Enslaved - Caravans to the Outer Worlds (EP)
Nuclear Blast
Progressive Metal, Post-Black
4 songs (18:21)
Release year: 2021
Enslaved, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Goat

It says a lot for a band of Enslaved's age that when you actually stop to consider their EP output, you're left with more than a little admiration. The band have released just four (not counting demos) including this, and two are excellent, one is a stone classic, and one is a bizarre but worthy of examination foray into corporate marketing that will bemuse many years from now. Quite what possessed whichever Toyota executive to set up Scion A/V back in the day will likely never be known, but blessings to them for such a highly effective corporate influx in the metal scene! Scion were an automotive brand of Toyota that eccentrically decided to market itself with promotion of various extreme metal (and other) bands with dozens of releases and hundreds of live events while shouldering all of the production, licensing, and distribution costs and allowing the artists full proceeds and creative ownership. Many fans were nonplussed if not downright suspicious at the time but there seems to have been little rights-based fallout of the sort that, say, keeps Dismember releases off Spotify and means that Earache Records has a poor reputation these days. Looking back a decade later, it feels like something of a lost golden age, and makes suggestions like, say, Elon Musk financing a, say, Demilich reunion plausible rather than flights of insane fancy!

You could spend hours examining that, yet Enslaved in the same year as Scion offering The Sleeping Gods also produced the spiky little Thorn, with little if any quality gap between them. And of course, going all the way back to 1993 the band produced the wonderful Hordanes Land, a classic of Norwegian black metal. Is latest offering Caravans to the Outer Worlds as good as Hordanes Land? No. Is anything? Possibly not! Yet Enslaved in 2021 are holding up their end of the bargain by still releasing excellent music, even in EP form. Caravans to the Outer Worlds is two great songs and a bunch of very good interlude pieces, and given that it's just their fourth EP in 30 years of existence, that's a more than respectable offering. The opening title track follows on well from 2020's Utgard, whooshing winds, acoustic guitars, and jangling bass suggesting a space-rock-esque Hawkwind vibe before kicking into a speedy, blackened torrent, keyboards almost used as exclamation points in an echo of the band's early days, building into a lovely clean-sung eye of the storm. It balances all of Enslaved's strengths well and will please those who have grown fond of the Norwegians over the years, particularly with the pleasantly odd jam-room outro, very 70s in style and effect.

After that, it's difficult not to feel prematurely sated, but the band keep impressing. Both Intermezzo pieces here are interesting and beefy enough to be sections of longer pieces, working well as ideas unexplored further and interludes on an EP. This is particularly true of Intermezzo II: The Navigator, which throws in some proggy piano into the mix before dying out just as it could have launched itself into a much lengthier piece. Is there anything as artistically heartbreaking to the onlooker as an unfinished sketch? Ruun II: The Epitaph meanwhile is effective as a song in itself and a sequel to that album's title track, although you can see why it's a piece on an EP rather than given full-length status. All in all an enjoyable listen that promises even better things, teasing and cajoling... EPs rarely seduce like this.

Killing Songs :
Caravans to the Outer Worlds, Ruun II
Goat quoted no quote
Other albums by Enslaved that we have reviewed:
Enslaved - Heimdal reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Enslaved - Utgard reviewed by Goat and quoted 82 / 100
Enslaved - E reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Enslaved - In Times reviewed by Goat and quoted 93 / 100
Enslaved - RIITIIR reviewed by Thomas and quoted 92 / 100
To see all 15 reviews click here
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