Enslaved - Vikingligr Veldi
Deathlike Silence Productions
Black/Viking Metal, Ambient
5 songs (50:54)
Release year: 1994
Reviewed by Goat

For some well-known bands in the Metallic sphere, legendary status is hardly deserved. Not to start mentioning names, but you all know who I mean: the type that potter around for a while in the underground before a chance break gets them major label backing, and all of a sudden every fourteen year old around is wearing their merchandise. It’s not really wrong – always good to see the steel’s popularity – but it’s rather sad that the bands who actually deserve the few rewards available from playing Extreme Metal languish unheard except by a noble few.

Enter Enslaved. Masters of the Viking realm, true kings of Norway, purveyors of icy art that has impressed and astonished listeners since the first demo was released in 1991, when founder members Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson were just thirteen and seventeen years old respectively. Fast-forward three years to 1994: just after Hordanes Land, a respected split with Emperor, the band released the first of two albums in the same year: Vikingligr Veldi, on Euronymous’ Deathlike Silence Productions label. This album has as much importance as Emperor’s debut, if not more, in the Black Metal hall of fame, showing exactly what the potential of the then fledging genre was, with a relatively clear, unfettered sound that avoids the stereotypical pitfalls of Norwegian Black Metal such as thin guitars (largely thanks to the likes of Pytten and Mayhem’s Hellhammer on the production team, who do an excellent job).

Of the five tracks present, four are over ten minutes long, and each relies on repetition, building up to ambient levels. Opener Lifandi Lif Undir Hamri (living beneath the hammer) opens with a brief keyboard melody before blasting into a perfectly proportioned Black Metal assault; Ivar Bjørnson’s riffs thrashy and fast, Grutle Kjellson’s bass a dark undercurrent, echoed by his subtle yet rasped vocals, which never take precedence over the music. The one and only Trym Torsen provides the drums, and although he would later go on to blast for Emperor, here he does what he does best: a powerful yet not overbearing backdrop for the wall of sound that makes up the forefront of the music. Even at this stage, he’s highly technical, a wonder to listen to and a master of percussive timekeeping.

Despite the length of the tracks, it’s more than likely that you’ll love this album from the very first listen, as there’s something primeval, something so right about the songwriting, the mix of melodies, that it makes each song feel much shorter than it actually is. It’s quite possible to lose track of time completely when immersed in Vikingligr Veldi; many are the times that I’ve started listening to this album and come back to reality nearly an hour later, when it’s finished. The pause partway into the surprisingly heavy Vertrarnott (A Winter’s Night) - not forgetting that the band was merely a trio at this point - before the music returns never fails to get my head banging, as the flood of blastbeats blurs into a majestic storm.

Third track Midgards Eldar (Fires of Midgard) opens with a trumpet’s call, building up slowly over the first few minutes before a bass trill clears the path for chaos to follow, Grutle’s screams guiding the madness straight into your skull. Towards the halfway mark a series of subtle electronic effects begin to whirl (yes, you read that correctly: electronics in Black Metal, in the year 1994) and they enhance the sound immeasurably, hinting at the later even more experimental direction of the band.

Live favourite Heimdallr features more of the same, with frequent time changes (I’d go as far as to say there are breakdowns) and especially violent vocals from Grutle. It’s closing track Norvegr (Norway) that’s my ultimate favourite, however, an instrumental piece nearly eleven minutes long that is the perfect aural representation of Nordic beauty. You can hear the scratch of Ivar’s fingers on the strings of his guitar, the slow pounding of the background piano, whilst the epic wall-of-noise backdrop drones into oblivion. All the elements come together slightly jarringly at first, and it’s almost better if you have it on in the background, the sum being far, far more than the total of its parts.

The Candlelight reissue which I’m reviewing here rather than the DSP original comes with a bonus CD that features the whole of the aforementioned Hordanes Land EP. As a package, it’s of unbelievable value (need it be said that Hordanes Land is as good if not better than Vikingligr Veldi?) and as a piece of Blackened history it’s required listening for anyone who wants to look deeper into the genre than Cradle Of Filth. If you’re still unEnslaved, and have the patience to listen to an album more than once, then this is an excellent place to start with the one true rival to Emperor in the ‘best Norwegian band’ stakes. Timeless beauty, pure art, the opening volley from one of my favourite bands – a true classic.

Killing Songs :
Goat quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Enslaved that we have reviewed:
Enslaved - In Times reviewed by Goat and quoted 93 / 100
Enslaved - RIITIIR reviewed by Thomas and quoted 92 / 100
Enslaved - Axioma Ethica Odini reviewed by Goat and quoted 92 / 100
Enslaved - Eld reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
Enslaved - Frost reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
To see all 11 reviews click here
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