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Enslaved – Vertebrae

Label: Nuclear Blast USA
Format: CD
Released: 2008
Reviewed By: The Goat
In by far one of the most stunning moves, Enslaved have closed the gap betwixt their Swedish cousins-in-metal, Opeth. “Vertebrae” is a remarkable album. It shows how far a pagan black metal band can go without compromising itself to be a mere imitation of its contemporaries. Let me warn you my friends, this is not Enslaved of old, nor does it try to be anything other than its own entity.
 

It has been documented extensively that Enslaved have been on a “Weirding” trajectory. “Vertabrae” solidifies this notion. Rhythms that would be happily nestled on an Opeth release are dragged screaming by these Norwegians hands to be made unto their own. Let me be clear, Enslaved is not the new Opeth. They are not emulating Akerfeldt and company by any means. “Vertebrae” is accomplishing a decisive victory on a different front in the same war.

“Clouds” opens with an almost math metal texture going through it that sounds very atypical of any pomp and circumstance one would expect from a so-called Viking metal band. Its discordant rhythm matches Meshuggah in its intensity but not nearly as smothering as those frenetic Swedes. A simple melody that is so Prog and deliberate emerges from the din. The clean vocals of Grutle Kjellson project a narrative quality that suggests an epic story is unfolding. Don't fear gentle readers, there are still the gruff vocals to balance the clean. Yet, the comparison will be drawn in the epic melodic quality of this song to Mr. Akerfeldt and company without doubt.

As if this was not enough, “To The Coast” gives us a low-keyed drone of a song that is not boring but mesmerizing. It quickly turns to a pummeling brute of a song. There is no question that Enslaved are still extreme. There is a Meddle-era Pink Floydishness quality to this song. Ironically enough, despite its earnest pummeling, I think it may be possible to sleep to this song. Although, be warned, you may have nightmares about pillaging Norwegians. “Ground” begins like a Rush song played by Bono and the Edge, and I mean this in the most complimentary way. You are reminded by the croaking vocals that this is not any of the above. The Rush-U2isms give way to the most Pink Floydesque moments on “Vertebrae” with the midpaced distorted strumming and gang vocals that Roger Waters never sang. Ooo, this will bring out the lighters if not the torches.

The title track starts off like a more measured version of a Mastodon song in its delivered rhythm. I was half expecting the song to implode in math metal insanity but it just keeps applying the pressure. The breakdowns are some of the best I have heard in a long time. Enslaved play very tight to the chest here and do not get too self-absorbed. Even when they swing more mellow and mild, there is a sense of extremity that few can pull off. “New Dawn” strikes afterwards. Let me tell you, this is one amped up song. It tears through and makes you realize who Enslaved really are and how they will not be mistaken for going all proggy. The intensity of “New Dawn” will appease any and all metal heads. It has a galloping rhythm that simply shreds. I think it is safe to say this is my favorite song.

This album gives the listener some spectacular sounds for the ear to enjoy. “Reflection” is one of those songs that will keep you listening and sitting mouth agape. If you have not heard of Enslaved before, you may want to pick up “Vertebrae.” I am quite confident in saying that this album will make people take notice and I think it may even cross over to other styles. Yes, it is one of those albums.

Fans of Tool, Rush, U2, Pink Floyd, and certainly classic rock fans will find themselves an album that may be a gateway album to more extreme varieties of music. It should be noted that listeners with more extreme tastes will be appeased and you may want to share this album with you father or closest hard rock and classic rock fan.

 
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