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All artists have a bad day once in awhile, so it says a lot that a bad day for Norway's Enslaved is still superior to the vast array of music being released worldwide. Ruun is my least favorite of their 21st century outings to date, the least impressive and distinct, and yet there are particular tracks on this that I simply wouldn't want to live without, given the choice. But where it drags its heels is in raw staying power. I used to admire the album quite a lot when it was originally released, but in the ensuing decade I've found myself reaching for it less often than its amazing neighbors like Vertebrae, Isa or Below the Lights. Nearly all of the better tracks are front loaded on the running order, and while I wouldn't characterize any of them as 'bad', I cannot deny that Ruun will occasionally grow dull in its latter stages.
There's not a lot to separate this from Isa in terms of its production values and the writing style. Enslaved are still incorporating a lot of similar melodic textures as the last few albums, only hear they seem to ever so slightly age, and not necessarily like a fine wine. Definitely some of the same post-rock or post-punk appeal as you heard on the driving rhythms of Isa, with hints of jazzy warmth and a careful balance between consonant and dissonant note sequences. One thing I can say is that, on the whole, Ruun feels 'colder' and more emotionally distant than its direct predecessor. Not because the band are writing lyrics that are any more tortured or painful, but just in the way the songs are set up, and the choice of Grutle Kjellson to use a more open, grating snarl than Isa or Below the Lights, which doesn't feel as contrasted due to the wintrier feeling of the guitars. I should also mention, though, that the clean vocals here feel mildly less dweeby than they were won to do on Isa, but this comes at the price that they're often less catchy.
Certainly, the first three tracks are exciting here. "Entroper" opens with some layered strings and surges into a space rock riff somewhere beneath Hawkwind and the Foo Fighters. The song really picks up during its bridge sequence, where the choppy, punctuated guitars provide a foundation for the scintillating, background ambiance, rasps and the swerving, jazzy bass line. "Path to Vanir" has the best verse riffing of the album, at a mysterious and majestic pace which once again gives the impression that the band is reaching back into its colder myth-history. The chorus in that song is fucking immense, as Ivar and Ice start laying on the tremolo picking quite thick, while varied rasps and ominous growls stretch out over the canvas, vaguely concealing the organ tones. Probably the best singular moments on this album, but I also quite enjoyed the folksy calm half way through the song. "Fusion of Sense and Earth" is also a stormer, a faster paced tune with dissonant verse riffing not unlike Voivod in their prime, only more open.
After that, though, it becomes more difficult to pick out 'highlights' as songs and not just smaller segments of said songs. They attempt to create a curious, almost desert-like mystique with the guitars of the titular "Ruun", and focus in on cleaner picked melodies, but after about a minute the song never really throws anything interesting at the listener, not even when they start churning out the wall of sound they had become so adept with. "Api-Vat" has some nice, stringy muted note progressions, but never seems to hit a climax, while most of the music to "Essence" treks along predictably in support of the numbing, clean vocal harmonies. And while "Tides of Chaos" adds a great, majestic lurch to some of the proggier writing on the album, it too seems to lack that unforgettable 'money shot' that so many of the Isa tracks possessed. Even the doomy, melody-laden drive of the closer "Heir to the Cosmic Seed" fails to deliver on its early promise.
That said, all of these songs are still fairly pleasant to experience from time to time, and far be it for me to say that they're ever poorly written, or necessarily 'filler'. Ruun is durably consistent in tone and specialization, and the worst I can really say is that it's simply not their most fertile and resonant offering, easily forgiven when I take into consideration what they'd release next. I'd say that fans of Below the Lights or Isa would not be heavily disappointed with this. It often strays towards the former, other times to the latter, just not with the same incredible riffing payoff. In terms of lyrics and production, I can voice no complaints, and regardless of its status as a minor stagger, it's nowhere even near a fall.
