BravePicks 2020 - ENSLAVED's Utgard #1

December 31, 2020, a year ago

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BravePicks 2020 - ENSLAVED's Utgard #1

Well, we are finally here, unveiling BravePick #1 of 2020! Despite the year it was, there was a plethora of new quality releases throughout the past 12 months and our list reflects the incredible variety we could all soak in while trying to weather this COVID storm! But Enslaved continued to show the metal world that there are no boundaries and Utgard once again proved these Norwegians hold a dominant place pushing the metal scene to greater heights!

Everybody has an opinion and it’s time for ours! Stay tuned for the writers’ individual Top 20s (new studio albums ONLY), Top 5 Brave Embarrassments (a fan favorite!), What/Who Needs To Stop In 2019? and Metal Predictions For 2020. Sadly no concerts. We will be rolling that out in a few days.

In the meantime, let’s bask in the glory of progressive black metal as chosen by the BraveWords scribes!

BravePicks 2020

1) ENSLAVED - Utgard (Nuclear Blast)

In September, BraveWords scribe Dillon Collins spoke with frontman and founding member Grutle Kjellson about the triumph that is Utgard. An excerpt from the feature can be found below:

BraveWords: The idea of Utgard, both the folklore and mythology in your native country, or the idea of it being something like a dream-state or something introspective, is certainly prime material to base an album concept off. Personally for you, what does Utgard mean as it relates to this record?

Grutle Kjellson: “Ivar is the (Carl) Jung guy, I am the mythological guy. And they kind of interact. You will be surprised how similar it really is, because the Norse myths are really a lot more complex. I mean, in school it’s kind of burlesque fairy-tales, bedtime stories. But I mean they are so much more than that, so much more complex. And you can draw parallels from all the gods or deities and all the giants. They represent forces and feelings in a human body and mind. So it’s closely connected to both psychology, even astrology. Utgard can be seen and is definitely a metaphor for a state of mind. 

“To me it will always be a place where the gods or yourself, when you are awake, you have no access. You can try, but you will always be tricked. Utgard is basically a David Lynch movie. Very fascinating, very creative, but you’re not quite sure what’s going on. Guessing and curiosity. Aren’t those things important? Yes, they are. I hate absolute answers. I like to search for answers. It really doesn’t matter if I can find it. I’ll be just as satisfied if I can’t.”

BraveWords: If anything, an album like Utgard shows that Enslaved have no signs of resting on laurels or falling on past glories. It’s crushingly heavy, but still inventive, still daring. What does this record say about Enslaved in 2020, by your estimation?

Grutle Kjellson: “There are some key figures. One of them is the dynamics. I like dynamic music. I like changes. I like balance. I mean, this isn’t crust punk. Nothing wrong with that, but that’s not the music we prefer to perform or write. This is like a reflection of the members favorite music. I do listen to metal at home, especially when I’ve had a couple of drinks and I want to hear old Darkthrone or something like that. But when I wake up in the morning, I might as well be listening to Tim Buckley or Roger Whittaker. There’s music for any occasion. For us there’s no such thing as genres. There’s good music and there’s shitty music. We are a very sonic metal band. I think we will always be that, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot spread out that concept and change the norms or whatever you want to call it. There shouldn’t be boundaries or borders in music.”

“Metal” Tim Henderson praised Utgard in his review: “Jettegryta” is easily the first stand-out track, Kjellson howling around pounding rhythms leading to a clean and thrashy beat, while “Sequence” finds a shining groove that will entice socially-distanced mosh-pits to dance a bit different. “Homebound” may be the band’s finest hour. Ever. The first official single kicks off with the ultimate infectious happy riff before blast-beats are laid down with a fury. The entire track ebbs and flows with arrangements fuelled by angst and a deeply-rooted sense of harmony. Once again Sandøy’s soaring vocals carry the song to heights unknown and when the lyric “as we fall, we stand still” starts to sink in, you are swimming in this majestic sea of music that’s arousing all of your emotions. 

“Flight Of Thought And Memory” is classic Enslaved, a freight-train of progressive punishment and yet again the songs jumps the track sounding like some acid rock from late ‘60s. 

The ominous “Storms Of Utgard” is another galloping moment as we near the end of this breathtaking journey, Enslaved building a theatrical backdrop of energy that hits your cranium at many angles.

BravePicks 2020 Top 30

1) ENSLAVED - Utgard (Nuclear Blast)
2) PARADISE LOST - Obsidian (Nuclear Blast)
3) KATATONIA - City Burials (Peaceville)
4) TESTAMENT - Titans Of Creation (Nuclear Blast)
5) INSIDIOUS DISEASE - After Death (Nuclear Blast)
6) NECROPHOBIC - Dawn Of The Damned (Century Media
7) ARMORED SAINT - Punching The Sky (Metal Blade)
8) ANNIHILATOR - Ballistic, Sadistic (Silver Lining)
9) ALCATRAZZ - Born Innocent (Silver Lining)
10) NAPALM DEATH - Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism (Century Media)
11) UNLEASH THE ARCHERS - Abyss (Napalm)
12) BLACK STONE CHERRY - The Human Condition (Mascot)
13) HAUNT - Mind Freeze (Shadow Kingdom)
14) ANAAL NATHRAKH - Endarkenment
15) AC/DC - PWRϟUP (Columbia/Sony)
16) BENEDICTION - Scriptures (Nuclear Blast)
17) KATAKLYSM - Unconquered (Nuclear Blast)
18) BLACKGUARD - Storm (Independent)
19) MEXICAN APE-LORD - Survival Cannibalism (Unable)
20) THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER - Verminous (Metal Blade)
21) ENSIFERUM - Thalassic (Metal Blade)
22) PROTEST THE HERO - Palimpsest (Spinefarm)
23) SODOM - Genesis XIX (Steamhammer)
24) INCANTATION - Sect Of Vile Divinities (Relapse)
25) MIDNIGHT - Rebirth By Blasphemy (Metal Blade)
26) NAGLFAR - Cerecloth (Century Media)
27) RAVEN - Metal City (SPV/Steamhammer)
28) KIRK WINDSTEIN - Dream In Motion (Entertainment One)
29) VANDEN PLAS - The Ghost Xperiment: Illumination (Frontiers)
30) GREEN CARNATION - Leaves of Yesteryear (Season of Mist)

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