Published Mar 10, 2015The genius of Scandinavian extreme metallers Enslaved is their ability to deconstruct without destroying. They've been gleefully dismantling black and death metal tropes for most of their career, often spiralling out into the progressive and experimental, but they never smash the templates so completely that they can't return to the forms and gestures that make the most creative sense. Their 13th studio album, In Times, might be the finest example of this balance yet, as it finds the band completely unafraid to smash black metal atoms into grim and frostbitten quarks while simultaneously sinking into deeply satisfying, almost traditional passages. The progressive tease of "Thurisaz Dreaming" gives way to some blistering black metal, and for all its emotive exploration, "Daylight" leaves plenty of room for some white-hot dual guitars.
The secret star of the record may be keyboardist Herbrand Larsen, whose role in the band has expanded markedly over the past few albums and really comes to the fore on In Times. The keys are artful, eloquent and deployed intelligently throughout the record, offering the occasional mellifluous caress or digging a hook a little deeper into the listener's heart. His clean vocal performance, which I daresay is straight up tender, also offers a supple counterpoint to Grutle Kjellson's bellows-and-blast-furnace harshness. Their voices alternate between duel and dual, and the constant negotiation between their performances creates a fascinating power dynamic. Enslaved have hit a sweet spot with In Times, experimenting just enough to keep everything interesting while also offering up pure aggressive pleasure so decadent it seems almost indulgent. And who doesn't love to be spoiled once in a while? (Nuclear Blast)