axioma, I Couldn’t agree more with this review. The loudness is indeed a big problem, as is the uniformity of the record which makes it a big blur.

    And now that I think of it, I think what I love is enslaved sound and not necessarily their songs. If I went to see them live, what would I ask them to play? Possibly The Dead Stare and Urtical Gods, because I don’t remember any others.

  • I felt the same way about this record if not worse for a while. I’ve warmed up a bit to it, but I still feel no compelling reason to add it to my 2015 playlist that since month has felt a little bloated.

  • JoãoRK

    I’m the minority here but i think this album, RIITIIR and axioma are their best records.

    I think i just have a soft spot for post-black metal

    • tal tepper

      I think that RIITIIR is the best album in this decade (so far). And its even better live, I was amazed to realize how dominant was the drumming in the songs feel. But I agree with AMG about In Times which is too uniform and lack great reefs.

      • JoãoRK

        Production wasn’t great either.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Well, uniformity is certainly In Times’ biggest problem. If after 3 or 4 listens I can’t remember one single riff, your album might have a problem. It is, though, forgivingly much shorter than RIITIIR, and while the aforementioned album ended up growing on me, I’m not sure I’ll be able to say the same about In Times. I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with the songs themselves, just that perhaps each song is better when listened to individually, rather than in the scope of the album.

  • AndySynn

    Interesting review… particularly because you appear to be my evil twin. Or I’m your evil twin. Either way… something’s gone horribly wrong here.

    I mean if you changed a word here or there, and altered the title to “Vertebrae” you’d pretty much have summed up my feelings about that record, as I feel like that’s where they got lost up their own prog-hole

    Whereas I feel like “Axioma…” is a top 5 (maybe top 3) album for the band.

    So you’re clearly me from the anti-matter universe.

    FYI – I’m not sure about the “monotonous” thing… something I felt more about “Vertebrae” myself (see… opposite-land…) as to me the songs on “In Times” all stand really well on their own, and offer a lot of variety.

    (Oh, and they were AWESOME live this weekend)

    PS – I’m pretty sure we have to fight now.

    • Refined-Iron Cranium

      Hey, another person that agrees with me about Vertebrae! Good to see I’m not alone here :D

      • RuySan

        This! I loved Ruun. It was so lean and focused, while Vertabrae went too proggy.

        Axioma brought some punchiness back, though

    • Feytalist

      Word. Of their newer albums, Vertebrae is for me definitely the least of the bunch. I thought RUUN was amazing, as is RIITIIR.

      In Times is certainly up there, although I would agree with the “blandness” of the production. It could have been much better. Still; amazing cleans and some great crunchy bits make it a great record.

    • Jan

      Same here. I think VERTEBRAE is way overrated while AXIOMA is pretty sharp for the most part.

      This review is spot on as far as the production goes. But my ears tell a different story about the quality of the songs themselves. I think the first three are pretty good. NAUTHIR is indeed kinda nothing really. The finale two are too dragged out but fun enough. Not a great album, true. But one with more than enough good material to keep faith that they’ll totally hit one out of the park one day.

  • Gabriel Pérez

    I will take Axioma over Vertebrae, is actually one of my favorites from the band, and I agree with how hard is to get this as a whole, but individualy, at least 4 or 5 songs on here are in my favorites from 2015

  • Luke_22

    Well written review as always, but personally I enjoyed this album a great deal. Whereas RIITIIR dragged in places and was a bit indulgent, despite the track lengths I found this album to be a more concise and focused effort. It did take a few spins to really sink in, but the first half in particular has some amazing moments.

  • Tom Hardy

    Never been a fan of anything the band has put out, ever. Listened to the soundcloud clip. Yes. Sounds just as bad as the rest.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    I had been looking forward to your review of this and was expecting you to give it a real pasting. I must say, this is very well put. As I read I found myself both nodding in agreement and shaking my fist :). An excellent review!
    I thought RIITTIIR was mostly brilliant with its only real failing being it’s looong run time. I don’t think ‘In Times’ is guilty of this, though I do agree that it would’ve been a better album with out Nauthir Bleeding. I can’t get what they’re doing with that one at all. I’ve been playing the album with out it, and it definitely flows better with ‘In Times’ coming after ‘One Thousand Years..’
    Overall this album has really grown on me despite its appalling mastering. I’ve enjoyed the attempt to move from a heavy sound to a more atmospheric heaviness. You’re so right, these songs really deserved a dynamic approach in mastering. Bjornson’s ‘clean’ vocals seem to have become a bigger part of what the band are doing now and it’s really working. Particularly in tracks like ‘Daylight’ (which is also a top shelf Enslaved song IMO) where his harmonising with Grutle’s harsh vocals is very powerful and segues perfectly to a very spacious middle section with glorious melodic vocals and an epic and classy guitar solo.

