Review Summary: An Excellent Album from an even better band.
Many people are surprised to hear that Enslaved has been around since 1991. But yes, Enslaved is one of the pioneers of the Black/Viking Metal genre. Their music has ranged from pure black/viking metal in their early days to their sound now which is more of a progressive/black metal. Formed when the lead men of the band were 17 and 13, Enslaved has evolved and gained new knowledge into their musical genre and from that they were able to create this incredible release: RUUN
Enslaved's incredible lineup including Arve Isdal's work on the guitar leads to a great performance overall from the band. Most of their riffs are pretty simple, yet catchy. The bass appropriately backs the guitars without doing too much. Grutle's bass work isn't too flashy, he has to concentrate on his vocals. Grutle's vocals are either a love'em or hate'em kind of voice. They are a high pitched, gravely sort of shriek that fits perfectly with the music. Enslaved also uses effective backing vocals which include everything from death roars to soft, emotional clean vocals on (my personal favorite) Path to Vanir. Even though the clean vocals are in a somewhat broken form of English due to Enslaved's Norwegian ancestry, they still make it work into the music so that it blends very well and sounds great.
First, the guitar work on the album, as I stated before isn't too complicated although it blends perfectly with the music. The swirling harmonies created by Arve Isdal and Ivar Bjørnson are borderline addicting and hypnotic. For the long period of time that I was hopelessly addicted to this album, I found myself developing a headache if I wasn't listening to this CD constantly. The riffs are just so damn catchy. The song Path to Vanir was stuck in my head for over a week... no wait. It's still stuck in my head. It's enough that the two guitarists work in perfect harmony, but no there's more! Arve Isdal's solos are also incredible. He manages to capture the entire emotion and feeling of the song in his fretwork, which is fantastic but no exceedingly technical.
The drumming from Cato Bekkevold is pretty average. However, it fits with the music perfectly, which adds to the hypnotic feeling of the entire album. He's not a very fast drummer. He is much more focused on utilizing his entire drum set, especially the cymbals instead of most black metal drummers who seem to be fascinated with the concept of blast beats. Cato is a good drummer, but it's the atmosphere that his drums create that really set the hypnotic tone for the entire album.
My personal favorite song is Path to Vanir, which has the most catchy riff by far in the entire album. I also love how Enslaved uses their strong backing vocals to catch the attention of the listener and take them on a journey through a frozen land.
My next favorite song is Fusion of Sense and Earth which is one of the faster songs on the album. The guitar work involves some brilliantly crafted tremolo picked riffs and a 'chugga-chugga' sounding riff that is incredible. However, the standout for me on this song is Grutle's vocals. It is by far his best performance on the album. The vocals are the driving force of the song.
The only part about this album that I didn't like was it's replay value. Even though the riffs are very catchy, the album IS a tad repetitive which doesn't take much away at all from the overall score. Some of the riffs seem very similar and Grutle doesn't have much of a vocal range, which is made up for by the brilliant backing vocals.
Path to Vanir, Fusion of Sense and Earth, RUUN, Entroper
Great backing vocals and guitar work.
Somewhat repetitive, the drumming isn't too great.
Ivar Bjørnson: Guitars/Keyboards
Arve Isdal: Lead Guitar
Grutle Kjellson: Vocals/Bass
Herbrand Larson: Keyboards/Vocals
Cato Bekkevold: Drums