In its 21-year career, Enslaved has stayed ahead of the curve. While defenders of the orthodox black-metal sound have a field day hating modern-day mold-breakers like Wolves in the Throne Room and Deafheaven, Enslaved was tearing down Valhalla with Pink Floyd-ian psychedelia and '70s prog-rock back around 2000's Mardraum.
Enter Enslaved's 12th album: RIITIIR, a self-"Norse-ified" title meaning "The Rites of Man." In this excerpt from a long statement by the band's guitarist (one of two original members), Ivar Bjørnson says there's no slowing down:
Like a space vessel that gains momentum by entering slingshot-orbits on its way through space, we seem to gain speed, direction and strength on our journeys, through new releases and subsequent tours.
True to form, the quintet from Bergen, Norway, continues to evolve, simultaneously embracing thundering, stadium-friendly anthems and complicated song structures. No track displays more crushing, graceful audacity than RIITIIR's opening track, "Thoughts Like Hammers."
The intro to "Thoughts Like Hammers" comes out of nowhere — three seconds in and we're bludgeoned by decibel-damaging feedback, chaotic chord voicings and stuttering blast beats. But then the song goes through several transformations: A mean groove turns into a pumping Angus Young riff, which then sneaks into a syncopated, King Crimson-y organ. That all happens in the first two minutes. There's no telling where Bjørnson will take "Thoughts Like Hammers" next, but the patchwork pieces all come together at the soaring chorus, as vocalist and keyboardist Herbrand Larsen helps rein in Enslaved's experiments. Surprisingly, the nine-and-a-half-minute "Thoughts Like Hammers" is instantly memorable for all its organic twists and turns.
RIITIIR comes out Sept. 28 in Europe and Oct. 9 in North America on Nuclear Blast.