ENSLAVED — Vertebrae (review)

ENSLAVED — Vertebrae album cover Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
topofsm
"Vertebrae" is an excellent album by a great band. It may take a few listenings for the brilliant moments of the album to shine out, but once you know the album, there is no escaping the fact that it's great. People unaccustomed to the rough black metal vocals may have a hard time, since that is a major part of the music. However, fans familiar with more extreme forms of music know that the style has to grow on you over time.

The overall sound of the album is difficult to describe. There is clearly a firm root in black metal on this album, but it's certainly different from true black metal. Right from the beginning of "Clouds" with gliding ride cymbals, winding synthesizers, and guitars taking a step back in the mix, a person expecting pure black metal will instantly realize this is something different. Low, haunting singing gives another indication.

This unique can probably best be described as black metal laced with a good amount of progressive elements. Anyone expecting the less accessible viking metal of Enslaved's past will be dissapointed, but they can take joy in knowing that the band is continuing their sound and developing metal genres altogether. It's black, but there are great vocal harmonies, cool synthesizers, interesting rhythms, and atmospherics that paint the dark coast that the album seems to describe with obvious progressive rock sounds from the classic era.

Highlights include the great opener, "Clouds" with an excellent intro with some cool keyboards that have a tone unique to Enslaved's music. "Ground" is also a wonderful track, though the instruments are rather light, but it also has a wonderful guitar solo with great emotion. Possibly the best track on the album could be "New Dawn", starting off with a purely thrashy black metal song, when suddenly mellotron sounds explode and create an angelic atmosphere as Grutle sings, "A new dawn arises out of the shadows". Things finish up nicely afterwards, with a killer syncopated intro of "Reflection" and a sludgy "Center".

All in all, Vertebrae is a great album. Some of the songs may be too standard for the prog fan, not true enough for the pure metal fan, and the tracks may sound too similar for a casual music fan. However, there are great ideas that are not to be forgotten and excellent composions all throughout, showing that Vertebrae is an album that shouldn't be missed.
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