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January 2009
Released: 2008, Nuclear Blast
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Mr. Rock

17 years and 16 albums (including splits and promos), Norwegian black metal legends Enslaved are doing what most people didn’t think was possible; they are still creating exciting, innovative, and original music. As about as intense as they come, VERTEBRAE is the latest in an insanely impressive catalogue of this wonderfully creative band. This time around, the band seem to concentrate more on atmosphere, and a little less on the pummelling metal, though all throughout, you are hit over the head.

VERTEBRAE is chalk full of soundscapes, textures, melodies, and atmosphere, taking the listener on an ethereal ride of the imagination. Don’t fear though, this is intense and never falls into the ‘wimping out’ category. This is diverse, changing direction at the drop of a hat, yet it never feels contrived (you know, ‘change for the sake of change’). Each song has its own identity, and sometimes multiple identities, each telling a disturbing tale. “Ground” has a real Pink Floyd feel to the vocals and guitars (the solo could have been done by David Gilmour himself), though it has much more of an edge to it than anything PF created. “Vertebrae” has a wonderful, building intro before the intense black metal vocals kick in, while “New Dawn” hits you over the head from the first notes. The song then takes a bit of a haunting turn (in a good way) near the end, fading away to black. “Reflection” has a real prog edge to it, though the blackened vocals leave no room for doubt that this is really a black metal song. “Center” features some stunningly creepy vocals, mixed with very haunting guitar. This is one of the most ethereal pieces in metal – the mix of clean vocals adding to the dream-like state you are placed in.

Enslaved have created yet another wonderful listening experience, and prove to everyone that creativity, true creativity, never fades. Though the band have been around for some time now, especially in metal years, VERTEBRAE is solid proof that they still have what it takes, and are showing all the younger bands out there just how the big boys do it.

GEMS: songs 1 through 8

Track Listing

1. “Clouds” - 6:08
2. “To The Coast” - 6:27
3. “Ground” - 6:37
4. “Vertebrae” - 5:00
5. “New Dawn” - 5:22
6. “Reflection” - 7:44
7. “Center” - 7:32
8. “The Watcher” – 4:11


Grutle Kjellson – vocals / guitar
Ivar Bjornson – guitar
Ice Dale – guitar
Herbrand Larsen – keyboards / clean vocals
Cato Bekkevold - drums

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