Bridging the gap between their somewhat underwhelming 'Isa' and what I consider to be their modern masterpiece 'Vertebrae', 'Ruun' shows a fairly big step for the music of Enslaved. Although the Norwegian black metal outfit had already incorporated ample doses of progressive rock into their sound on albums past, it had not yet sounded so profound as it does here. While the music is indeed black metal, 'Ruun' is the vanguard for Enslaved's recent, up-to-date sound, and while I do not find it quite as memorable as the masterpieces which would succeed it, 'Ruun' is an excellent progressive black metal album, and a fine addition to a largely consistent discography.
From the epic faster pacing of the opening track 'Entroper,' it is made clear that Enslaved has put the energy back in their music here, and while parts of the sound still sound a shade too cleanly cut as they did on 'Isa', the development is quickly noticeable. A relatively mid-tempo track like the single 'Path of Vanir' however does bring the band back down to their sound they had used for the few years prior. In terms of black metal, Enslaved is sure to be on the less abrasive side of things, especially by this point. With exception made to the traditional, raspy snarls of Grutle Kjellson, the sound may not be so easily identified with the black metal sub- genre in the first place. In fact, the title track 'Ruun' (and my personal favourite pick off the album) sounds as if it has more in touch with the post-metal stylings of Tool than any extreme act.
Although the music here is kept quite consistent and strong throughout, there is the feeling that it is not quite as memorable as it could have been. Perhaps this is due to the fact that 'Ruun' only passes me as being a less developed version of 'Vertebrae', or perhaps due to the fact that the band seems to still have much of the same dry presentation they did with 'Isa', albeit with the added dynamic and complexities here. Enslaved would see better days from this point on, and if anything, 'Ruun' should be lauded for bringing in Enslaved's sound as we know it now. On it's own, 'Ruun' should prove to be a great introduction to the band for those yet uninitiated, as well as a very good addition to any existing Enslaved fan's collection.
Progressive and Raw (Enslaved-Ruun)-80%
Enslaved is a band that I, like many, got into from their song “Havenless” on the film, “Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey”. The album I ended up with was not “Below the Lights” though, but an entirely different sound from the song “Havenless” that I’d previously heard. Rather than feature what I believed was going to be Norwegian Viking chant black metal, I heard a very dynamic band based on a multi-dimensional take on black metal meeting the progressive talents of a more extreme version of Rush with some Viking cultural influence in their 2006 album, “Ruun”.
There is an abundance of synthesized sounds on this album, but this does not take the place of manmade music, instead it enhance each track and adds some interesting sounds into the mix that normally wouldn’t be on a black metal album.
The songs in general are much more melodic than normal black metal, but the raw sound of the album keeps a good amount of the cold feel of black metal intact. There are different times during this release that the music stays simple, and this also adds to the cold feel of the album like during the opening of “Path to Vanir”, in “Ruun”, and in “Essence” which, coincidentally are my favorite songs of the album. The simplicity of some of the songs also makes this album more approachable to new fans compared to many other acts. Where some acts relentlessly show their technical prowess off, and others are so unique in their own style that the uninitiated are completely thrown off, Enslaved’s mix of melodic metal, progressive metal, Viking themes, and black metal makes this album much more listenable to non-metal fans as well as stays obscure and heavy enough to appease hardcore true metal fans. The songs are also more intelligent than other metal acts, their well-described references to Viking history, religion, and culture as they confront the metaphysical and supernatural make for some very interesting lyrics. The vocals behind the lyrics are also well done. Rather than be too gritty and throaty, there are more clean vocals and more melody used in the album “Ruun”, but at the same time, gritty black metal screams are abundant in the album as well as some rare gutturals and are strong enough to give a track an entirely black metal feel even if a track doesn’t have the usual elements of black metal.
Though this album is so interesting and encompassing of so many different ideas and musical styles, at times the album doesn’t deliver. There are some parts of the album that the songs get too repetitive, other times the songs go on for too long, and still other songs are too short. With an album that averages six minutes to a song, it would be hard to ensure that all the songs keep the interest of the listener, and though they do for the most part, “Entroper” goes on for too long, “Ruun” seems too short and as though the band ran out of ideas for the song and many of the songs get too musically repetitive. As the same few riffs keep being played over and over, which is understandable when a song goes on for about six and a half minutes, the formula (first riffs, chorus, second riffs, first riffs, chorus, repeat) becomes so obvious in some of the songs that it gets boring and uninventive. Also, there are very few. The solo in “Fusion of Sense and Earth” at 3:31 is really unique, but it would have been nice if the monotony of many of the six minute songs were broken up by more soloing, different riffs, or different instruments rather than the same riffing over and over.
