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(Nuclear Blast)

Reviewed by : David Perri
Rating : 7.0

If someone were to ask, casually, about the new ENSLAVED album, I'd say the following, without hesitation: "It's alright, but the songs are too long." And I suspect that's what a good percentage of the metal world might tell you if they were assured that no one was listening in to the conversation; Enslaved is, after all, as critic-proof as OPETH, and anything less than a this-is-sublime! Enslaved review is unusual, to put it modestly. For someone who has followed Enslaved since Frost, Riitiir is no surprise at all but it is a disappointment, despite the epic monumension it creates and occupies. Enslaved's devotion to prog has been a trick of the tail since the mind-altering Mardraum and what were once prog flourishes have, since Isa and Ruun, become both the band's raison d'être and what we de facto expect from Enslaved, which is not to speak ill of the aforementioned two records, as both feature their own sets of impressive discords. Instead, all that is said in order to dispel the argument that the following criticism of Riitiir is due to an unrealistic pining for Eld version 2012, a hypothetical that is absurd on many, many levels. Look, let's call it like it is: this record is far too long and filled with far too many alternate routes that are a distraction rather than cause for celebratory toasts of Norwegian ale: if Enslaved distilled the best ideas on this album into a cohesive set of tracks, this might actually be the 10 record so many are proclaiming it to be. The immediate accusation that'll be leveled at that sort of analysis is that shorter, or simpler, songs would be some sort of artistic capitulation or, at the very least, a prospect that appeals only to dumb people. As one gets older, however, the realization that time is very finite very much comes into play, and things like reigning it in for the sake of the project's cohesiveness begin to starkly ring true. In life, not every idea is a good one, so why put them all to tape (or ProTools)? That said, Riitiir is the home to one of Enslaved's greatest and most affecting statements, 'Roots of the Mountain', a song that evokes the same despondent grandeur as the equally affecting concluding guitar solo in 'Neogenesis', from Isa. Beginning with the caustic black metal of old, 'Roots of the Mountain' quickly evokes and reveals its soaring chorus, a moment of true greatness and poignancy. If Riitiir, in its entirety, was of 'Roots of the Mountain''s disposition, we might, once again, be discussing a 10 record from Enslaved. But as it stands, even the Norse gods Enslaved heralds so prominently would probably lose interest in a good deal of Riitiir's elongated voyage to Valhalla. That is one helluva stunning album cover, though.