Enslaved – Caravans To The Outer Worlds – EP Review

Artist: Enslaved

Album Title: Caravans To The Outer Worlds

Label: Nuclear Blast Records

Date of Release: 1 October 2021

I have a thoroughly odd relationship with Enslaved. I like the band, and I respect them highly for everything that they have achieved over the years, starting out as a straight-up black metal band, but slowly, methodically morphing into something far different, far more progressive, and a lot more experimental over the years. Aside from a couple of albums, I have liked the majority of what

they have delivered, some of it really striking a chord with me, garnering the praise within reviews that it deserves. Take my 82% positive review of ‘Utgard’ as an example. And yet, I cannot remember the last time that I looked at my CD collection and deliberately pulled out an Enslaved record to listen to. I don’t know why, but I never seem to gravitate back to the Norwegians. But every time new material is delivered, I feel compelled to check it out. Today is no different.

What we have here is a four-track EP entitled ‘Caravans To The Outer Worlds’ that offers forth around twenty minutes of brand new music from Messrs Grutle Kjellson (bass, lead vocals), Ivar Bjørnson (guitars, synths), Arve ‘Ice Dale’ Isdal (guitars), Håkon Vinje (keyboards), and Iver Sandøy (drums). It’s a succinct affair, but it offers a window into where the ever-experimenting band are currently sitting musically in 2021, and what we might get from their next new full-length release in due course.

Being a relatively brief affair, I have been able to spin the EP a fair few times of late and so I really feel that I have given it a fair crack of the whip before offering these thoughts. And my overriding thoughts are that ‘Caravans To The Outer Worlds’ is ok, very good in places, but just a little disappointing overall if I have to be totally honest.

The opening track is also the title track and this is where I believe Enslaved offer the music on this EP with which I engage the most. It begins with a fairly lengthy intro, where strong bass work permeates the sounds of howling winds before gradually building in intensity. When the song takes full flight however, it is arguably one of the heavier cuts from Enslaved in recent times. There is a demonstrable black metal feel within the flurry of fast-paced drumming and guitar work, not to mention the aggressive growling bark of Grutle Kjellson. Those 70s-influenced keyboard sounds do make a bold appearance at points, as does an energetic lead solo from Isdal, but it’s the ferocious pace that catches my ear the most, occasionally punctuated by more atmospheric passages, with clean vocals also deployed to juxtapose the aggression. In fact, the final two minutes are given over to more experimental climes where a powerful, rhythmic beat overlays synth-driven soundscapes, with quiet, almost whispered vocals adding another layer to the spacey atmospherics. As a song, it has definitely grown on me, but I question how much I’ll listen to it once my review is complete.

The other high point of the record is the final composition, ‘Intermezzo II – The Navigator’, which I enjoy thanks to the overt piano-led prog rock leanings, and the subsequent groove created by the ensuing guitar riff coupled by more spacey keys underneath. I genuinely nod my head in appreciation as I listen to this final cut on the EP.

In between, we have ‘Intermezzo I – Lonnlig. Gudlig’ and ‘Ruun II – The Epitaph’. Whilst neither are terrible, they are not my thing per se and don’t engage me any more now than they did at the outset. Admittedly, the former has a pleasant stomping riff at its heart, but the swirling and eddying psychedelic sounds and effects detract from my enjoyment just a little. The latter features some lovely acoustic guitars, strumming energetically at the start, before morphing into something that’s part space rock, and part post-rock. It’s ok, especially the resonant clean signing that plays a big part in the way the song ultimately sounds. But it isn’t what I would call essential listening, certainly not for my particular tastes.

This review may seem overly negative and dismissive to a band of the stature and creativity of Enslaved, but it is simply my personal opinion. If you’re a die-hard Enslaved fan, I’m sure you’ll consider my words to be complete and utter heresy and you’ll curse me whilst listening avidly to this EP. For my tastes though, I find it lacking that ‘wow’ factor that I’m always hoping to hear. I’ll still eagerly check out the next Enslaved release, just as I do every time new material drops.

