Enslaved ‒ Caravans To The Outer Worlds Review

Here’s the blistering hot take on the new Enslaved EP, Caravans to the Outer Worlds, that we know you’re craving like grandma’s homemade biscuits:

The title track is the most immediate, urgent, and possibly best song they’ve done in almost a decade.

Release date: October 1, 2021. Label: Nuclear Blast.
That’s not to say they’ve been in some horrible career slump or anything. Both of the last two albums have been on the upswing since the career low of In Times, but Enslaved also isn’t exactly trying to shred you with blackened frost (nyuk) anymore, so any extra bit of fervor feels special at this stage in their game.

Because this is Enslaved, even aggression and urgency aren’t straightforward, and “Caravans to the Outer Worlds” is bookended by long-ish stretches of noodling bass and odd keyboard atmospherics, but once the metal hits, the band gets down to dominating. The track has at least four ludicrously infectious and truly aggressive Ivar Bjørnson riff patterns, sometimes backing up Grutle Kjellson’s still venomous growl, sometimes under a soaring clean vocal (with blast beats), and sometimes backing up a wild Ice Dale solo. (The riffs are also occasionally doubled by a great, warbling organ sound.) When the atmospherics return later in the song, they feel like a reprieve from the relative madness, and also bring some spooky spoken word and chanting. Tune rules.

In terms of the level of aggression, the rest of the EP feels tame by comparison, but that doesn’t mean any of it is straightforward. The title track is followed by the first of two “Intermezzos,” a brief smattering of oddball organ sounds, thick bass lines, and a big, monolithic doom riff. After that is a sequel to a classic in “Ruun II – The Epitaph,” which with the combination of acoustic guitar and rubbery riffs, almost crooned singing, and generally unbalanced feel is as delightfully unusual as anything they’ve done since, oh, about the Monumension era. It almost sounds a mite drunk. The other “Intermezzo” then closes the EP out in slightly proggier fashion with a combination of piano, swirling synths, and a more “standard” Enslaved riff pattern.

None of these latter songs thrills nearly at the same level as the opening title track, but as a peak into Enslaved’s current mindset, the whole of the EP is downright titillating. This is a band that has always been at its best when inviting some experimentation and idiosyncrasies into their world, and while there were signs on Utgard that they were ready to spread their wings again (new blood in the lineup no doubt helps), this EP finds them in a searching mode that we haven’t seen in years. Searching, and of course, downright aggressive on that title track. Hopefully this breadth of sounds and approaches bleeds into their next full album session and wasn’t just used for a one-off EP. Fingers crossed very tightly.

Posted by Zach Duvall

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; Obnoxious overuser of baseball metaphors.

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