Enslaved - Ruun
Progressive Extreme Metal
8 songs (46'03")
Release year: 2006
Enslaved, Candlelight
Reviewed by Alex

If anyone ever argued about Norway’s contribution to heavy metal, all he had to do was look at the contents of one delectable package that recently arrived from Candlelight. Enslaved, Ihsahn, Zyklon, the latter two entities rising from the ashes of Emperor (as if I had to tell you). While Zyklon impressed with its new-found brutality, and Ihsahn needs time to fully embrace, Enslaved floated to the top of “metal listening pleasures shortened due to work” week.

Hard to peg into a style, and devoid of “loud” publicity, Enslaved rose through the ranks of Norwegian metal only on the shoulders of its quality releases and consistent presence. The band has been in existence for over 15 years now! Neither Satan worshippers, nor church burning black metallers, Enslaved drank from the same well which inspired Bathory to go down the path of Blood Fire Death, Hammerheart and Twilight of the Gods. The band was putting out, one after another, epic albums permeated with their Nordic and Wotanistic beliefs, before they stepped on the progressive trail with Below the Lights. Somehow I perceive that album as a turning point for Enslaved, with Isa following suit. The newcomer Ruun cements the deal adding to the revamped lineup and, perhaps, completely removing any leftover black metal influences.

Yes, those who were hoping for the return to the days of Frost, or even Bloodhemn, your hopes are in vain. Enslaved of the early 90s is a remote past covered by fjords’ fog. Gone are also long winding structures of Below the Lights. Ruun is an album full of songs, not just compositions, but whatever Enslaved gave away in the eccentricity department, they more than made up in execution. Ruun crystallized a certain vision that apparently possessed Ivar Bjornson and Co. for the last few years, the vision of carefully crafted, songwriting oriented progressive extreme metal.

Many songs on Ruun revolve around well-defined riffs, circling in a particular pattern, leading seemingly nowhere, but changing and adding wrinkles throughout the songs. Path to Vanir and Api-vat are the best examples, Ivar’s riffs are so basic and so catchy, they must have come from some Nordic campfire. By adding Herbrand Larsen’s keyboards, Enslaved sound, while remaining immediately identifiable, has become both astral and arcane at the same time as evidenced by the new classic Essence. Among its medium speed riff-oriented songs on Ruun, the band finds room for the fast “Saber Dance” beginning of Fusion of Sense and Earth and shoegazing Pink Floyd moment in Path to Vanir to absorb the stars.

Enslaved sound on Ruun is organic, Grutle Kjellson’s bass guitar is unusually pronounced, Arve Isdal’s solos provide spice against the basic riff backdrop (Api-vat) and weave in with the riffs with the sense of theme and purpose (Heir to the Cosmic Seed). With all those dissonant, quirky riffs new drummer Cato Bekkevold is solid and steady as a rock, just moving the band along, either playing next to the riffs, or double bassing at the bottom of the band’s unison (title track).

Grutle Kjellson’s vocals are what is anchoring Enslaved on the extreme side. With lyrics inspired by Norse mythology and philosophy, Grutle sounds like a croaking raven, circling away and above the music. Sometimes this nasty coal-black bird speaks out prophecies over tremolo (Tides of Chaos), or flies all the way to the top of the imaginary cathedral letting the clean background vocals fill the spaces beneath producing nice polyphony (Essence).

The detractors will be pointing out to clean production and many other progressive leanings claiming that Enslaved has been lost to the realm of progressive rock. Many passages on Ruun inspired by the 70s, the album does reflect on that era. Expertly written songs, however, does not mean that Enslaved has become commercial all of the sudden, trying to sell albums. The passion is not lost, but the band resembles a group of grisly veterans who will not settle for shoddy, but extreme, underground from now on.

Killing Songs :
Path to Vanir, Fusion of Sense and Earth, Ruun, Essence
Alex quoted 86 / 100
Other albums by Enslaved that we have reviewed:
Enslaved - Utgard reviewed by Goat and quoted 82 / 100
Enslaved - E reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Enslaved - In Times reviewed by Goat and quoted 93 / 100
Enslaved - RIITIIR reviewed by Thomas and quoted 92 / 100
Enslaved - Axioma Ethica Odini reviewed by Goat and quoted 92 / 100
To see all 13 reviews click here
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