Enslaved’s “Ruun” is a solid album, and a very interesting piece of experimental black metal. The references to Viking culture, history, and religion really accentuate the experience, but the album is held back by some rather bland points and a monotonous formula. This album is really unique, though, and something that I’d recommend to others, but with Enslaved’s “Ruun”, you’ll hear just about all the album has to offer with your first spin of it.
I see this pattern happening with a lot of bands. You're either a fan of the legacy that the band built originally and then you see them change styles and you lose interest in the band. Thankfully for me, I wasn't a fan of Enslaved before Isa or Ruun came out. I didn't own any of their albums and I think had only heard one or two of their classic viking metal songs without even realizing who it was. So listening to these two albums from a fresh perspective without any of the "they sold-out/changed/suck" stigma that goes along with a band changing styles/formats/genres.
Per friend's recommendation, I picked up 'Isa' and it was a good "timeout album." One of those albums that lets you take a breather from all the extreme metal you constantly listen to while still having the balls of extreme metal. I listened to 'Isa' constantly for several weeks until I all about killed it and then started looking at reviews of Ruun and thinking about picking it up!
I wasn't disappointed! I like Ruun a bit more than Isa, actually. For the uninitiated, describing Ruun to you might be a bit hard. Take a dark, ambient rock sound. Add extreme metal influences to it (i.e., double bass peddling, blast beats, growls/rasps). And finally top it off with a black metal band covering Pink Floyd.
This mix of genres and sounds might have people saying that Enslaved is intentionally encroaching on Opeth's style of mixing melodic interludes with grim extreme blackness, but to that I say that in concept it may appear that way, but actually listening to the bands give you very different vibes. From Ruun I get a very bleak, but ambiently-groovy black metal vibe. I think it's the perfect music for the winter-time, on a cold morning walk to work/class.
Back to how this is a "timeout album". I think this is a perfect timeout album where if you're a fan of extreme metal but are exhausted from listening to nonstop black/death/grind metal, this is a good album to relax and chill out to while still being able to nod your head and throw the horns on occassion.
Alongside 'Isa', 'Ruun' stands as further proof that progression can only reach such heights before it all comes crashing down. Whilst 'Ruun' manages to mostly eschew the heavy use of keyboards and melodic sections of Enslaved's previous output it never replaces them with anything interesting, when further coupled with the lack of well-written riffs and over abundance of clean vocals you are left with directionless and anti-climatic album. The songs all manage to stick to around 4 - 6 minutes and use similar structures through out with little deviation, except possibly "Path to Vanir" but that's because it's so stripped down and simplistic.
The first three songs are probably the best; they don't meander about with complex arrangements nor do they shoehorn in obtuse keyboards and unnecessary sections for the sake of proclaiming to be deeper than they appear and whatnot. "Entroper" is straight-forward heavy metal riffing with some supporting keyboards and plenty of decent bass work which is pleasant to hear for once. "Path to Vanir" has prominent keyboards, is catchy and not complete suck, although that quiet section in the latter half is very suspect but it's pretty enjoyable and at least memorable. Finally "Fusion of Sense and Earth" is another straight-forward song that rocks out fucking hard with the only decent solo on this entire album, even the breaks in this song are very well timed and everything just flows perfectly. You can probably stop listening to the album after that song because the rest is blander than a bowl of porridge mixed with cardboard; it's all very long-winded with no attempts to write any real metal riffs to give the songs some actual structure and momentum. Really there's nothing else to say that could make that point any more crystalline, if you need some idea just imagine "The Crossing" from 'Below the Lights' mixed with all the boring parts in 'Isa'; it's all very repetitive riffing with way too much clean vocals going all over the place whilst the keyboards pump out flat melodies.