    ‘Below the Lights’ will always be my favourite Enslaved record but I’m glad that they’re still always looking to make a ‘new’ record and not repeat past glories. Not many bands can pull that off. Hopefully they’ll make you *(and possibly themselves) happy and put out a full dynamic version. I would absolutely pick it up and probably through my current CD version away…

    • Thatguy

      Thanks for the review AMG – I disagree with most of it but I also disagree with your love of Gazpacho…
      And thanks Carlos, my compatriot (I was actually born at Marrickville Hospital – that makes me old…) – you have said just about all that I would have said but I had to go to work and you beat me to it

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Hail to da-ville!
        It’s been a long time since anything other than rats was born at Marrickville Hospital!

  • Refined-Iron Cranium

    I wouldn’t say this album is stellar, but it’s still very good. To me, it’s a more refined and catchier form of RIITTIIR, since I felt RIITTIIR felt a bit bloated. This album has a lot of good stuff going on and the clean vocals sound better than ever. I think Enslaved have settled nicely into the groove set by their most recent albums, so while they’re not expanding reinventing their music as they did in the past, they’re refining the sound and in my opinion, it sounds brilliant. The production job is pretty nasty but it’s better than the dry sound on RIITTIIR.

    Also, I’ve never been too fond of Vertebrae. Maudraum, Monumension and Isa have been much better experiments by the band and Vertebrae, while having some great songs, felt a bit too one dimensional for Enslaved. In Times doesn’t fall into this trap, even if it does have a bit of fat that needs some trimming. Easily a 3.5 to 4 out of 5 for me.

  • Wilhelm

    I’m just going to agree and disagree with every poster here and say that there’s no Enslaved album I wasn’t impressed by. I’m surprised by the DR6, it sounds slightly better than that but yeah, as usual, if you aren’t Horrendous or Steve Wilson, you’re probably at the mercy of the industry standard BUT this doesn’t make it un-listenable as the mix is not shabby. I am starting to get the feeling, however, that the band needs to spread their wings a bit, put together some 40 minute prog space opera anthem with monk choirs and exotic Norwegian flutes…or maybe just something a little different. 8/10.

  • sir_c

    Their mix of prog and black metal does not work. I like many parts wihin their songs, but I never love a whole song. It’s just some riff salad with mood swings.

    Their latest set of albums always tend to end up at the bottom of my pile because I never go back to them for a second listen.

    Maybe it would work better if they would choose to either play BM or prog.

    Their album Frost was my first ever encounter with black metal, and for this I thank them. Looking at their talent and skills, I find it a real pity their recent music is like teflon.

  • Andres Pintos Nocerino

    best of the year

  • defjam

    It’s such a relief for an old fart, old school person like myself to find like minded people that find too many flaws in this record after having read numerous reviews where In Times was almost apotheosized. To be honest I was eagerly anticipating AMG’s view because a stellar review here would mean there is something wrong with me and what I perceive an excellent opus should sound, feel, hell, even taste like. So thanks AMG for putting into words what I could only sense as a disjointed effort from a band that in my mind artistically stand at a crossroads similar to the one Opeth found themselves after Heritage.

  • MNmetal

    I got into Enslaved with Riitiir so I was really looking forward to this one. HATED it the first few listens but now I like it more than Riitiir. Not sure where the hate of Nauthir Bleeding is coming from. It’s probably my second favorite song on the disc. SO trippy. Listen to it when your drunk. I must admit the Caribbean flavored intro is rather unlike Enslaved…sounds Caribbean to me lol. But these are the kinds of curve balls I really like.
    I do agree the into for the title track wear out it’s welcome after droning on for over two minutes. The lead is great. All in all a solid 4 for me.

    • AnnieK13

      I also got into Enslaved with Riitiir which is still on my frequent play list. I really like the new album but agree that the production did some damage and I am not sure how much I will return to it.

      • MNmetal

        I’m listening to it on an Ipod nano….I really can’t complain about sound quality too much lol.