Review Summary: Enslaved's masterwork
There is something about Enslaved that transcends black metal. Starting with 2003's Below The Lights
, the Scandinavian metalers said to hell with the rigid traditionalist attitudes that act as a tether to even the most creative of black metal bands and embarked on a journey that would see them stretching and transcending the limits of the genre. Much like what Opeth did in the death metal world, Enslaved positioned themselves as the bastions of smooth, melodic 70's progressive rock within the cold, ethereal, blackened universe of jagged tremolo picking and ghoulish shrieks, with every album leading further and further away from the norm until with 2008's Vertebrae they found themselves at yet another crossroads. They could continue on the road they were on and risk losing the extreme elements that the band was founded upon, or they could rediscover themselves and stake out an identity not just based off of their current musical interests, but from their career as a whole. Enslaved chose the latter. A shimmering example of everything Enslaved have brought forth in their twenty years as a band, Axioma Ethica Odini
is the crown jewel in an already renowned discography.
Let's get things straight. Axioma Ethica Odini
is a black metal album. Simple as that. That aching feeling that Enslaved's metal herritage was slipping by the wayside on each passing release is put to rest thirty-five seconds into the lead off track “Ethica Odini” when the song's main riff springs to life like the cold Nordic winds. It's a triumphant blast of frigid intensity that rivals “As Fire Swept Clean the Earth” as the definitive Enslaved song, combining the harsh atmosphere of their past with the buttery Dave Gilmour-esque moments that shine like a diamond adrift in an icy sea. The album continues with Enslaved doing what they have always done, but doing it even better than ever before. It is truly astounding the way Enslaved continue to find new ways of combining their downright primeval and bestial minimalist metal framework with heavenly leads and progressive flourishes without ever faltering. Out of all the awe-inspiring moments on the album, what may be the biggest surprise on Axioma Ethica Odini
is the riff-laden “Giants”. It bridges from monolithic riff to monolithic riff in a towering wall of occult atmosphere and increasingly heavy guitar chords that gets downright nasty when Grutle's monastic wails and beastly howls weave in and out of the the song's stunning crescendo, before it drops into what just might be the heaviest breakdown to make it's way into a black metal song. To be honest, I could go on forever describing every minute detail of Axioma Ethica Odini
, but that wouldn't even begin to do it justice as each of the nine songs on Axioma Ethica Odini
stand on their own as unique, beautiful, and intriguing works of art.
Enslaved have proven time and time again that they are one of the most forward thinking acts in metal. With albums like Isa
and Below the Lights
they positioned themselves as one of the premier extreme acts around, but with Axioma Ethica Odini
they have securely cemented their spot as metal legends.