'Thorn' - Enslaved (8/10)
To be honest, I often don't pay that much attention to EPs, much less care about them. To me, the majority of bands use them either to tease their listeners into wanting a full-length more, or- worse yet- it's where the half-baked material goes, the songs that weren't quite good enough to be seen on a real album. That being said, the concept of a shorter musical listening experience has been gaining some momentum lately in the modern music industry. Especially now with the advent of widespread downloading, a shorter record is now feasible, both for the artist and the listeners themselves. While I do hope that the true album form is never toppled, it's great to hear something new in between longer albums that keeps me excited about what a band is doing, and Norway's Enslaved is doing just that. Earlier this year, they released 'The Sleeping Gods', a five song mini-album that was released freely and was quite impressive, especially from the fact that it was produced only months after their big opus 'Axioma Ethica Odini'. Now, a few months later, Enslaved follows up 'The Sleeping Gods' with a second EP, this time a two-song deal called 'Thorn'. While a release that is scarcely over ten minutes long would rarely stir anything in me, I have found myself very attracted to the new sounds that Enslaved are dabbling with here; this is something that an Enslaved fan should not miss out on.
While their trademark sound was pretty much intact on 'The Sleeping Gods', 'Thorn' takes things in a fairly different direction. Enslaved are still playing black metal, but this a very atmospheric breed of it that is closer to Drudkh or even tourmates Alcest than anything they have done before. The tracks are both similar, but distinguishable from each other. 'Disintegrator' is a mid-tempo nature worshiping piece that could have been plucked right from Drudkh's 'Autumn Aurora' record. The guitars are scarcely technical anymore, but instead aiming to create a sort of hypnotizing trance, while the vocals are generally loose and more for the sake of adding ambiance than leading the band. 'Striker' sounds a little closer to the Enslaved we already know, although the trends that started with 'Disintegrator' have not been left behind. The songs are each a side of the same coin; repetitive, dense, and above all else, atmospheric. I can certainly see some feeling disenchanted with this move that Enslaved have made, but I think they do it wonderfully. Could I see the band doing an entire album like this? It's still hard to tell, but I do feel that they have done about as much as they can with their current progressive metal sound, and perhaps 'Thorn' is a way for them to test the waters and try out something before making the full investment. As far as I'm concerned, I am now much more excited to hear what Enslaved will do in the future, knowing that there is this question as to whether they will evolve their sound, and as far as this sample goes, I think it could be a very good thing.