Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Enslaved - Frost

Review by Andy Osborn.


Their second full-length, Frost is the album that solidified Enslaved’s place in the black metal grimoire, launching what continues to be a decades-long career as one of the genre’s most interesting and varied acts. Though guitarist Ivar Bjørnson was only 17-years-old, his command of desiccated riffage was already on par with his fellow infamous countrymen, while 20-year-old Grutle Kjellson was shrieking like a banshee permeated with the stuff of the album’s title.

Now considered a classic of Norwegian Black Metal, the young band was already setting themselves apart from the herd by approaching the style not from the satanic madness that was already a fad, but from a perspective worthy of the heritage and old gods upon which the album is based. The Norse-themed collection gives hints to the band’s progressive tendencies as they dabble with a mix of electronics, acoustic guitar overlays and song structures light years ahead of the typical death-obsessed buzzsaw picking played by their peers. It’s at the same time wholly black metal and wholly something else; almost 20 years later the album still has a captivatingly original sound. The almost non-existent bass and treble-obsessed guitars are a far cry from the heavily polished sheen Enslaved’s production will later take, but the flat sounds conjure up a heart-melting nostalgia.

While the album is as interesting and dynamic as you would expect from the band, it’s not without its missteps. The Vikings get a bit too close to Asgard on “Yggdrasil,” a bombastic war chant that goes nowhere and accomplishes little. And it’s clear the band is still afraid to fully showcase their unique voice, with a few songs playing standard bm fare and showing a restraint in their mead-fueled expression.

From the Mortal Kombat-esque bridge on “Fenris” to the furious tremolo assault on “Wotan,” Frost is a perfect foreshadow to the band’s long and varied catalog. The still-youngsters are only toying with the arsenal that they are yet to unleash upon the world, but they do it with such enjoyment and execution that the album stands on its own chilly legs, still revealing itself almost two decades later as a pinnacle of black metal experimentation.


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