Rating:
9.1
Enslaved - Vertebrae
26 September 2008


Disc I
01. Clouds
02. To The Coast
03. Ground
04. Vertebrae
05. New Dawn
06. Reflection
07. Center
08. The Watcher

Disc II [Limited edition - Live At The Rock Hard Festival, Germany, 2008]
01. Path To Vanir [live]
02. Fusion Of Sense And Earth [live]
03. Bounded By Allegiance [live]
04. Violet Dawning [live]
05. As Fire Swept Clean The Earth [live]
06. Isa [live]
07. Return To Yggdrasil [live]
08. Ruun [live]


In the not too distant past, if you had asked me about Enslaved, I may well have got them confused with any number of bands starting with "En". Enthroned, Ensiferum, 'N Sync… well not the last one thankfully, but I certainly wouldn't have been able to tell you much about them, least of all what they sounded like. But then I found myself reading an "Albums of The Year" list in that self-proclaimed paragon of "True Cult Heavy Metal", Terrorizer magazine. Vertebrae came top. One figured it couldn't be total crap, right?

So I check out "Ground" online. I think it took days for the smile to leave my face; this was definitely not crap. Here was a song with substance. No, not substance… with backbone. The Pink Floyd-ian solo is simply dreamy, the main chords wash over you like the swelling of waves, and there is still room for some bite: in the vocals, in the riff tailing the main chord progression. And the sing-a-long section at the close? Epic.

"Ground" serves as a microcosm of Vertebrae as an album. It possesses many moments of transcendental beauty, both lyrically and musically, but still retains hints at Enslaved's more aggressive past. Indeed, parts of "New Dawn" play out much like a traditional black metal assault, replete with blast beats and rasping vocals, yet the song ends with a dreamlike, spaced-out keyboard section. It is this variety that is Vertebrae's strong suit. There is absolutely zero chance you will think you've listened to the same song somewhere else on the album. "Clouds" opens the album with a pseudo-math metal intro. There are elements of Tool in "Center." On "Reflection," the total simplicity of the main riff and its percussion blend with an almost Joe Satriani-esque solo. The whole song is veritably hypnotic.

Of course, the slightly hypnotic, dreamlike feel could well lead to some listeners becoming slightly, well, shall we say… drowsy. This is not an album to be described as intense. Or to be used as an alarm. Some of the slower parts drag a little, and you might find yourself waiting a while for one or two tracks to really get going. However, interest and flow is pretty well maintained throughout; there is no inexplicably jarring ambient track to get in the way as on follow-up Axioma Ethica Odini. With Vertebrae Enslaved are to be commended for their ability to genre-bend so seamlessly and to progress and develop as a band while remaining true to their darker roots. No "sell-out" label here please. Really, if you haven't heard this album, do so immediately. Last one to do so is a total coccyx…

Performance: 9
Songwriting: 9
Originality: 9
Production: 9


Band profile: Enslaved
Album: Vertebrae


 


written by 7thSlave | 06.01.2012


Guest review disclaimer:
This is a guest review, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.



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Troy Killjoy - 06.01.2012 at 00:27  
You say hypnotic, I say boring.

Good review though.
BoxCar Willy - 06.01.2012 at 00:30  
I have their new album, didn't like that one much, probably wont like this one either.


nice review
7thSlave - 06.01.2012 at 00:32  
Written by Troy Killjoy on 06.01.2012 at 00:27

You say hypnotic, I say boring.

The beauty of music - for two people to listen and hear completely different things!

Written by Troy Killjoy on 06.01.2012 at 00:27

Good review though.

Thanks. Am hoping to get into reviewing a bit more this year, so a compliment from a Staffer is much appreciated.
7thSlave - 06.01.2012 at 00:35  
Written by BoxCar Willy on 06.01.2012 at 00:30

I have their new album, didn't like that one much, probably wont like this one either.


nice review

Thanks. I couldn't get into Axioma much either. Really like this record though - though I expect that's fairly obvious from my review...
!J.O.O.E.! - 06.01.2012 at 00:37  
Yeah I'm afraid I found this to be amongst my least favourite Enslaved records too. Very sterile sound, which admittedly a lot of people liked.

Funny thing is when Terrorizer reviewed the album they only awarded it 8/10, then it appears at the top of their end-of-year list.
7thSlave - 06.01.2012 at 00:39  
Written by !J.O.O.E.! on 06.01.2012 at 00:37

Yeah I'm afraid I found this to be amongst my least favourite Enslaved records too. Very sterile sound, which admittedly a lot of people liked.

Funny thing is when Terrorizer reviewed the album they only awarded it 8/10, then it appears at the top of their end-of-year list.


I have to say I toyed with docking the score a shade on the basis it sounds a little flat now and again, and let's be fair - Terrorizer quite often don't know what they're on about!
!J.O.O.E.! - 06.01.2012 at 00:43  
Written by 7thSlave on 06.01.2012 at 00:39


I have to say I toyed with docking the score a shade on the basis it sounds a little flat now and again, and let's be fair - Terrorizer quite often don't know what they're on about!

That's quite true, especially these days ;]

To be honest I probably haven't even listened to this one more than a couple of times.
Introspekrieg - 06.01.2012 at 00:51  
I actually agree with the review, but enjoy Isa and AEO slightly more, depending on mood. The slower portions of the album could have been better, as you stated. Drowsiness is not a symptom you usually want to induce, but hey, maybe it's what they were going for. Black Floyd, never giving a fuck.
BitterCOld - 06.01.2012 at 01:17  
I really like the album, even if they lean more to the prog side than their bm roots on it. i'd have scored it a little lower, but still high enough that for "album votes" i rounded up to a 9.

well done.
tea[m]ster - 06.01.2012 at 03:29  
Written by BitterCOld on 06.01.2012 at 01:17

even if they lean more to the prog side


this ^

As I have stated before black metal scares the bejesus out of me. This is the very first black metal album and band I checked out. After listening I am thinking geez, is all black metal like this? The album has enough other musical elements to keep me interested and at a very high level.
Apothecary - 06.01.2012 at 05:11  
I checked out "Ground" today, and you're right. Parts of it do remind me of Pink Floyd. I haven't listened to much of Enslaved's newer shit, but I love any band that can blend raw intensity with a progressive/ambient/atmospheric undertone. Nice review, will definitely give this one a spin!
strade - 06.01.2012 at 22:24  
I love this album like anything else they've done. Almost just as good as their newer album, I think...

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