Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Enslaved: Axioma Ethica Odini (2010)


Like all the other big names of the second-wave Norwegian black metal scene, Enslaved have evolved into something much more than simple black metal. Since 2003's Below the Lights, they've taken a decidedly progressive direction, positioning themselves as Norway's answer to Sweden's Opeth. But besides Opeth, can any band reliably put forth album after album of mind-blowingly great material, and continue to evolve twenty years into their career?

Yes. Axioma Ethica Odini does not disappoint.

Any worries about the band going "soft" with all the clean vocals on Vertebrae are quickly swept away by opener "Ethica Odini". It's serious black metal, but with a memorable melody. The clean vocals come in a bit later, but they serve as a counterpoint, emphasizing the ugliness rather than relieving it. The rhythm of "Raidho" keeps it going strong and metal, so that by the time "The Beacon" ends, you need the slight atmospheric reprieve of "Axioma". "Singular" is another highlight along the way, with a riff that reminds me of Dimmu Borgir at their best, and closing out the album is "The Lightening"--easily one of the best songs I've heard all year.

No, nothing about this album disappoints. It's got all the ugly metal, and just a touch of pretty melodies to make it seem all that much uglier. The songs are memorable and all the chords hit the right emotional notes. And after nearly two decades, Enslaved just keeps getting better.

The Verdict: With this album, Enslaved has solidified its position as one of the premier metal bands of today, with reliably excellent albums and music that remains relevant no matter what year it is. I give Axioma Ethica Odini 5 out of 5 stars.

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