Heimdal starts with the sound of gentle water moving. Soon a horn expands across the quiet, heralding what comes next. It’s not long before Enslaved kick off into a groove before switching to something driving and perhaps melancholic. “Behind the Mirror” has a few different shifts that give a sense of progression, or perhaps movement. It changes whilst remaining familiar to how it began and it provides an idea of the rest of Heimdal without giving away too much.
From there there’s a strong sense of journey interwoven throughout the album. Peaks and valleys come and go as necessary whilst instruments lock firmly into each other firmly. The vocals also change and shift, moving between clean and harsh depending on what a section needs. It gives the music a strong grip that speaks to Enslaved’s ability to serve a song. They know how things can work and connect; they know when they can make a shift jarring and have it still fit. They draw you into the sound; not their musicianship.
Heimdal feels quite atmospheric and expansive when necessary as much of the sound layers in a way that allows it to carry outward. Whenever this happens it contrasts against the “narrower” sections for a nice sense of push and pull. It also helps reinforce that sense of journey, as well as a sense of motion that suits the album well.
The closest to anything resembling an older form of Enslaved would be “Congelia”, which is an almost relentless, sort of static bit of music for the most part. It doesn’t let up and keeps on driving on with speed, but it doesn’t feel like an assault. Despite sounding static there’s a strange sense of slowness the song, and atmosphere, even if there isn’t necessarily space. Eventually it shifts into something wider, or at least more massive for a rather climactic end.
All of Heimdal is a solid album full of changes, progression and exploration. All the songs are expressive and sound confidently performed, but I think “Congelia” in particular is worth highlighting. As said before, it hearkens back to an older form of Enslaved. It has a strong familiarity but it doesn’t “live” in the past, but rather “remembers” it whilst moving forward. It has the right amount of layering to maintain a sense of depth, and holds its sections for just the right length. “Congelia” is familiarly different to the Heimdal‘s other songs, but much like the others it’s not “Yeah metal!”, even in its climactic moments. Rather it keeps in line with the album’s spirit and sound to further it rather than detour. It’s satisfying on its own but it feels right at home as all the songs work together as a whole.
Heimdal feels exploratory but that doesn’t say much. Even though it’s about the figure Heimdal, there’s a lot you could draw from and read into this, and that is likely intentional. In a way it could be about moving toward parenthood; it could be about changing as life progresses. It could be about Enslaved’s concerns about their place in the musical landscape. Perhaps it’s about how memories form perspectives on important moments. At minimum it’s an album that’s expressive and its parts help that shine the most.
Heimdal is available here.