The Score of Much Metal: 72%

Further reviews from 2021:

Cynic – Ascension Codes

TDW – Fountains

Hypocrisy – Worship

W.E.B. – Colosseum

Navian – Cosmos

NorthTale – Eternal Flame

Obscura – A Valediction

Nightland – The Great Nothing

MØL – Diorama

Be’lakor – Coherence

Hollow – Tower

Doedsvangr – Serpents Ov Old

Athemon – Athemon

Eclipse – Wired

Swallow The Sun – Moonflowers

Dream Theater – A View From The Top Of The World

Nestor – Kids In A Ghost Town

Beast In Black – Dark Connection

Thulcandra – A Dying Wish

Omnium Gatherum – Origin

Insomnium – Argent Moon EP

Kryptan – Kryptan EP

Archspire – Bleed The Future

Awake By Design – Unfaded EP

Cradle Of Filth – Existence Is Futile

Seven Spires – Gods Of Debauchery

Sleep Token – This Place Will Become Your Tomb

Necrofier – Prophecies Of Eternal Darkness

Ex Deo – The Thirteen Years Of Nero

Carcass – Torn Arteries

Aeon Zen – Transversal

Enslaved – Caravans To The Outer Worlds

A Dying Planet – When The Skies Are Grey

Leprous – Aphelion

Night Crowned – Hädanfärd

Brainstorm – Wall Of Skulls

At The Gates – The Nightmare Of Being

Rivers Of Nihil – The Work

Fractal Universe – The Impassable Horizon

Darkthrone – Eternal Hails

Thy Catafalque – Vadak

Terra Odium – Ne Plus Ultra

Hiraes – Solitary

Eye Of Purgatory – The Lighthouse

Crowne – Kings In The North

Desaster – Churches Without Saints

Helloween – Helloween

Fear Factory – Aggression Continuum

Wooden Veins – In Finitude

Plaguestorm – Purifying Fire

Drift Into Black – Patterns Of Light

Alluvial – Sarcoma

White Moth Black Butterfly – The Cost Of Dreaming – Album Review

Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen

Bloodbound – Creatures From The Dark Realm

Nahaya – Vital Alchemy

Frost* – Day And Age

Obsolete Theory – Downfall

Vola – Witness

Acolyte – Entropy

Dordeduh – Har

Subterranean Masquerade – Mountain Fever

Seth – La Morsure Du Christ

The Circle – Metamorphosis

Nordjevel – Fenriir

Vreid – Wild North West

Temtris – Ritual Warfare

Astrakhan – A Slow Ride Towards Death

Akiavel – Vae Victis

Gojira – Fortitude

Hideous Divinity – LV-426

Benthos – II

Evile – Hell Unleashed

Ninkharsag – The Dread March Of Solemn Gods

Bodom After Midnight – Paint The Sky With Blood

Morrigu – In Turbulence

Mother Of All – Age Of The Solipsist

Throne – Pestilent Dawn

Sweet Oblivion (Geoff Tate) – Relentless

Exanimis – Marionnettiste

Dvne – Etemen Ænka

Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined

Arion – Vultures Die Alone

Maestitium – Tale Of The Endless

Wode – Burn In Many Mirrors

Everdawn – Cleopatra

Unflesh – Inhumation

Mourning Dawn – Dead End Euphoria

Wheel – Resident Human

Wythersake – Antiquity

Odd Dimension – The Blue Dawn

Metalite – A Virtual World

Cryptosis – Bionic Swarm

Ghosts Of Atlantis – 3.6.2.4

Memoriam – To The End

Aversed – Impermanent

Secret Sphere – Lifeblood

Enforced – Kill Grid

Liquid Tension Experiment – LTE3

Turbulence – Frontal

Iotunn – Access All Worlds

Warrior Path – The Mad King

Stortregn – Impermanence

Mariana’s Rest – Fata Morgana

Orden Ogan – Final Days

Witherfall – Curse Of Autumn

Plague Weaver – Ascendant Blasphemy

Ephemerald – Between The Glimpses Of Hope

Paranorm – Empyrean

Einherjer – North Star

Epica – Omega

Humanity’s Last Breath – Välde

Simulacrum – Genesis

Forhist – Forhist

Evergrey – Escape Of The Phoenix

Empyrium – Über den Sternen

Moonspell – Hermitage

Infernalizer – The Ugly Truth

Temperance – Melodies Of Green And Blue EP

Malice Divine – Malice Divine

Revulsion – Revulsion

Demon King – The Final Tyranny EP

Dragony – Viribus Unitis

Soen – Imperial

Angelus Apatrida – Angelus Apatrida

Oceana – The Pattern

Therion – Leviathan

Tribulation – Where The Gloom Becomes Sound

Asphyx – Necroceros

W.E.T. – Retransmission

Labyrinth – Welcome To The Absurd Circus

TDW – The Days The Clock Stopped

Need – Norchestrion: A Song For The End

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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