For Fans Of
Progressive metal albums that aim to meld apparently disparate styles into a cohesive sound so often miss the mark. This is usually due to a lack of vision concerning the overall composition, and an unfocused approach to crossover genres. There are some albums, however, that transcend their individual elements, resulting in an entirely new sound born from the marriage of contrasting ideas.
‘RIITIIR‘, the 12th album from Norwegian black metal veterans Enslaved, falls rather confusingly into both camps. Some songs work, with contrasting sections complementing each other flawlessly, whereas others fall flat as a result of difficult to follow song structures and inconsistent production.
The cacophonous intro to opening track ‘Thoughts Like Hammers‘ settles into a sludgy Southern rock riff where phlegmy growls and clean vocals intertwine. This transitions into the song’s main theme, a classic prog-metal hybrid of Symphony X guitar stabs with the tonality of an Opeth lament. Verging on post-rock, this clashes spectacularly with bursts of black metal terror.
The album’s production seems raw at first, but is in fact drenched in atmosphere. A track like ‘Death in the Eyes of Dawn‘ demonstrates that the rawness comes from disjointed songwriting. The chorus of this song is breathtaking, but getting there requires a meander through bogged down, featureless terrain.
‘Veilburner‘ and ‘RIITIIR‘, the shortest songs on the album, are also the least progressive, and therefore the least confusing. Experimental structures can be immensely satisfying, but not if transitions between ideas are poorly executed, as is too often the case here.
Despite the fact that contrast is clearly an important element of this release, and of progressive black metal in general, moments of jubilation such as can be found midway through ‘Roots of the Mountain‘ seem unrestrained and out of place. Having said that, the outro of this song is so confident and polished that it hardly matters what came before.
‘Forsaken‘, the closing track of ‘RIITIIR‘, represents what the rest of the album should be: a relentless black metal riff gives way flawlessly to an ambient synth passage, and the contrast actually works. Whereas most of the album has disjointed highs and lows, ‘Forsaken‘ works as a whole.
‘RIITIIR’ is a powerful, emotionally dynamic album, but is not without its flaws. The main issue is a lack of identity as a result of too many misguided tangents. Labyrinthine song structures confuse the listener, and instead of a smooth journey through constantly morphing sonic landscapes, we get the highest highs giving way abruptly to the lowest lows.
1. Thoughts Like Hammers
2. Death in the Eyes of Dawn
4. Roots of the Mountain
7. Storm of Memories