After a very impressive introduction to this band with their 2008 release ‘Vertebrae,’ there’s no denying that progressive black metal act Enslaved were on my radar as 2010 rolled around. Being known both for their epic take on the black metal sound and their consistent quality, Enslaved takes both of those traits and churns out yet another near-perfect masterpiece in ‘Axioma Ethica Odini.’ Never before has the band better incorporated their melodic influences, and created such a work that has pulled Enslaved’s strengths together as they do here. In a year defined by the advent of quite a few significant black metal releases, Enslaved distinguish themselves.
To a newcomer, ‘Axioma Ethica Odini’ is best described as a melting pot of technical black metal and classic progressive rock. Comparisons to metal frontrunners Opeth are inevitable here; Enslaved takes the progressive landscape and polarizes it with heavy, complex metal sections and lighter atmospheric passages. While Enslaved may not hold a monopoly on the dark/light dynamic in the metal world, they certainly paint it with their unique sense of style.While black metal was typically very rough and primal in it’s inception, Enslaved sees the genre to new heights. Among the blastbeats and near-inhuman growls are sounds that may seem alien to the black metal style; a wide array of keyboard sounds, varied guitar work and the warm, clean tone of vocalist Herbrand Larson’s voice all play big roles in the music.
The album opens up with one of it’s most epic and profound tracks, ‘Ethica Odini.’ A soaring guitar riff and grim growling vocals lead into a more complex section that melds catchy vocal melodies with some complex guitarwork. From there on, ‘Ethica Odini’ builds into an absolutely devastating track, and easily one of the best the album has to offer. Virtually every song here is solid throughout, although some tracks stand out more than others; the opener, ‘The Beacon,’ ‘Giants,’ and the closer ‘Lightening’ come to mind. The only song here that doesn’t achieve excellence is the short interlude ‘Axioma,’ which certainly isn’t meant to be considered anything more than a mere respite between album sides, but doesn’t go anywhere beyond some fleeting ambience, and marks a small, if insignificant imperfection on the album.
Enslaved have certainly come a long way from their origins as orthodox black metal warriors. Although the band had already made their talent and warrant to acclaim clear with such earlier masterpieces as ‘Isa’ and ‘Vertebrae,’ ‘Axioma Ethica Odini’ only serves to reinforce Enslaved’s place as one of the scene’s leading acts.
1. Ethica Odini (7:59)
2. Raidho (6:01)
3. Waruun (6:42)
4. The Beacon (5:38)
5. Axioma (2:20)
6. Giants (6:37)
7. Singular (7:43)
8. Night Sight (7:36)
9. Lightening (7:51)
* Ivar Bjørnson – guitars, keyboards
* Grutle Kjellson – vocals, bass
* Arve Isdal – guitar
* Herbrand Larsen – keyboards, vocals
* Cato Bekkevold – drums