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Thursday 30 September 2021

Reviews: Enslaved, Drott, Enquire Within, Sepulchre By The Sea (Reviews By Paul Scoble, Richard Oliver, Paul Hutchings & Zak Skane)

Enslaved - Caravans To The Outer Worlds (Nuclear Blast) [Paul Scoble]

Enslaved shouldn’t need too much introduction to anyone with a little knowledge of Heavy Metal. The band formed in 1991 and 30 years later are still going strong. During their 3 decades together the band have released 15 albums, their first, Vikingligr Veldi in 1994, and their last album, Uygard, came out last year and was very favourably reviewed in these pages and elsewhere. Initially Enslaved played a very savage and harsh style of Black Metal before slowly modifying their sound to become one of the best Progressive Metal bands currently active. 

Enslaved are clearly an album band, as one thing they have not done very often is release Ep’s, Caravans To The Outer Worlds is only the bands 4th Ep. The line up that has made this rare beast is Ivar Bjørnson on Guitars, Grutle Kjellson on Vocals and Bass, Arve 'Ice Dale' Isdal on guitar, Håkon Vinje on Keyboards and Clean Vocals and Iver Sandøy on drums. The EP features 4 tracks 2 main songs; title track Caravans To The Outer Worlds and Ruun II - The Epitaph, and 2 instrumentals called Intermezzo I - Lonnlig. Gudlig, and Intermezzo II - The Navigator, which act as an intro and outro to the song Ruun II - The Epitaph.

Caravans To The Outer Worlds opens with just Bass before Keyboards are added, the song then drops into fairly aggressive Progressive Metal that is nicely uptempo and driving, the song has a mix of harsh and clean vocals, the occasional Blast Beat and 2 very fast and aggressive Guitar solos. It’s Enslaved’s Prog Metal sound but aggressive and purposeful, until the end which is quieter and brooding.
Intermezzo I - Lonnlig. Gudlig is slow and very heavy, it sounds like Enslaved, but, like the title track it’s a little bit more vexed than the band have been for a while. 

Intermezzo I - Lonnlig. Gudlig takes the audience into Ruun II - The Epitaph. This track is much less aggressive that the opener, but also has a bark and brooding feel to it. The Guitars are clean throughout the track so it has a little bit of a Post Rock feel that I haven’t heard from Enslaved before. The track is fairly Keyboard heavy so despite the lack of distorted guitars, the song still manages to build to a feeling of hugeness. Intermezzo II - The Navigator is driving, taut Progressive Metal, there are lots of layers and in places it sounds a little bit like Devin Townsend, but without the wackiness.

Caravans To The Outer Worlds is a great piece of Progressive Metal. The tracks work very well together and the flow of material is fantastic. Although as an EP the lack of length means this doesn’t have the dramatic sweep of the bands last album, but this material clearly isn’t meant to have that kind of sense to it, the band knew this material was slightly different to their usual material, which is why it’s been put out as an Ep. This is an essential addition to any Enslaved fans collection. 8/10

Drott - Orcus (By Norse Music) [Richard Oliver]

Drott is a three piece Norwegian band made up of Mattias Monsen, Arve Isdal of Enslaved and Ivar Thormodsæter of Ulver. They formed only very recently in 2020 and released a self-titled E.P. earlier this year but now comes their debut full length album Orcus.

Orcus is an album inspired by forces of nature, superstition and spirituality and the musicians themselves with their varied musical background ranging from metal and jazz to classical music have created a unique sounding entity. This is an album that sits in the realms of the avant-garde, progressive and psychedelic with the songs themselves being mainly instrumental and built upon soundscapes and atmosphere. The sounds and atmospheres within these songs is varying from the driving progressive rock of Katabasis, the gloomy and oppressive Psychopomp, the Far Eastern folk of By The Lunar Lake and the progressive metal leanings of the title track.

With varying sounds and styles the album does lack a bit of cohesiveness but the music on offer is very enjoyable even if the jumps in styles between tracks can be a bit jarring at times. This is an album that peels away its layers with each consecutive listen and is definitely a listen that demands your attention. This is an album that will appeal to fans of progressive music as well as those who like their music drowning in darkness. 7/10

Enquire Within – Rebirth (Metal Rocka Records) [Paul Hutchings]

The follow up to their debut Bloodlines, Rebirth sees the London based quartet bringing the modern metal once more and it’s a ferocious combination of thrashy melodic metal combined with irresistible groove. From what I understand, Rebirth is the story of a man who finds himself amid a war-torn conflict, carrying out acts of evil and racked with remorse questioned the lies he was told when he signed up. The album follows his journey through mental health chaos, his questioning of why he found killing and combat enjoyable and the balance between that and the terrifying realisation that suicide may be the only solution. Ultimately, our man loses control and embarks on another maniacal journey which he needs to feed his bloodlust. 

Formed in 2016 and based in London, the combination of metal-core and thrash with a melodic edge is the signature for Enquire Within. The contrast between clean and roaring vocals is pleasing and works well. The band have a huge sound, the production enhances the driving bass lines and the songs are woven neatly around the storyline, Whilst much of Rebirth is bludgeoning riffs and hammering drums, there’s opportunity to bring the emotion to the fore, such as the harrowing Burned, which takes a more balanced and semi-ballad approach. Get Out sits firmly in the Slipknot camp, the haunting guitar work straddling the frantic switch between vocals. Influences are evident in parts; Slipknot, Trivium, Machine Head and AX7 are all evident but without overwhelming the originality that is on display. 

It’s modern metal, but with plenty of nods to those seminal bands. Rebirth has an important story line, flagging the conflict of mental health and the impact of war. It is solid, fiery, and well worth a listen. 7/10

Sepulchre By The Sea – Ratiocination (Self Released) [Zak Skane]

Sepulchre by the Sea are a one man Atmospheric Black Metal band from Bristol that has formed over the duration of lockdown. The project takes lyrical influences from artist like Edgar Allan Poe. Their opening track Ghost Of The Departed starts off with this well recorded low rumbling soundscape before it comes in with cinematic glockenspiel produced melodies. Once we are greeted by this cinematic soundscapes band hits us in the face with some Insomnium inspired melancholy riffs. Throughout the track the band keep it interesting by adding additional ambient guitar sections to keep the listeners attention. 

Their second track comes in with this soundscape of people screaming before it comes in generating some black metal vibes with blast beats tremolo picked power chords before it comes into some 6/8 swinging grooves. The best way I can explain this track is if Behemoth and Lamb Of God did a collaboration. Their third and final track Ratiocinations begins with this heavy fuzz guitars that remind me of the intro to Metallica's Orion before it comes in with shoegazey black metal section that takes homage to bands like Deafheavan especially with the heavy reverbed vocals. 

When it comes to second half of the song the band create a more up beat atmosphere by introducing acoustic guitar ambient tremolo sections and a major key solo backed played over blast beats?! With three tracks having the duration of a five track EP in total the band have done a really good keeping the listener engaged especially with adding different instrumentation and atmospheres through out their songs. I would say that the productions quality is a bit on the rough side but that doesn’t stop the bands musicianship shining through. 8/10.

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