Review: Enslaved- RIITIIR

So this is a little late in coming, considering that RIITIIR came out September 28th, but I suppose it’s better late than never, and I did only get it recently. On clearance at Hastings in my hometown, because apparently the good people of my hometown don’t know when awesome metal falls into their laps (it is more an epicenter for red dirt music anyway).

I have to admit that I have rather mixed feelings about a lot of Enslaved’s newer material. I like the prog approach well enough, but I wouldn’t describe myself as a prog fan. It’s not something I listen to often, although I appreciate the musical complexity of it. The further Enslaved goes along the more they tend to work back towards darker metal, though, and I think that is why I enjoy RIITIIR as much as I do. It’s very much in the vein of what Enslaved has been doing for the past several albums, but their black metal roots bleed through in places, making a really cool blend.

Opening the album is the first song released, Thoughts Like Hammers. I was skeptical when I heard this song for the first time; I mean, I liked it, but I wasn’t totally sold. Veilburner, the second song released, I immediately liked much better. After I gave RIITIIR a few more spins, I told Jamie that Thoughts Like Hammers was by far the worst song on the album. And it’s a good song. It’s just that the rest of the album is even stronger (and the more I listen to it, yes, the more this song grows on me).

The weird drum sound at the beginning of Roots of the Mountain made me think my car was falling apart for a few minutes when I first heard it, but it adds an urgency to the song that contrasts well with the chorus and causes a kind of claustrophobic press in the first couple of minutes of the song. The title track is a really cool song as well; transcendent sections of clean vocals and soaring guitars are backed up against a churning segment with a somewhat Mediterranean beat in the drums and a really heavy feel.

For me, Materal is one of the coolest songs on the record. Not only does it have a wicked black metal feeling tremolo riff at 1:14, but the structure of the song is really cool as well. I love the drum break after the first chorus and the layering of the harsh and clean vocals. Another song I really love is the final track Forsaken. The keyboards and guitar at the end are just so haunting. It’s lovely, and at the same time unsettling. Perhaps it’s the echo in the keyboards reminding me of industrial music in its calmer moments. Also the way the musical phrase just drops off- it’s like a music box, with an end to the melody but no real closure. A really interesting way to end the album.

I felt like the production for RIITIIR was well done; there is a lot going on in any given moment, but no one part felt like it was dominating. Of course, there are a lot of interesting fills from pretty much every member of the band on RIITIIR, and in those moments the respective parts rise a bit from the mix, as they should. You can even hear the bass in places! The beginning of Veilburner is, I think, a good example of the mixing on the record. It is very clean production, but for the complicated nature of the music on the album, I think it almost has to be. It would be easy to lose some of those parts if the production was less polished.

The album art is completely awesome in the same way that Enslaved’s album art normally is. I really like the concept of the hands reaching upwards, as Enslaved’s music always kind of reminds me of reaching beyond the material world, whether to the gods or your ancestors or whatever else. And the cover art is painted.IMAG0726

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[I also like the simplicity in the discs. Very straightforward, very classy]

Because I bought the special edition version of RIITIIR, I also got the Behind the Veil: The Making of RIITIIR bonus DVD. Leander and I watched it yesterday, and it is a really cool inclusion and well worth a watch. It’s interesting to see how the band goes about recording and their comments about how at this point in time, they record sort of like a live act as they are so used to playing together live (Enslaved are total road dogs). They also included segments showing the artist designing and painting the artwork for the album, which I found really cool since I love the artwork so much.

All and all, I’d give RIITIIR probably 4 or 4.5 out of 5 stars (pentagrams, what have you). It’s a very solid album, and I love how the band’s old black metal sound slips into the mix at unexpected moments. It not only takes the edge off of the progginess, but it makes for a truly original sound. The packaging is nice as well- album art is stunning, and the physical disks themselves have a very sleek look. Finally, RIITIIR has captivated me and I highly recommend at least a listen for those of you who, like me, generally prefer Enslaved’s older material. It did, after all, make it onto my list of the best albums of 2012. Subsequent spins of the album have convinced me even more that they deserve a solid place on there.

Hagalaz’ Favorite Tracks:

Death In The Eyes Of Dawn
Materal
Forsaken

More soon!

-Hagalaz

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