MetalMusicArchives.com — the ultimate metal music online community, from the creators of progarchives.com

ENSLAVED - Isa cover
4.20 | 52 ratings | 5 reviews
Buy this album from MMA partners

Album · 2004

Filed under Black Metal


1. Intro: "Green Reflection" (0:51)
2. Lunar Force (7:03)
3. Isa (3:46)
4. Ascension (6:45)
5. Bounded by Allegiance (6:38)
6. Violet Dawning (3:49)
7. Return to Yggdrasill (5:39)
8. Secrets of the Flesh (3:36)
9. Neogenesis (11:58)
10. Outro: "Communion" (excerpt) (0:56)

Total Time: 51:05


- Ivar Bjørnson / guitars, keyboards
- Grutle Kjellson / vocals, bass
- Arve Isdal / guitar
- Herbrand Larsen / keyboards, vocals
- Cato Bekkevold / drums

Guest musicians:
- Dennis Reksten / synthesizers
- Nocturno Culto / vocals (3 & 5)
- Ofu Kahn / vocals (4)
- Abbath / vocals (2)
- Stig Sandbakk / vocals (4 & 7)

About this release

Tabu Recordings, November 1st, 2004

Thanks to the t 666, UMUR, adg211288 for the updates

Buy ENSLAVED - ISA music

More places to buy metal & ENSLAVED music

  • CDUniverse - Specializing in the sale of domestic and imported music CDs and Imports


Specialists/collaborators reviews

Isa sees the mighty Enslaved longslip sailing further into progressive metal territory whilst still managing to keep the black metal flag flying high. I get the impression listening to it that the band had been listening to Porcupine Tree's In Absentia a lot during the recording process, because they take a similar approach to incorporating extended spacey but still recognisably metallic instrumental interludes into their compositions; either way, the band find no need to compromise their aggressive roots, with frenzied vocals and devastating walls of guitar reminding us that this is very much still a black metal band we are dealing with. Is it still progressive black metal, or have they crossed the line into blackened progressive metal? That's down for the listener to judge, but for my part I think they walk the tightrope pretty damn well.
There's 2 types of Black Metal. Type one is ridiculously aggressive and boasts the worst possible production values in rock history. Type two is ridiculous synth orchestrated pomposity that is at the same time mostly blatantly commercial. A common feature of both manifestations would be the goofy corps paint. There's a good chance you think like that and if you just got in touch touch with some mainstream bands you might even be.

But did you know there was a third kind? Yes indeed there is, hidden in the darkest corners of this vast legion of bands with unreadable logos there are a few bands, mostly the pioneers, that have lived up to the philosophy of black metal and managed to purge some excellent music out of it. You will hardly be surprised to hear that those bands gradually embraced progressive influences into their black muck. Just as a reference I would suggest 'Nemesis Divina' by Satyricon, 'At The Heart of Winter' by Immortal and the album under dissection Enslaved's Isa.

Isa finds Enslaved 9 albums into their career and concludes 6 consecutive years of awesome Enslaved creativity. By then most of the black metal roots had been wrought into something more digestible. By avoiding the typical blast beats and murky production and by adding decent clean singing, Enslaved serves 45 minutes of great songs varying between catchy grooves, an occasional melody and laid-back atmospheric sections. Think Voivod mixed with Opeth doing black metal.

This is still very harsh and aggressive music so don't go in if you're not into some darker prog already. But if you like Voivod, Opeth, Anekdoten and you can overcome your initial repulsion at the black metal rasps; you're in for a treat.
No idea how it happened, but Isa went from being the top black metal album on the site to not even in the top twelve. Let's see if this review will help it at all. Let's begin:

Green Reflection/Lunar Force - The album starts off very strong with one of the best black metal songs created. I like the small details on the drumming like hitting the snare hit on the count of 1 instead of 3 and the hits across the toms every so often in replace of the snare rhythm. The chorus and the verse also compliment each other perfectly. And the odd time signature break is also very well written. Also how the song just comes back in after all the ambiance is just too good.

Isa The self titled track. It's a very short and sweet song with the vocal performance being the highlight of it all. It's an overall great song, even if it doesn't stand up to some of the others on this album, but this album is after all Isa, so it still gets a 9.

