Overrated is a word I use pretty sparingly, especially when it comes to an album which everyone seems to think of as a revelation for a specific genre. In this case, we have the band Enslaved, a well known Progressive Black Metal band that is said to take Black Metal to some new heights. I was extremely eager to get my hands on this album, ready to dissect and hopefully enjoy every single second of every single song on this album. Disappointment, however, quickly coursed through my blood. Here I am now, a few months later and a few listens later, with that sense of dissatisfaction still running through my veins whenever I see something to do with Enslaved. While all of their albums may be different than this, may introduce a different sound, may control the chaos, I can say right here and right now that Isa
is simply one of the most overrated Black Metal albums I have ever listened to.
I honestly don’t have a clue what people find in here which deserves a rating of a 4.5 or a 5. Hell, I can’t even find enough to give this over a 3.5. The first thing I noticed was how completely bored this album made me. If you hear the first song, you will know pretty much exactly, and I mean exactly
what each of the other songs will sound like. It is generally not a good sign if the listener is at the point of dozing off by the end of the third track. Enslaved cannot seem to captivate the listener with, say, an amazing guitar solo, a really catchy riff, an awesome chorus, even a really clean, somber bridge. What goes on and what is accomplished during the hour running time of this album is pretty much still cloaked in shadow to my eyes.
It is at the point where I can just put this album on, and pay attention for no more than the first 15 minutes before my thoughts begin to go elsewhere and I begin to concentrate on other, more mundane things such as the wind blowing leaves across my yard, how long each stoplight stays red, how I can never seem to be looking at the clock when it changes to another minute, no matter how intent I am on seeing it… I’m getting off track just talking about it. Not that this album is amazingly repetitive either, it is the fact that what they play (while it is diverse) is just immeasurably boring and uninteresting. The guitars are, more often than not, playing a single boring and non-melodic riff for about 5 minutes while the vocals, which are actually fairly good, rip on over them. It seems to me that the bassist of this band also realized how boring this is and actually fell asleep at the recording studio, because the bass is virtually nonexistent here.
I will say a few things which are good about the album, though. The vocals, for one, are very nicely done and actually add something which is worth listening to to the music. Most of the 3 rating I gave to this album come from the vocals, because they make up so much of the music and you hear them during most of the album. If you take away the vocals though, this album is looking at no more than a 2. However, on a few short occasions the guitars actually come across and snap your attention away from the squirrel climbing the tree outside. The pretty cool guitar solo during “Bounded By Allegiance” is probably the most interesting thing during this album, as well as the vocals which accompany it toward the end, with the raging double bass in the background. Sadly though, this awesomeness is cut short when the song abruptly, and I mean friggin’ abruptly
ends. It seems to me the band actually realized they were playing something good and had to turn off the recording equipment before more of this “interesting music” nonsense could continue.
Maybe I was a little harsh with that one, but it is the honest truth. When Enslaved get something really good going for them, they completely ruin it by introducing something which attempts to be progressive and innovative, but only ends up killing the entire track. The clean vocals during the chorus of the title track “Isa” sound completely out of place and create an awkward situation out of an otherwise decent chorus. This is one of the few cases in which the vocalist should have kept to only one pitch of growling.
It’s a shame how your attention is snapped away so quickly by the absolutely terrible beginning of this album, because by the time the middle of the album swings around you already have a bad taste in your mouth and you have no desire to hear more. The middle of the album (namely the songs “Bounded By Allegiance”, “Violet Dawning” and “Return To Yggdrasil”) are fairly good and try something which isn’t completely boring throughout the whole song. The clean vocals at the beginning of “Return To Yggdrasil” are much more appropriate and emotional than the ones in “Isa” and sound much more emotional and professional. The riffing in “Violet Dawning” is melodic and well-paced, and uninterrupted by boring “chug-chug-chug” type riffing which was present in the previous tracks. I’ve already mentioned the good solo in “Bounded By Allegiance” which is probably the best moment on the album.
But sadly, that’s pretty much where all interest ends in this album. The final three tracks are poorly thought out and will most likely not hold the attention of anyone. Even the good guitar solo in the 12-minute wreck which is “Neogenesis” cannot save that song from being way, way, way too long, and starting off way too slowly and unoriginally. If the listener does hang on until the end though, the guitars begin to show off some riffing and soloing talent, but the first time I listened to this song I quite honestly could not bear any more past the 5 minute mark.
A good way to sum up this album is “Way too much, way too soon”. Before you can even enjoy the good moments on this album, the overwhelming section of terrible moments will most likely cause the listener to become uninterested and probably extremely disappointed. It stuns me when, after listening to this, I go online and read all of this hype and praise for an album so drastically underwhelming as Isa
. Enslaved needs to take a good look at this album, search through it with a fine toothed comb, and make some decisions on what worked and what didn’t. For the maybe 15 minutes worth of interesting stuff on here, paying almost $1 per minute of enjoyable material simply is not worth you hard earned money.
+ Good Drumming
+ Good Screamed Vocals
+ Some Interesting Riffs
+ A Good Attempt At Black Metal Innovation
+ A Few Great Guitar Solos
+ Undeniably Boring
+ Clean Vocals Don’t Work Too Well
+ Drags On For Too Long
+ Most People Won’t Be Listening Long Enough To Hear The Good Stuff
- Violet Dawning
- Return To Yggdrasil
- Bounded By Allegiance