“As Fire Swept Clean the Earth” blends multiple and in a way polarizing influences. Old 70s Genesis is pervasive, but layered with that most infamous variant of Norwegian artistic intensity. Quite like an elegant time warp, the delicate 70s prog intro launches headlong into 360 beats per minute drums and inhumane screams. Transition from the high of symphonic prog into this turbulent abyss cannot be starker.
Lead guitar and keyboards are textbook 70s prog. Enslaved blends that melancholic overtones of ‘The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway’ with the ferocity of Viking metal. Subtle use of electronica is a wonderful prelude to more relentless drums. But this frenetic pace does eventually get reined in by that towering proggy lead guitar. Even the album artwork mirrors this aesthetic — calmness set atop absolute mayhem.
Unusual that the lyrics do contribute to the grim atmosphere, because it’s actually decipherable — “I close my eyes. As Fire Swept Clean the Earth. Nothing left to strangle. As the cords were torn from our hearts”.
Enslaved is arguably among the most accomplished metal bands, but even for them, the aesthetics of this track is an unmatched creative act. We can safely state; abstraction of the quirky melodic aspects of a ‘Selling England by the Pound’ and placing it within the context of 90s extreme metal has now been accomplished – with captivating surgical precision.