'Isa' and 'Ruun' are one and the same really; 'Ruun' has better mixing and more consistent song lengths, 'Isa' is more consistent overall and has an epic final track. They share the traits of being progressively fucking boring and no doubt this is thanks to copying bands like Opeth who have money coming out of all their orifices because the average fucktard creams their pants when a band has the 'audacity' to contrast melodic and harsh sections, as though it's some sort of fucking revelation or intellectual paragon. Enslaved really should have taken the first three tracks from 'Ruun' and the better moments of 'Isa' along with that song "Reogenesis" and made a single album rather than these two progressive abortions. It's highly perplexing to see a band write three good songs and then proceed to write complete drivel that takes 30 minutes to accomplish nothing, you may as well go listen to 'Reign in Blood' because despite being two good songs and the same song repeated eight times at least it's a constructive use of your time and is headbangingly fucking awesome. I digress; 'Ruun' is not a good album and serves to only perpetuate this ideal of repetition and monotony as a symbol of being progressive, had they cut down to the first three songs then 'Ruun' would have been a fun little EP, alas it was not to be so.
First of all let me say that in my opinion "Isa", "Below the Lights" and "Mardraum" are some of the most impressive extreme metal records ever created. The metal scene can be a little 'narrow minded' to say the least and Enslaved have never let that get in their way. I'm a fan of all types of music from Darkthrone to Albert Ayler and from Radiohead to Neil Young and if you ask me Enslaved are just as vital. It seems like these guys live for their music and because of that all of their records seem totally positive and triumphant to me.
Over the past few years I have rediscovered the wonder of listening to music via headphones. One of the records that got me back into it was "Isa." I must have listened to that album 1000 times that way (and it wasn't just because of all of the wine and smoke...) As many of you know, the genius of Enslaved is the atmosphere that they create so it was pretty important to me that I my ears were pummeled with "Ruun" as they were with previous albums. Those are some pretty heavy expectations to live up to eh?
I was a little nervous during the opening minutes of my first listen of "Ruun." The opening riff is genius and I was hooked on that right away. After that, the parts seemed to blend together and I didn't know what to think. It was weird, I was kind of freaked out for the rest of that day because I was actually questioning whether or not I liked a new Enslaved record. This had never happened before! That may sound kind of pathetic but that goes to show how much their previous albums had totally slayed me.
Despite my concerns I found myself listening to the record again and again. By the end of that first day, I had probably listened to it four times, something I hadn't done with a record in years. By the end of that day I still wasn't entirely sure how I felt about the album but it was beginning to grow on me. I continued listening to the album a few times a day for the rest of the week. I began to realize that the reason that the riffs weren't staying with me was because of their unique qualities not their negative ones. And then sure enough, it hit me, they had done it again. Enslaved clearly can do no wrong.
"Ruun" has everything. Killer riffs, freaking mind-blowing drumming (one of the best drummers in metal right now in my opinion), the contrasting vocals that seem like they shouldn't work together at all but actually work together effortlessly, the 'smart' bass playing in the sense that Grutle only plays what is necessary and it's still totally badass and the keyboards---aghhh keyboards, something I'm not normally much of a fan of but man are they handled properly in this band providing layers of atmosphere that no amount of guitarists with Line-6 pedals could possibly provide. I can't think of band in the world that even touches these guys right now (except for maybe MASTODON...let the criticisms fly...). ENSLAVED are without a doubt the most forward thinking metal band since VOIVOD. Some have called them the PINK FLOYD of extreme metal...how about RADIOHEAD??? Do you hate me now....Damn, these guys totally rule.
In conclusion, maybe not my favorite ENSLAVED album but as a piece of the puzzle as a whole I guess it's just as important.
note to ENSLAVED:.
come to Chicago. I will help if necessary.