Ascension - An overall interesting song that never ceases to let loose of my attention. It has a lot of interesting parts where the drums seem to align with the instruments perfectly. But another thing I adore about the song is the keyboard. It adds so much to the verse and the chorus of the song, making it just that much better.

Bounded By Allegiance - It may start off a bit uninteresting and slow, but the whole song just keeps getting better and better. Even though I don't think it's a bad intro by any means, it still doesn't stand up to the rest of the song; having the clean vocals and the growling vocals fit their part perfectly and add to the mood of the song. This song just has a lot going on for it for being only 6 and a half minutes.

Violent Dawning - Another short and sweet one like Isa. What makes this song isn't the verse, but the chorus. As the verse is not bad, but maybe a bit repetitive, the chorus is the thing that shines in this song. One of the "beautiful" moments of the album.

Return to Yggrdasil - Probably my favorite black metal song of all time. I love the powerful intro to it, especially after the outro to Violent Dawning, and then it's gradual climb down again. The acoustic guitar is some of the best that I've ever heard in black metal (given there is not too much). But I just think the whole feel of it is empowering. Just that's the best way to describe the song: Empowering.

Secrets of the Flesh - The last of the "short and sweet" collection I so deemed it. This is the only instrumental on the album, but it still has room for the random screams. It's just a cool riff matched along with some creative song writing. A very good instrumental.

Neogenesis/Communion - The epic to end the album. Starts off right away with a clean vocal entrance and a fantastic riff to boot. Then about two minutes in it starts to transform into a more fast paced song. The riff is just...cool, I have no other way to explain it. I just really like the song structure of this song in general. It picks up again and then ends up fading out with a guitar solo. Just an overall epic song to end one of my favorite albums.
Conor Fynes
'Isa' - Enslaved (6/10)

To say I have been anything but a big fan of Enslaved in the past would be an understatement. From my first impression with them on 'Vertebrae', through their next album 'Axioma Ethica Odini' and then through some of their early work as a legendary Norwegian black metal act, I've found myself more or less consistently impressed with the work that this band has put out, often pushing me to the point of calling their work masterful. In that sense, it is ironic that I come to what has been referred to me as being their 'greatest album' so late into knowing about the band. With 'Isa', Enslaved has certainly found much of their sound that they would eventually realize in greater depth with later albums like 'Vertebrae', but there's one crucial aspect lacking from this album to my ears; passion.

Of course, many casual listeners may take a look at black metal and dismiss it as mere 'noise' or 'screaming', but I have found that it is a genre of music that has a very deep potential for emotion and feeling. Not only in the compositions themselves, but also in the way that the musicians play the music. Here, I would admit that 'Isa' is full of great moments in which the band's skill for songwriting comes out clearly. With the exception of the lengthy closer 'Neogenesis' and two brief soundscapes, each track here is kept fairly to the point and concise.The end result is a batch of songs with lots of cool ideas thrown into the writing, but there is never the impression that Enslaved ever really let loose and let the madness take over.

Most clearly, this can be heard in the performance itself, which is about as straightforward Enslaved could possibly make it. The compositions- particularly one of my favorites 'Ascension'- sometimes have beautiful keyboard parts that are mixed well into the music, but the songs are usually centered in on the guitars and raspy vocals, both of which feel constrained and without feeling. Instead of letting dynamic, organic passion and the ferocity I generally associate with black metal through, the performances here are lifeless, which is a shame considering that many of the tracks here show potential to be something much greater.

The production here is certainly a large step up from the sound they had with such albums as 'Vikingligr Veldi' or their earliest demos, but still feels a little too clean and straightforward. I have really liked the way albums like 'Vertebrae' were produced, but on 'Isa', the heavily guitar oriented, mid-tempo metal feels too mechanical to get the good feeling across. Instead, the strength lies in the arrangements and composition of the music, which is generally very good. Although the musicianship here is by-the-numbers and blank, I find that the guitar tones here work very well for the sound, and the keyboard nuances are mixed perfectly in with the music, always coming in at the perfect time to create extra melodies, and never being overdone.

Unfortunately, this has been the only time thus far I have been greatly disappointed with Enslaved's work thus far, having it been recommended to me as their crowning achievement. Cold, mechanical, yet intelligently written black metal.

Members reviews

THE progressive black metal album for the ages. Period.

