Enslaved - Axioma Ethica Odini (2010)
Back in 2001 Enslaved released a record called, 'Monumension' which I remember trying my hardest to enjoy, but could simply find nothing to really like about it. I figured Enslaved had joined the group of once great Norwegian black metalers at this point. 'Below the Lights' followed in '03, 'Isa' in '04 and 'Runn' in '06 with just smidgens of these records hitting me in the right way. It was sometime after '08's, 'Vertebrae' where I started hearing people say that Enslaved was the new Opeth or something along the lines of Opeth gone black metal. I remember picking up the album and surprisingly being genuinely and fully impressed, though I still felt the band had not yet totally won me over as the early stuff from the 90's had done years earlier. Late last year Enslaved was touring the states in support of their then still new album, 'Axioma Ethica Odini' as well as celebrating their twenty year anniversary. So, I knew I had to hear the album before seeing them live, but perhaps it was actually their stunning performance that night in Chicago which really made me appreciate what Enslaved is doing these days. Who knows.
Anyway, on this record and in some form or another Enslaved has been creating progressive melodic black metal for a while now. Loads of catchy and clever riffs hit the listener during this one, which can at times be totally metal but at other times sound like they were taking right out of vintage 70's prog rock, while alongside spacey ambiance and proggy keyboards, varying tempos, arrangements and moods are scattered about and a great trade off between Grutle's raspy growls and Herbrand's cleanly sung parts, which sound both powerful but also even ethereal and emotional at other turns throughout this record.
Songs like, 'Ethica Odini' or 'Raidho' are full of life and fire and drive along through out their duration with absolute power and epicness to boot. 'Axioma' is another interesting, but short ambient instrumental, which sounds like a cosmic flight through the stars, while, 'Giants' has a much heavier, slower almost doom-ish vibe to it, which is exceedingly amazing. I'm also a really big fan, 'Night Sight,' which is almost a full on prog rock number for the first few minutes before exploding with Enslaved fury a few minutes in and back to the calmer parts as the song progresses. The closing song, 'Lightening' is also an impressive and majestic one with breathtaking guitar work and clean vocals from the onset and all the power and might you'd expect from these guys. Really though the whole thing stands out quite nicely and is a real treat from start to finish.
'Axioma Ethica Odini' is definitely Enslaved at the top of their game and it should probably be understood at this point that the blasting viking/black metal days are long past these five Norwegian gentlemen. It is however not an instantly brilliant album and as I said above I think seeing some of these songs live really made me appreciate these tunes more. I've had to listen to this one a bunch of times, but its really clicked with me now, and who knows... maybe I'll even re-buy some of those albums from the last ten years that I probably didn't give enough time to originally.