Enslaved - Axioma Ethica Odini (2010)

 

 
They say Rome wasn't built in a day. The same goes for Enslaved, the ever present progressive metal band from Norway. Formed in 1991 by then teenagers Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson (13 and 17, respectively), the band has certainly dealt with their fair share of growing pains. But with the release of their eleventh album, Axioma Ethica Odini, the band show that all of the trials and tribulations were worth it. Produced by the now legendary Jens Bogren, the album is the crown jewel of the Enslaved discography.

The sounds of an oncoming storm approach, and before long, you are thrown head first into the fires of "Ethica Odini." Drums are unwavering, blasting forward with cutthroat precision. The guitars strum rapidly, and black metal shrieks break through the wall. The band waste no time is showing you what they have to offer this time around, from the crystal clear production to the dramatically improved clean vocals. Beautifully sung refrains are reminiscent of Opeth, demolishing any preconceived notions that Enslaved are one dimensional. Brief periods of soft bass work compliment the harsh shredding.

There is no mistaking this for an album by any other band. Chord progressions and the thunder of well played drum fills are Enslaved staples, and both are featured heavily on "Raidho." The vocals grind away in the verse, before becoming sublime in the chorus. The bridge sections are atmospheric in nature, with a strong bass groove leading the way. Diversity strengthens the whole, and a ripping solo in the outro is the icing on the proverbial cake. A deathly scream opens "Waruun," before double bass rolls take over. The band stomp away with pinpoint accuracy. Delicate acoustics and the light patter of cymbals introduce deep crooning. But, before you get carried away, the band come right back with damning screams and growls. The grit and emotion poured into every word is astonishing.

"The Beacon" is a black light in the darkness. High speed slashing and pounding lead off, providing the foundation for the screeching vocals. A short melodic piece in the middle turns down the heat, only to be burned to a crisp in the ending fury. This is progressive death at it's finest. It manages to be brutal without sacrificing talent and skill. Keyboards and an almost robotic spoken word haunt the short interlude "Axioma," a short respite before "Giants" crushes you. The intro is heavy and dark, painting the sky black. Even clean vocals can convey a sense of sorrow and dismay, and they do exactly that as the verses move forward. Deep, gutteral growls awaken the sleeping beast, and the drum patterns accelerate to match the chugging guitars. The brilliant back and forth tempo changes put an exclamation mark on each vocal passage, be it clean or dirty.

The vocal styles collide in "Singular," playing a call and response roll. The screams call out, and the clean, airy singing answers. The headbanging highlights rest here, with guitars strumming away from chord to chord, up and down the scales. The kick drums will shake your rib cage, especially when paired with a daring bass line. This rhythm section is to be reckoned with. The band shred away, setting the mood with each note, each cymbal crash. They show off raw power, with beautifully polished restraint.

"Night Sight" starts as if it came from the seventies progressive rock movement, with soft, smooth vocals and guitar melodies. The hammer drops, and peace and love give way to harm and death. Inner peace descends to unbridled aggression. The crushing wall of sound builds up anew, only to be torn down time and again. As important as an opening track is to an album, a fitting closer maybe more so. And this one is no exception. "Lightening" is a firestorm of blast beats, relentless guitar work, the low rolling bass lines and a combination of vocal deliveries. This song is the complete package of progressive metal goodies, giving you everything you came for, and more. The contrast created is inspiring.

Enslaved isn't a new band. This isn't their first rodeo. But they have managed to do something on "Axioma Ethica Odini" that many would argue they haven't done in more than a decade. This album is strong, start to finish, and everywhere in between. They have created a balance of power. This is not to say the album is half heavy and half mellow. But they found the proper percentages to make it flow. That is an accomplishment on it's own. But throw in excellent song writing and structure, and you have yourselves a winner.

9/10

Official Site - http://www.enslaved.no/