First, since this is my first masterpiece rating, I'm going to go ahead and clarify what I really mean when I award an album with such a title. There is a lot I expect out of a metal album, and it's almost impossible for one to meet my expectations for deserving a golden masterpiece rating, a rating I reserve for only the best of the best. It must be an album that falls within my top 10%. Every track must be stunning, each having individual qualities that distinguish it from the others, yet at the same time altogether forming a cohesiveness rarely found in any albums out there (usually in concept albums). There must be few, if any, weak moments in the entire album. To me, there are three types of masterpieces. The first are the type that transcend beyond music itself to present an abstract concept relating to the human psyche, especially the subconscious, such as enlightenment (Close to the Edge), savagery (First Utterance), ect., obviously my favorite type. The second are those that are so perfectly written that they represent the best that a style of music can possibly sound, examples Selling England by the Pound and Miles Davis' Kind of Blue coming to mind. The third are the albums that do something so radically different than anything that's been done before that it reshaped and influenced music as we know it, such as ItCotCK or Hot Rats. Many of what I think of as masterpiece albums are two of these three combined. So as you can imagine, it's not too often I'll reward an album with such a rating.

Enslaved's eighth album, ISA, is easily the second type, and it meet's every bit of my expectations for a five star rating, possibly the greatest that black metal has and will ever sound, at these to these ears.

Enslaved is a black metal band from Norway (as many of them are), and one of the original pioneers of the second wave of the genre, before they even began adopting strong progressive influences into their music. The bassist/guttural vocalist Kjellson began getting into prog during the nineties, and the band started to incorporate the style into their music just before the turn of the millennium, especially with Monumension, and increased the elements with each following album, similar to Opeth's discography. We find a greater use of keyboard, which is mostly used for atmosphere, more varied and flowing song structures, all while staying true to the style of music to which they first began. The lyrics are still in the vain of viking metal, though that's about all this album has to do with viking metal. The music overall, the guitar work especially, has progressed to become much in the vain of Rush, King Crimson, and Pink Floyd, and perhaps even Tool, Porcupine Tree, and Anekdoten, bands that they site as primary influences in their music today, along with their black/death metal inspirations. In a sense I've gotten an added personal bias for this band after recently seeing an interview of the bassists Grutle Kjellson's favorite album was MY favorite album of all time as well, Rush's Hemispheres. That caught me off guard, to say the least, and in his top five he mentioned Red and Dark Side of the Moon. Sorry Mike Akerfeldt, but I have a new idol now! Though I definitely hear those albums in the band's music. Black metal influenced by those bands? What could be better than that?

They're a band that takes a bit of growing on you, or at least they were for me. I first had to get used to gutteral vocal styles, and extreme prog overall. My first experience with the band came from their 2008 release Vertebrae, which was the perfect album for me to be introduced to their music, as it is the most seventies prog sounding of their albums; I wasn't particularly awed, but still thoroughly impressed with the band's composition style. So I did a search on the band, and read some 5/5 reviews on this album, praising it as a metal masterpiece. So I bought it, one of the few blind purchases I have and will ever make, and a first I was very skeptical that this album was better than Vertebrae, and was almost expecting to be disappointed. Upon the very first listen... WOW. The album, from the very first listen, was absolutely stunning. But I was still full of skepticism, for I had thought the same of Opeth's Watershed at first, which I actually liked less after each listen and eventually became a bit disappointed with most of it. I figured the same would happen for Isa, but lo and behold, each listen afterward it actually grew on me even more, now to the point where I regard it as having a special place in my top ten, maybe even five, depending on my mood, out of the hundreds of albums I've heard so far in my lifetime.

This is the NOT the type of "progressive" metal that utilizes all of the more cliche elements of prog, such as lengthy tracks, odd meter everywhere, and complicated instrumental arrangements. I love those cliches and I'm never afraid to admit it, but this is a different sort of beast, this truly artistic black metal. The black metal component is true to the style, with gargling and scratching growls and heavily distorted guitar that works less as a melodic riff as more as rhythmic harmonic support for the texture of the music, but in itself is catchy enough to sound full and pleasing without a melody above it. All of the musicianship is more than competent, and proof of this is how perfectly they play their music live. Progressive elements are similar to those of Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree, relying mostly on sound-scapes and atmospheric nuances to create a canvas of sound, rather than a melody that grabs your attention and "stuff" supporting it. This is probably the way black metal ought to progress since it is more sound-scape oriented in itself. It really is a wonderful combination, especially with the excellent use of keyboard in the album.

