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Enslaved meets Tool - 94%

flightoficarus86, January 21st, 2015

Coming fresh off of the success and increased melodic focus of Isa, Enslaved was at somewhat of an apex in their career. They could have taken a step back to their harsher technical roots, forged something new, or continued to push forward into the more alternative-style of progressive. With RUUN, Enslaved definitely chose the latter. It’s a choice that likely divided a lot of fans and brought a new slew of listeners. While RUUN breaks little new ground, I argue that it is just as good as its predecessor and in many ways serves as a companion piece.

The production of this album is quite similar to that of Isa, if not a touch cleaner and louder. The overall tone has shifted subtly as well. Where the former was more melancholy and delicate, RUUN is angry. Guitars continue to favor the same chord-heavy progressions, but with riff structures that have an axe to grind. The wonderful “Fusion of Sense and Earth” features sad overtures from the organ-style keys a-la Isa and Below the Lights; but this time the accompanying guitars sound like the devil to their angelic attempts to soothe. The more sparing tremolos are so harsh they harken all the way back to the likes of Frost and Mardraum.

Vocals continue to reign supreme over the simplified musicianship. Grutle is one moment a calculated, melodic zen-master; the next a scorned enemy filled with bile and contempt. The best examples are probably on the title track and “Tides of Chaos.” The very Maynard cleans work extremely well with the guitar’s obvious leanings towards Lateralus-era Tool. Harsh vocals on the latter song sound like a demon narrating a Shakespearean play. It’s all very theatrical and wholly enjoyable.

As should come as no surprise, especially if you have been following my other reviews, the drumming here continues to be exemplary. Despite the reduced pace and simplified transitions, Cato spins straw into gold. Even simple 4:4 affairs are full to the brim with tom fills, varied symbol use, pattern changes, and arena-style volume accents. The sound is mixed so well I can almost see him working. Screw it, I’m going for yet another Tool reference with the similarities to Danny Carey. As far as comparisons go, it’s definitely not an insult. But Cato is not afraid of the occasional blastbeat either.

Even as I listen again while typing, I continue to find new levels of enjoyment. As each song ends, I find myself wanting to list it in my favorites. But then the next starts, and I start to wonder if maybe this should be the one instead. Gun to my head, you can’t miss the super memorable riffs in “Api-vat” or the mournful vocals on “Essence.” It would be easier to list the tracks that I don’t care for, which would be zero. Another triumph for Enslaved. More please.