Though I hate slapping a label on Enslaved, This is the way Progressive Viking/Black Metal should sound. The only other band that can make progressive metal right would have to be Agalloch and or maybe Green Carnation, in fact, I even see some of their influence in the sound of Ruun, but I doubt that that was intentional. Reading a review for Ruun in Terrorizer, I had a different impression on this album, but until I actually listened to it, I became extremely attracted to where they are heading with Ruun. Isa was very cold and powerful; Ruun is more on the experimental psychedelic side, but still having that raw, untamed edge. The tone of this album is very colorful, as in sonically, and their focus from Isa, turned into an abrasiveness to all styles of music, not just metal, and I think that was a bold and honestly, a right choice for these musicians, because i can tell they enjoy playing an eclectic style of music such as this. Some might say this a much more lighter Enslaved, or that they have lost their edge, but if this was just another Isa style album, it would have been much less interesting to listen to (not saying Isa wasn't as good though), and less interesting and enjoyable for the band to play, because i can tell Enslaved are the type to have a range in interests and styles, which is a fantastic thing for any musician to have.
Musically, everything is fantastic. The Guitar playing on Ruun is beyond most metal and prog. rock can ever achieve. Vocally, Grutle never seems to displease. The bass is very audible in the mix and played without fault. The drums are done in a way that are somewhat majestic at times, yet have a catchy and smooth prog. feel. The Keyboards are what gives this album the extra atmosphere, and with Enslaved, atmosphere is a must, though the keys are never over done or used plainly. This album just reminds me of sailing across a beautiful waterscape, or something to that effect that represents a grace, but at the same time an immense metal feel that doesn't leave you empty handed.
The expanse of this album isn't even explainable; one has to hear it for themselves. I really enjoy experimental and progressive music, and when I hear a metal band such as Enslaved play this style of music, I feel a great sensation, knowing that this band enjoys playing more then just a single style. I suggest anyone who likes progressive music to listen to this, even "strictly metal" heads should enjoy this release; it doesn't hide behind a genre which has been defined over and over.
For me, If there is one thing I admire about certain bands, its consistency. To be able to keep making good albums. For me, Dimmu Borgir has done this, Behemoth, Opeth, Neurosis, Satyricon, a few others. Enslaved is another. I especially have great admiration for Enslaved and Opeth because, for me, they are still making great albums after having both released 8 and now Enslaved, 9.
No, I don't think everything Enslaved has done is amazing (I felt Blodhemn was a let down although still good), but I still think everything they have released has been above the 'good' mark. Everything since Blodhemn though has been fantastic for me, to a point where it seems as now this band can't do wrong with their music. People get sick of me and my worship of Opeth. Well Enslaved is another band you are going to get sick of me talking about.
Anyways, I have listened to RUUN 5 times now, and it gets better with each listen. I will admit, first time I heard this, I wasn't blown away, it was like slight disappointment, much the same way when I first heard Opeth's Ghost Reveries. Maybe I had other expectations, I don't know. But I guess with a band like Enslaved, you have to expect the unexpected. So I listened to it again straight afterwards and from there on in , I was getting more impressed with each listen.
RUUN opens with a very rockish opener in Entroper, kind of reminding me of what Satyricon is doing now, only this has a cold feel to it. Nothing too amazing, but a good enough track to get you into it and the clean vocals at the end certainly help it get over the mark. From there, we are treated with the catchy Path to Vanir with its cool melodies before a soft/clean moment with clean vocals an it sounds very post rockish. Very good. One of the high moments of the album for me.
Fusion of Sense and Earth opens with a riff that brings back memories of Frost only this has the sound of the Enslaved we know today. We are then treated with more melodies and a very cool solo as well.
To me, Some of this album sounds like A Perfect Circles - Mer De Noms, but in a more extreme metal way. There are quite a number of tracks that have that atmospheric guitar sound in the background like APC uses, not to mention some very catchy melodies like what APC does as well. This is evident in RUUN, Tides of Chaos and Api-vat. But don't worry, the heaviness and raw riffs are still there and they are great, however, I really like this approach that Enslaved has taken. I also think that Grutle's clean vocals are his best yet, he seems to get better with each album. They sound very folkish and really fit in with what Enslaved is doing here. Its awesome!
