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Axioma Ethica Odini
Released: 2010, Indie Recordings
Despite them being a near mainstay on end-of-year honor rolls, it's been some time now since I last imbibed any Enslaved 's Kool Aid. In fact it was 2004's ISA that last managed to really make me sit at attention, that record being a crisp demonstration of how beautifully synergetic a relationship between progressive rock and black metal could and should be. Following such a stellar achievement was never going to be easy and Enslaved have struggled more than a little to recapture its effortless charm. Many of my peers in the heady world of casual music journalism would have you believe otherwise but to my ears both VERTEBRAE and RUUN sounded distinctly undercooked, hamstrung by far too much self-conscious experimentation for their own good.
Ironically the result of their eleventh full-length studio foray gives credence to my criticism as it presents a wholly more ferocious face of the band, while distilling several of the ideas exhibited over the past few releases into something altogether more palatable and organic. Where predecessors came across as a patchwork-quilt of disparate sonic nuances, "Ethica Odini" and "Raidho" instead sweep smoothly across a densely layered soundscape that owes as much of a debt to Pink Floyd, as it does to Emperor and Mayhem. Grutle's screams sound in good nick, though the clean lines of "Waruun" are a definite highlight, elevating said track to epic heights. "Axioma" turns down the proverbial lights and raises the atmosphere to near claustrophobic levels, launching us into easily the most daunting track the band have delivered in a decade.
What really stands out about the record is how well it hangs together as a singular entity. It's a rare thing these days to have an album where song flow is as deftly orchestrated as it is here. It does mean that in order to get the most from AXIOMA ETHICA ODINI, it practically demands a thorough end-to-end examination. But then - our fast food iTunes culture notwithstanding - so does every truly classic album.
1. "Ethica Odini"
4. "The Beacon"
8. "Night Sight"
Grutle Kjellson - bass, vocals
Ivar Bjornson - lead & rhythm guitars
Arve Isdal - lead & rhythm guitars
Herbrand Larsen - keyboards, synthesizers, vocals
Cato Bekkevold - drums, percussion
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