Review by Michael on March 6, 2023.
With Heimdal the Norwegian prog/black/Viking metallers present us their 16th album. While the first three albums (whereby I count here the split with Emperor) were flawless black metal, they have moved away from it step by step since the 97 album Eld to drift more and more into proggy, even extremely experimental realms. For my part, I must say that they have not always made it easy for me to like the music let alone follow.
On the new album many progressive elements alternate with some quite surprisingly harsh (black) metal parts. The album as a whole has become so incredibly varied that I would like to go into detail about the individual songs for the most part, even though I don't normally do that. 'Behind The Mirror' (no, not a Kreator cover!) is the beginning of a journey on a river, which is introduced with calm oar beats and horn sounds and quickly moves away from the saving green oceans. While the beginning of the song is underlined with some guitar sounds, the focus is initially on the predominant clear vocals and some synth sounds like Rush also liked to use on their albums in the mid-80s. But all of a sudden we find ourselves on our journey at a small rapids, the song becomes fast and the vocals change to Grutle’s rough black metal vocals. But only for a short time. Afterwards there is a calmer atmosphere again, just like at the beginning. Especially the synthesizers seem slightly hypnotic, just like the Mantra-like clear vocals. '
Congelia' in turn starts as a blatant black metal song with sawing and disharmonic guitars, to come up with synthesizers in the middle of the song as well. If the opener was still shallow and soothing, this song is quite disturbing and unpleasant and is probably the heaviest song on the album. Now we are finally awake on our river trip to follow the further course excitedly.
'Forest Dweller' starts very epic, with almost bombastic melodies, some of which have a slight Arabian touch. Also, the song has quiet, clear vocals and the quiet melodies add almost a balladesque touch, which is very soothing. But stop and listen! there are already next rapids waiting and now everything must go fast! Suddenly out of nowhere the song explodes and tears us out of our dreams. Harsh vocals and hectically screamed clear vocals, a Hammond organ and again black metal-like riffs form a stark counterpart to the previous one. Then, as quickly as the restlessness appeared, it is quickly over again.
'Kingdom' has become a fast, almost thrash metal-like song that once again creates a slightly hypnotic effect. And with "only" 5:51 minutes it has also become the shortest one on the album.
'The Eternal Sea' lets us take a short breath again and relax our muscles from all the rowing. If the beginning sounds like a techno song, it soon becomes clear that it is a metal song. Although you wait for a while for something to happen, you have to be patient. Here often classic heavy metal influences á la Manowar become clear, once you focus a little closer on the guitars. Also in this song you are lulled at first and if you don't expect it, 'The Eternal Sea' changes from a mirror-smooth water into a restless sea.
'Caravans To The Outer World' was already known as a single release before (just like 'Congelia' and 'Kingdom') and has perhaps become Enslaved's 2112. Here the guys fire a firework of incredibly brilliant ideas and this is by far the most varied and surprising song of the album (if you don't know it yet).
With 'Heimdal' we slowly reach the end of our journey. Gloomy synthesizer sounds and croaking vocals do not bode well. Although the song does not have such eruptive outbursts as many others on Heimdal, but you always have the impression that something else is about to happen. So the song hovers quasi like a dark cloud permanently over our boat. But after almost 50 minutes we made it and finally arrived at the saving shore. But we still can't really feel at ease. Something is missing and that is perhaps the only shortcoming of the album, namely the appropriate conclusion.
Overall, however, it can be said that Enslaved could top their last and really already good album Utgard once again by lengths and perhaps have set their own monument here.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10 Rapids443