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Essential! - 91%

krozza, December 7th, 2004

Oh, the joy of listening to a new Enslaved disc. Enslaved have made some massive musical in roads since their formation in1991. However, if anything is assured with this mob of Norwegians, it’s their unpredictability.

Sticking steadfast to their ‘odd-ball’ nature, Enslaved have returned once again with ‘Isa’, an album that proves to be just as innovative and accomplished as anything they have done over the past dozen years. Certainly since the psychedelic, prog-like exploration first tackled on ‘Monumension’ and brought so eloquently to fruition on last years superb ‘Below the Lights’, ‘Isa’ marches to the same, yet ever so distinctive tune.

The progressive nature expected of this band is very much a given nowadays, their musical path continues on a upward trajectory whilst still maintaining a base line link to their halcyon black metal roots. Believe me ‘Isa’ is still a black metal album, but like Arcturus and to a lesser extent Borknagar, Enslaved present a much more sophisticated and accomplished form of the music. Fans of Carpathian Forest won’t find prog-laden intricacies to their liking, but hey, Enslaved were never a straightforward Black Metal band anyway.

Like their previous material, ‘Isa’ is rife with that dark, ice-cold Viking atmosphere we’ve all embraced so willingly. ‘Isa’ also proves that Enslaved still refuse to play by the rules – there are moments on this disc where you could be forgiven for thinking Grutle and co have opted for a ‘steady as she goes’ approach, but then true to form, the changes of direction and almost awkward but no less enthralling appear with striking unpredictability. There are challenging twists and turns embedded everywhere on this.

The band also continues to use the subtle combination of lighter, psychedelic, spacey, whatever you want to call it sections that open up their whole progressive, quirky musical nature even further. The production, like their runic title (symbolizing ice) is harsh and bleak to the very bone, yet this is superbly offset by the use of well layered 70’s moog/keys to provide that oh so grand and epic like Viking atmosphere.

It seems there is no stopping this band. They are still as dynamic as ever and even more unpredictable. In terms of providing value for money, Isa is worth every cent – Enslaved have made sure they continue to progress. This sounds like an Ensalved album no question, but not once can you accuse the band of rehashing a formula. ‘Isa’ is savvy as hell in the song writing, innovative and dynamic to its very end. In a year of some outstanding releases, ‘Isa’ is easily one of the more ‘essential’ ones you need.

Originally written for www.pyromusic.net