For me, I'd say this album is better than ISA, better than Below the Lights as well but probably just doesn't have enough to take over Monumension, which is my favourite Enslaved album (I felt they hit it perfect in that album). But who knows what I may think over time. The only complaint I do have is I wish this album was longer than 46 minutes.
In closing, Enslaved fans, especially of their later efforts should be happy with this. Its not for everyone, but for those that appreciate bands being experimental and taking their sound to different areas rather than just metal, I think you will be pleased.
All I can say is, Enslaved has done it again.
I did expect much from Enslaved - though they've achieved much and may feel pretty tired and depleted, they are somehow obliged to create good music. Thus, "Ruun" was another test of how good Enslaved is. And they've passed it - I'm very sure.
I was always in awe of Enslaved's ability to find their way. Again, their choice of the path they go was good - the band took another step forward, though this time differences are smaller. Actually I believe that everyone knows what to expect from Enslaved now - and no-one will be disappointed. The music is still progressive, atmospheric, it may have become a bit lighter but it's still a metal album for sure.
It needs to be said clearly: this is not another killer album from Enslaved. It's not as good as "Isa" or "Mardraum" (though this was pretty different music), but it is comparable to "Monumension", for example. The first three songs here, "Entroper" and "Path to Vanir" have already joined the group of Enslaved's classics, at least for me - fantastic riffs and atmosphere, some kind of sense... Next tracks are not that good, but still keep the high level.
"Ruun" is a perfect follower of "Isa" and develops Enslaved even more. It has its own secure place in the hierarchy of the band's albums and makes another proof that Enslaved is still full of energy and ideas.
It's always hard to write objective reviews of bands that change directions so often because there's this tendency to compare their latest work with earlier albums (and especially if their latest work is not as ground-breaking). Such is the case with Enslaved and their latest work. In fact, Enslaved as a band surprises me. Being an Norwegian Black Metal band hailing from Bergen, you'd expect to see them in the usual corpse-paint and steel jewelry. All other bands from Bergen are like that. But for some reason they're not. Maybe they just got tired of it, after all they've been around since 1991 and already have 9 albums under their steel belts. So they're different in that regard. But it matters not how they look rather how they SOUND.
The first thing to note about RUUN is that the first track is not a short musical piece which you'd find in almost all their other albums. The first track kicks right ahead into a riff-happy direction. And you'd start to wonder if this really is Enslaved playing their instruments, but it's only when I heard Grutle's DISTINCT voice did I finally sail with the song and it all seemed too familiar. I have to say that Grutle's vocals are magnificent and they sound very much like Satyr's vocal-work on "Nemisis Divina". I believe he's endowed with one of the best ( if not THE best ) vocals that really fit for Black Metal music. So it's a safe bet to say that the first track "Entroper" really sets the pace for the remaining songs on the album partially because they all sound very much like it. The highlights of the album are (aside from the first track) , track #4 the title track "Ruun", track #6 titled "Essence" (which the band had incidently produced a DVD video for).
Most of the songs are riff-happy and sort of sail across your attending ear without any thing clinging so that when you wake up the next morning you'd find yourself humming it while taking a shower. I had to listen to the album twice in a row just to make sure I hadn't missed out on any good riffs or something. Many pre-views of this album claimed it to be a "ground-breaking" album and the "best" that Enslaved had composed yet. But I just couldn't "hear" what the hype was all about. I just came to the conclusion that this album was really overrated even before it hit the consumer market. I'm not advertising my disappointment about the album, I'm just saying that this is NOT the best that Enslaved has to offer. I'm personally a fan of their earlier work and if you're reading this review because you want to get into Enslaved (but can't decide on which album to try first) I recommend you go buy their earlier stuff. Unless ofcourse you're after softer, more progressive Black Metal, because as far as progressive BM goes, I think Enslaved have really created a solid album of this particular genre, but you won't find any "kvlt" Black Metal here if that's your thing. But still if you want to get into progressive BM I would recommend trying Borknagar first because they're probably superior in their songwriting and do a better job on any of their albums compared to Enslaved's latest release.