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Enslaved - "Axioma Ethica Odini" (CD)

Enslaved - "Axioma Ethica Odini" CD cover image

"Axioma Ethica Odini" track listing:

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)

Reviewed by on September 30, 2010

"Norway’s Enslaved has weathered the passage of time to ride the black metal genre from inception to twilight years, and come out the other side with something fresh and relevant."

Heavy metal is a style that, at its very core, exists to stretch boundaries and do things that haven’t been done before. When black metal shattered the idea of how far music could go, it was only inevitable that 20 years later it would need to change again, or become as stale as the mainstream styles it mocked. Norway’s Enslaved has weathered the passage of time to ride the black metal genre from inception to twilight years, and come out the other side with something fresh and relevant. “Axioma Ethica Odini” may be black metal, but its part of the next step that takes the music into a new generation.

All nine songs on the album craft a distinct, separate persona from the rest, moving in different directions and trying new hooks and themes. Even with all the experimentation, it’s still a single cohesive unit based on ‘90s freezing cold metal from Scandinavia. The major vocal focus is on a set of screams that are exceedingly harsh, but refined to the point where they don’t go too high or low and ruin the mood. When the focus comes off the screams, the listener is treated to a range of male clean singing that is almost never heard in this genre. The clean vocals don’t go into the clichéd black metal chants, or the Vortex style pseudo-singing, but are rather a melodic low register sound that fits metal well and brings to mind prog rock.

After listening through the album, it becomes clear why Enslaved was touring with Opeth not too long back. Although it isn’t a perfect comparison, Enslaved is essentially doing for black metal what Opeth has done for death metal. The folk-oriented sounds aren’t there, and it isn’t always as epic, but Enslaved meshes the progressive elements with the extreme metal in a way that is frequently just as compelling. A major difference between the two, and something that’s likely going to keep metal purists intrigued, is that Enslaved keeps up the black metal brutality for most of the disc.

The album’s biggest strength is how smoothly it moves between Pink Floyd-influenced sounds and pure hellish metal. The opening to “Waruun” is a perfect example of this idea, as it starts with a wet, rasping scream and then moves into prog oriented guitar work. When the more extreme segments hit, it can be easy to forget for a minute that the disc isn’t just black metal, which makes it all the more interesting when something more melodic or psychedelic shows up again.

“Axioma Ethica Odini” successfully continues the evolution of black metal, and takes Enslaved’s music to a new level that will please fans of prog or extreme metal. The band’s latest creation is essentially a “must hear,” and will without doubt end up on a lot of “Top 10” lists when the new year rolls around.

Highs: The music is always doing something interesting to make it more than just black metal, but it keeps the brutality and aggressiveness of the genre at the forefront.

Lows: The black metal vocals are absolutely necessary to make the prog stuff shine, but in a few minor instances they sound just a bit too familiar for how experimental this album is.

Bottom line: Enslaved is doing for black metal what Opeth did for death metal, and its a must hear for any fan of black metal or prog metal.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)