Richard G. : It is unbelievable but true. Enslaved's evolution from Norwegian black into - uhh, what is it actually called... - something with psychedelic, progressive and still blackened influences just keeps on going. The most surprising thing is actually that these Bergen-ians is that they manage to not only raise the bar with each album, they manage to surpass it with each following album. Two years ago 'Vertebrae' was their best album to date, but the new 'Axioma Ethica Odini' is going to steal that title effortlessly.
The easiest change to spot is the prominence of keyboardist Herbrand Larsen's clean vocals. Not only does he play a bigger part, it sounds as if he has been taking vocal lessons (and sometimes it seems as if Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt was his teacher). The combination of Herbrands pleasant vocal lines and the melancholic timbre in his voice make songs like the triumphant 'Ethica Odini' or the rhythmically uneasy yet awkwardly catchy 'Singular' stick around in your head for months on end. At the same time grunter Grutle Kjellson gives his most gruesome and fear-inspiring performance ever. What is more, the vocal interaction between the two lifts the material to an even higher level.
Once you have gotten used to the vocal improvements, every spin will reveal the compositional innovativeness more and more. As if its nothing, a track like 'Night Sight' moves between a hypnotic, repetitive psych-black riffing theme and calm passages driven by dreamy, contemplative clean vocals (and a keyboard contribution that for some reason reminds me of the flutes in 'Stairway To Heaven's intro). The most crude song 'Giants' cannot go unmentioned either: in dark atmospheres you can hear the monstrous creatures stomping through the landscape and in the choruses each hit on the snare illustrates just how they wreak havoc on the villages that should not have been built in their paths. Simply each composition constitutes a colourful journey in sound and atmosphere and the only way to take in all the layers and details is to listen to the record again and again, preferably with a decent set of headphones.
'Axioma Ethica Odini' is an unsurpassed masterpiece. Right until Enslaved release their new record in two or three years time. I am already looking forward to it!