“Vertabrae” by Enslaved

Artist: Enslaved
Title: Vertabrae”
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: 10/28/2008
Genre: Viking/Progressive Metal
Rating: 4.5/5

The moment you start spinning “Vertabrae”, the newest release by Norway’s legendary Enslaved, you will be hit by waves of Atmosphere that are stronger than gale force winds and stand to knock you off of your feet in short order. It sounds a little dramatic but this was the exact feeling that hit me when I began playing this disc for while intrinsically dark in overall texture the band was really touching upon their progressive side a whole lot more than they ever dared to before. It begins with “Clouds” and there are a number of Pink Floyd feels and valleys being explored as soon as the album begins. From the onset we find dreamy and airy vocals from keyboardist Larsen that work in tandem to the Pagan shrieks of Kjellson, and in the end this becomes a duality of light and darkness all during the same tracks which makes it an almost intoxicating listening experience. The albums title track comes off as something that one would typically find in the Opeth set list and I am impressed to find more bands of note daring to explore and push aside the boundaries so to better deliver their true musical expressions. Lyrically this is very strong and works within the subject matter of their past releases by dealing with topics relating to Viking culture and its philosophy. My first recommendation on how to play this would be to let it start and then complete without jumping around because I felt that doing so will cheat you out of the experience meant to be received with this one. Of course there are heavy and crushing riffs to be found as well and this is not only to be viewed as “Head Metal” and we find this during “New Dawn” which is a number that delivers thundering double kick drums and blast beat drumming that push you to the ground while the vocals and guitars twist you around and offer up some roller coasting in terms of the various tempo changes. It’s impressive to say the least and an album that I think those who have been following the band over the last few years will be proud of. The album only holds eight tracks but you shall not feel cheated at all since the larger portion of them surpasses the six minute mark with two coming close to eight minutes. Oddly enough, despite the length of the track the song seems to move fast and not bore you. This is always a good thing.

By the time you get to track six which is “Reflections” it’s very clear that the band has probably released their career defining moment with “Vertabrae” based on all of the adventurous melodies used throughout. What appealed to me most was that while vastly different from each other in some regard they all manage to tie it together in the end and work out as a stunning and epic piece of music that will be instantly played once more upon completion. Perhaps this comes from being a band for so many years and such impact is bound to happen after doing so much music over that long a span of time (seventeen years), or perhaps it is the like minded nature of the players who have now been performing together for three studio albums with this lineup. The release comes courtesy of the talents of Ivar Bjormson (guitar), Grutle Kjellson (vocals/bass), Cato Baekkwvold (drums), Herbrand Larsen (keyboards/vocals) and Ice Dale (guitar) and had I said the album finds them on the top of their game would be a very big understatement. If you are a listener who found a lot of love for both “Isa” and “Ruun” then “Vertabrae” will quickly become your new favorite of the three releases. Congratulations to Enslaved for once again pushing the envelope and delivering far more than what could have been expected of them as they show the world just how much can be done with the powerful sounds of Pagan Black Metal and Viking music. This release was hard for me to find favorite tracks on as I seemed to enjoy the whole presentation. After listening to it without distractions from the outside world I grew eager to see how this all comes across in the live sense. It is sure to be an experience that none will soon forget.

Track Listing:
1. Clouds
2. To The Coast
3. Ground
4. Vertebrae
5. New Dawn
6. Reflections
7. Center
8. The Watcher

Official Website: http://www.enslaved.no

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