Riitiir, by Enslaved
Suggested by Noli-Rose Nikitaki
As this project has developed, my musical lungs have expanded, filling with fresh new sounds.
I’ve embraced a lot of new and intriguing stuff in the last three months. Angry hip hop, African blues, progressive twitterings, and more. I‘ve discarded a lot too, sent experimental guff through the shredder, clanged pots and pans over ambience, ridiculing the outputs of fresh-faced neophytes and aging rockers alike.
Perhaps my greatest opprobrium has been reserved for the fabled Growl, a style of vocals with which I’m constantly at odds. Of my 122724 words written to this point, a full eighty of them are the word “growl”, proving that the sound is on my mind and in my heart.
I’ve made peace, I think, with the fact that I’ll never be a true afficionado of this vocal style. And I have began thawing to its eccentric charms. As the days and the albums roll by, I find myself scoring more generously than I’d ever imagined I could. Even Album 253, reviewed directly before this, scored well in the face of the Growl (eighty-one). So as I face Enslaved, an extreme metal band from Norway with highly pronounced Growl component (eighty-two), am I ready to go full-on into the Guttural Abyss?
Apparently, Enslaved began their musical journey as a traditional Black Metal outfit, but through the years they’ve morphed into a more progressive metal, sound with tendrils snaking toward Viking metal as befits their Scandi heritage. Riitiir, their twelfth studio album, is a lot more progressive than I’d imagined from their resume, a lot slower and more doom-laden, and quite frankly, a lot more boring than I liked.
I mean, sure, it’s got some chops. Lyrically, the ritualistic theme is woven throughout all eight of the overlong and rather ponderous tracks. The opener, a ten-minute sluggish slog called Thoughts Like Hammers, begins with suspenseful force but unfurls too slowly, like a creaking geriatric curling out of the enforced care home yoga class poses. It’s packed with faux drama, as is the album in general, the glacial pace at times having the listener strain for the next spark of genuine intrigue, like a victim of water torture longing for the next climactic drip.
Vocally, there’s the Growl of course (eighty-three), which is packed with phlegm and catarrh and spite, and just as ludicrous as you’d expect. This is augmented by the cleaner vocals from the keyboardist, which are far more conventional but no less dull. As for songs, I guess more enamoured courters of the form will find much to love and lavish, but there was little that caught me up and swept me away. Forsaken is likely my song of note, with echoing piano bookending some of the more brutal sections. It’s also the song in which the Growl most resembles a bullfrog (eighty-four).
It’s taken me 253 albums to attain a modicum of appreciation for this much maligned cacophony, and Album 254 feels like I’ve been set back at square one. Riitiir gets 4/10 from me, with a packet of Soothers and a stifled yawn.