Everything in this album is borderline perfection, aside from a couple mixing flaws with the vocals and guitars here and there, something incredibly minor and not even very noticeable in most cases. It starts and ends with haunting keyboard sound-scapes, flowing right into the powerful Lunar Force, and the rest of the album escalates and rests between black metal heaviness and an atmospheric keyboard driven moment to breathe. The composition itself, the way the instruments' parts meld together, the chord changes, the riffs, the lyrics, the use of repetition... just about everything is perfectly in place for a meaningful purpose. There isn't a single moment listening to this album, not one, that I do not feel intoxicated by the brilliance and level of musical understanding that drips from this album.

Hell, I could go on for hours about this album, so I guess I'll end it with this concluding paragraph. This will forever hold a place in my special collection of the highest caliber of music for me to have heard in my life. Enslaved has become by far my favorite metal band in a matter of a few weeks, for there isn't an album I haven't heard of theirs (even their produced-quite-below-par debut album) in which I don't find great enjoyment. It's a wonder and a down right shame that this band isn't considered one of the prog metal giants up there with Dream Theater and Opeth, for I consider their music superior to that of those bands, and I LOVE those bands. They've definitely gained great ground in the black metal community, but oddly, unlike Opeth, not the prog community. As a said before, this is a band that grows on you with some time, but I never expected them to top all the other metal bands of which I'd consider myself a big fan. And the album after this, Ruun, is certainly a great follow up to this amazing album. Usually when a band produces their best work, the next doesn't even compare, but Enslaved continues to release a solid album with every release.

So, recommendations... who would I recommend this album to? If you're a fan of the heavier psychedelic music like Porcupine Tree, Opeth, Riverside, Tool, etc., listen to Vertebrae first, then move backwards, as I did. This album is absolutely essential in every sense of the word, except to those who consider music that isn't full of classical and jazz influences to be inferior. This will be one of the most proud masterpiece ratings I will ever give, for this is a band that gets so little attention when they deserve more than almost any metal band on this site. I have my tickets for the Opeth/Enslaved concert in May 16, and look forward to soaking in every moment of the performances of my two current favorite metal bands. Isa is a black metal masterpiece for the ages, and one of my favorite albums of all time.


Ratings only

  • NightBell
  • LightningRider
  • Alex
  • Bosh66
  • adg211288
  • Psydye
  • Caio2112
  • Paluvatar
  • Seven Moons
  • MorniumGoatahl
  • Necrotica
  • luanpedi
  • Unitron
  • TheHeavyMetalCat
  • starlessabstract
  • serenitypaintedeath
  • Lynx33
  • shadowoffadream
  • Stooge
  • kx1992
  • Nightfly
  • KeohaneWaltz
  • Jan
  • Wilytank
  • SrEstaire
  • trickster B
  • Gi
  • progpostman
  • kogaionon
  • Triceratopsoil
  • 666sharon666
  • (De)progressive
  • omega_switch
  • Zargus
  • Coracin
  • Urs Blank
  • Tlön
  • BlotOfScience
  • Tigergilles
  • Anster
  • sauromat
  • Jake Kobrin
  • Sleeper
  • justametalfan
  • Zarahuztra
  • The T 666
  • NorseGangsta

Write/edit review

You must be logged in to write or edit review


Rating by members, ranked by custom algorithm
Albums with 30 ratings and more
Master of Puppets Thrash Metal
Buy this album from our partners
Paranoid Heavy Metal
Buy this album from our partners
Moving Pictures Hard Rock
Buy this album from our partners
Powerslave NWoBHM
Buy this album from our partners
Led Zeppelin IV Hard Rock
Buy this album from our partners

New Metal Artists

New Metal Releases

Black Cowslip Grindcore
Buy this album from MMA partners
Narbo Dacal Doom Metal
Buy this album from MMA partners
Assassine(s) Sludge Metal
Buy this album from MMA partners
E.V.I.L. Deathcore
Buy this album from MMA partners
All Mighty Men Metalcore
Buy this album from MMA partners
More new releases

New Metal Online Videos

More videos

New MMA Metal Forum Topics

More in the forums

New Site interactions


Latest Metal News


More in the forums

Social Media

Follow us