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Progressive and Raw - 80%

Five_Nails, August 1st, 2009

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.