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Among the countless bands who were inspired by Bathory's seminal Viking metal, arguably none were as true to its gospel as Norway's Enslaved, whose utmost commitment even extended to donning vintage Norse armor and outfits on-stage (see cover art for proof). Not impressed? Then you try playing speed metal while wearing a Viking helmet! Now that that's out of the way, on with the review... Still sung in their native Norwegian (the gradual move towards English lyrics would begin on their follow-up, Blodhemn), Eld (which means "fire") bears all of the classic Enslaved hallmarks: Viking themes, razor sharp guitars, blastbeat drums, and an ear for orchestration resulting in complex structures, bountiful harmonies and time changes -- minus the refinement that would elevate later works to the top of the Scandinavian heap. These elements can all be sampled in the grandiose, sixteen-and-a-half-minutes of opening suite "793 (The Battle of Lindisfarne)" -- a stunning colossus of a track that would have made Bathory mastermind Quorthon proud with its historical detail and varied musical scope. The remainder of Eld is taken up with similar, only slightly shorter songs (in the six- to eight-minute range), alternately dealing with either Norse mythology or fantasy lore. The problem with this long-winded approach is that numbers like "Sacrifice to the Elves," "The Blood of Kvasir," and even the mostly outstanding "A Long Time Ago" have their better ideas spread far too thin, with only momentary flashes of greatness -- a riff here, a passage there -- standing out of their cyclopean depths. In fact, in later years, it was exactly Enslaved's improving ability to self-edit that would lead to their greatest achievements. For now, Eld is a worthy addition to a serious Enslaved fan's collection, but hardly required listening for the casual fan.

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