2005 Candlelight Records
01. Intro: "Green Reflection"
02. Lunar Force
03. Isa MP3
05. Bounded by Allegiance
06. Violet Dawning
07. Return to Yggdrasill
08. Secrets of the Flesh
10. Outro: "Communion" (excerpt)
There have been many memorable moments in metal, and hopefully we will see many more in our time. Unfortunately, many of the moments for which the black metal scene is known involve infantile crimes and backstabbing within the scene.The mention of black metal brings to mind many charade-like images that have nothing to do with the music itself. Rarely thought of at the mention of black metal are the bands that continue to progress from that scene. Sadly, the thought of black metal doesn't readily bring to mind the most important thing of all: the music.
Having their roots in the original black metal scene of Norway, Enslaved have experienced the political turmoil of a troubled scene and have not only survived as a band, but have managed to continually evolve their sound, from primitive Viking styled black metal, to the musically complex beast it is today. They did this not by ditching the corpse paint and moving to basic punk rock. They did this not by becoming latex wearing, vampire fang donning symphony buffs. They did this through actual quality progress. Think of how Emperor grew from IX Equilibrium to the devastatingly composed Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire and Demise, or how Isis changed from Celestial to Oceanic.This is what Enslaved has accomplished with their newest offering Isa.
Translated as "Ice", Isa picks up where Below The Lights left off. Below The Lights still represented the feral side of black metal, with a slightly raw production and blistering blast beats, while adding atmospheric melody that was almost calming. Isa is like Below the Lights' older, more mature brother. The new record is better produced and more varied in terms of song structure and style. Gone are the blast beats, replaced with more rock-like tempos and double bass work. In the heavier moments, the guitar work is characteristic of Enslaved, yet the lighter moments have taken on a very progressive rock feel, adding even more unique melodies than were present on Below the Lights. Also adding to the melodic atmosphere are judiciously used keyboards, piano or uncommon organ sounds instead of synthesized strings. Everything is played with emphasis, yet nothing seems rushed. Often creating various emotional textures in the music, there is almost an element of groove to the entire album.
The vocals are still harshly screamed for the most part, characteristic of previous Enslaved releases. There is also a much more prevalent presence of singing on this newest offering. Don't be alarmed, this singing does not reduce the intensity of the recording, and is done very tastefully. Any fan of Enslaved should know what to expect in terms of the lyrics presented. The lyrical content deals heavily in Viking culture and pagan religion, as opposed to a diatribe of satanic spewing.
Bottom Line: Overall this record is one of the best of the year and has the ability to appeal to fans of all kinds of extreme metal. Despite its progressive moments and lack of "true" black metal style, it will still satisfy black metal fans; Nocturno Culto (Darkthrone) and Abbath (Immortal) both appear on the album.It will also bend the ear of more typical metal fans and possibly the non-cynical hardcore kid who appreciates different kinds of bands. Enslaved are quickly on their way to becoming one of the torchbearers for all forms of metal, alongside contemporaries such as Opeth. Enslaved have matured into something great.